The Wilderness is a multi-part podcast documentary on the Democratic Party; its history – where we’ve been, and where we’re going. It is hosted and facilitated by former Obama speechwriter, Jon Favreau.
After graduating from the College of Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, Jon went to work for the 2004 John Kerry Presidential campaign. From there he was recommended as Barack Obama’s speechwriter in 2005, where he remained through the Senator’s Congressional term through his Presidency until 2013.
In 2017, he, Tommy Vietor, and Jon Lovett formed and co-founded Crooked Media, which is self-described as “a no bullshit conversation about politics.” On this I would heartily agree.
Jon has written for The Daily Beast and co-hosts the political podcast, Pod Save America (another I would highly recommend) with Vietor, Lovett as well as another Obama alum, Dan Pfeiffer.
In the few episodes of The Wilderness I’ve listened to, he’s brought together a riveting narrative with historians, political bigwigs and not so big wigs as well as archival audio to create a whole, solid picture of what went wrong in 2016, and how Democrats can move forward through the twenty-first century.
It’s fifteen parts, released over months, and each part is about forty-five minutes long. The Wilderness is informative. It’s compelling; engaging. It’s emotional. Any student of politics and history is caught up in the predictive nature of our own memories of the political past. When Jon says the date April 4th 1968, we know that his next sentence is the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. Prior to that, when he talks about JFK’s slow but steady plans for civil rights and the future of African-Americans’ freedoms, we know that was cut short in a motorcade in Dallas. We are swept up now as much as the first time in what ifs and what could have beens. I recognize King’s voice, and President Obama’s, and Walter Cronkite’s as he announces for the world the assassination of Kennedy.
I will admit to a couple of times that I was forced by emotion to pause the podcast. In the introduction, we relive the night of November 4th, 2016 when we went from the glass ceiling to the dumpster fire. Nine-eleven and current Administration nonsense made me hit pause as well. It wasn’t simply the mentioning of the 2016 election outcome; it was the reliving through audio and background that triggered a deep sense of sadness and anxiety. I could feel the panic rising up through my chest. I remembered back to that night, tears and fighting back tears, the denial, and the immediate days that followed – the tightness of my chest, the weakness of my legs, the headaches, the always being on the edge of tears. It was 9/11 all over again. As someone personally affected by 9/11, I do not invoke its memory lightly. My mother-in-law died the summer before this election, and our house was very much back to that feeling of devastation during the period between November 4th and January 20th, 2017, like a doomsday clock counting down to the end of the world.
But after a few deep breaths, a glass of soda, a check of email (not Twitter, Lord, stay away from Twitter), I returned my ear buds and pushed play on the podcast.
I hope you will give this documentary a listen.
We continue to say that if we forget our history we are doomed to repeat it. This is a lesson in that history and how we can come out of the other side better for having lived it. Remember it and improve and move forward.
The Wilderness can be found on your favorite podcast app.
I listen on Player.FM on my Kindle, and I would absolutely recommend this app for Android. (That doesn’t preclude Apple or using it on Apple – I know nothing of Apple products unless you mean the delicious ones that grow on trees.)