Disagreeing Agreeably

“POLITICS, IDEAS & CIVIC LIFE IN MASSACHUSETTS”

has been the tagline describing the focus of CommonWealth’s coverage since the magazine was launched 22 years ago. We didn’t say it explicitly, but the goal also was to promote a civil civic life here. A robust exchange of views and ideas, argued vigorously but respectfully, seemed then like an essential ingredient to maintaining a healthy body politic — and it still does today.

With today’s episode of The Codcast, two smart voices — from either side of the partisan divide — are joining that effort. Jennifer Nassour, the former chair of the Massachusetts Republican Party, and Jesse Mermell, who served as communications director to Gov. Deval Patrick, plan to host regular installments of The Codcast, exploring issues, interviewing guests, and debating each other. Nassour is also a member of the board of MassINC, the corporate parent of CommonWealth.

The two women are particularly mindful of the challenge of engaging in civil discourse in what Nassour calls “this crazy political climate of 2018.” The goal of the podcasts, they say, is to “disagree agreeably.”

It’s made easier by the friendship they have struck up in the course of “sparring,” in Mermell’s phrasing, as analysts over the last several years on various media outlets. “We discovered that we actually like each other as people,” says Mermell.

That “does not mean the gloves won’t come off,” she says.

“I think Jesse is pretty much wrong about everything,” says Nassour. “And I feel the same way about you,” Mermell responds in their inaugural installment.

The obvious focus for the episode was last Tuesday’s primary election, which both of them had a direct role in. Nassour was finance chair for Beth Lindstrom’s losing bid for the Republican nomination for US Senate. Mermell had no official role in Ayanna Pressley’s winning campaign against US Rep. Michael Capuano, but Pressley is her closest friend in Boston, and she spent plenty of time offering counsel and advice.

Nassour’s take on Lindstrom’s loss and the strong showing by Senate primary winner Geoff Diehl, a strong Trump backer: “Primaries bring out people on the fringes.” (Separately, Gov. Charlie Baker stirred controversy last week by backing Diehl and the rest of the state’s GOP ticket in November.)

Nassour said she hopes the 100,000 votes for far-right gubernatorial candidate Scott Lively aren’t a sign that more Trump-aligned candidates will be emerging. “It’s not a winning strategy here in Massachusetts,” says Nassour.

She also lamented the fact that the GOP hasn’t been the most supportive place for women candidates — or party leaders. “I do think there definitely is a more misogynistic view on our candidates within the Republican Party,” she says. “Quite honestly, I got it as party chair. I can’t tell you how many people would come up to me at state committee meetings and ask, ‘Who’s watching your kids tonight?’”

Nassour says the party needs to get more voters who are not registered under any party label but lean toward the GOP — “closet Republicans,” she calls them — to vote in primaries.

As for the key to Pressley’s stunning victory over a 20-year incumbent, Mermell says it starts with the candidate herself. “She is talented in a way that no political consultant could ever teach a candidate to be,” she says. “That’s a natural thing that you have or you don’t.”

There were lots of other important elements to the victory, she says, including a talented campaign staff made up of lots of people who were not regulars in the constellation of political operatives, and some outside-the-box thinking, including a media strategy that included no traditional English language television advertising.

While candidates are often advised to stay away from issues that might look like problems from their past, Mermell says, Pressley chose to talk about things like the eviction notices pasted to her door as a child, her experience as a victim of sexual abuse, and her father’s incarceration. “She put it out there front and center,” Mermell says. It gave Pressley a degree of “relatability” that connected with voters that Capuano did not have.
Meet the Author

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Michael Jonas

Executive Editor, CommonWealth > E-mail > @bostonjonas Bio » Latest Stories »

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

With several incumbent Boston legislators sent packing, and an outsider candidate winning over the law enforcement community’s choice in the race for Suffolk County district attorney, Mermell says Pressley’s win was part of a bigger wave.

“There was a whole lot of appetite last Tuesday to buck the establishment,” she says.

Source : https://commonwealthmagazine.org/media/the-codcast-disagreeing-agreeably-2/

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