Website demonstrates intersectionalities between politics and daily life

Founded by alumni, Political Playlist’s personalized features allows users to seek out political news and discover young politicians based on the issues they care about. (Photo courtesy of Lyndsey Miller)

In an ever-evolving political climate, it can often be intimidating for young voters to seek out appropriate sources for political news.  

Enter Political Playlist, a new way for young voters to learn more about young politicians fighting for issues they are passionate about.

“We hope that the experience is one of discovery,” said Michael Kristoff. “That you get your playlist [and] you are discovering people that you’re not reading about in mainstream news sources and what we’re seeing on TV.”

Learning about politics in a safe space can make a massive difference in forming one’s opinion, and Political Playlist brings the next generation of young voters and politicians together through non-partisan conversations.

The founding members of Political Playlist, USC alumni Anthony Barkett, Anna Musky-Goldwyn and Michael Kristoff, are a real example of the power of the Trojan Family. While these three did not know one another as students, they immediately connected upon meeting due to their shared USC degree and mutual interest in politics. It wasn’t long after when they founded Political Playlist. 

Political Playlist is a website service that offers two unique experiences. An algorithmic tool on their website allows users to create their own “political playlist” by taking a survey to gauge which political issues they are passionate about. Based on those results, participants are sent an emailed newsletter with updates from young politicians, under 45, working on said issues. Since the group is non-partisan, it makes an effort to expose users to voices from both sides of the aisle.

“We want it all to be objective, we didn’t want to be like a scientist behind the scenes,” Musky-Goldwyn said. “We wanted …you to put in your answers, and there’s a math problem solving that as opposed to like the three of us … handpicking anything.” 

The second component is a podcast that allows audiences to delve into the intersectionality of politics and discover what they care about.

“This more kind of culturally focused conversation series is very specifically generated by what we find interesting and it’s much more curated,“ Musky-Goldwyn said. “To sort of give that discovery access point for people to say like, ‘Hey are you interested in fashion, we’re going to talk to a stylist about fashion in politics or, you know, are you interested in, tech, we’re going to talk to someone who does like tech in politics and so just kind of finding those, those connecting points, I think is more the point of the chat.”

Although new, Political Playlist has hosted many notable guests in politics and other sectors including Congresswoman Sara Jacobs and CEO of the nonprofit organization Thirst Project, Seth Maxwell. Additionally, the group was nominated for a Webby Award alongside the White House for the best government and civil innovation website.

Each member attributes their deep passion for politics to their experiences at USC, both in and out of the classroom.

For example, founding member 2012 alumnus Barkett, a business administration major and International Relations minor, engrossed himself in foreign policy through an immersive experience with the International Relations program, Problems Without Passports.  

“[The program] gave you a menu and DC was Capitol Hill, NGOs, think tanks, so that helped sort of solidify a lot of the political landscape,” Barkett notes.

Gary Glass, a former professor of International Relations who led Problems Without Passports, added  that the success of his program was largely due to younger generations facing the futility of partisan gridlock.

“[Barkett] is smart, creative, insightful and was always very involved in national politics,” said Professor of International Relations Steven Lamy. “He was one of those students who was interesting to talk with and who [knew] who was running the country.”

For fellow founding member a USC alumnus Kristoff, his time at USC became more involved with learning about politics. 

“My political discovery began at USC when four other friends of mine and I started going out to dinner after every exam session,” Kristoff said. “It was kind of through those like fun, lively, engaging conversations that is sort of what sparked me to join these guys with one of the plan was to kind of create, how do we create a place where people can feel like it’s a fun, lively dinner to go to and talk about politics.”

Due to the pandemic, the in-person group conversations have been put on hold. Political Playlist still hosts virtual conversations through their social media platforms and hopes to transition these into real-life conversations. In fact, the pandemic offered a unique opportunity for people to realize the intersectionality between politics and daily life, said Musky-Goldwyn.

“I think that from the sort of mission of what we’re doing, it helps, because I think it made people understand how connected we all are to politics, even if we previously might have not thought that,” Musky-Goldwyn said. “You ask anyone who went on unemployment, it’s like, ‘Oh, so you should pay attention to politics right because like you’re getting an unemployment check, maybe for the first time in your life.’”

At its heart, the mission of Political Playlist is to provide a safe space to learn more about political issues without feeling reprimanded for current opinions. 

“I think the message is [that] you don’t have to change or sacrifice your beliefs to learn about what’s out there,” Musky-Goldwyn said. “And that educating yourself doesn’t mean that you’re becoming a different person or that you’re, you know, like betraying the people that you care about or the things that you care about.”