Massachusetts House candidates discuss identity on Powerhouse Politics Podcast

PHOTO: Boston City Councilor and congressional candidate Ayanna Pressley talks to Jeffrey McNary as she campaigns against Michael Capuano at the Jackson Square MBTA Station in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston on July 10, 2018.PlayBoston Globe via Getty Images, FILE
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They don’t disagree much on policy. But they could hardly look or sound more different when they propose how they will serve in politics.

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A Democratic primary battle in a progressive district that includes parts of Boston and nearby left-leaning suburbs speaks to the larger struggle in the Democratic Party over how best to proceed in the age of President Donald Trump.

On ABC News’ Powerhouse Politics podcast, neither incumbent U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano nor his challenger, Boston City Council member Ayanna Pressley, named specific policy differences, with both supporting a broad swath of progressive policy proposals – but both cited aspects of their identity in making their pitch to voters.

Pressley, the first African-American woman to serve on the Boston City Council, noted to host Rick Klein and guest host MaryAlice Parks that her own experience and identity would help her distinguish herself and legislate differently from Capuano.

“People often say that, other than my age, race and gender, we are the same, which, on its face, I'm perplexed by that statement. Those are three major differences, all of which have formidably shaped my worldview,” Pressley said.

In Capuano’s eyes, however, it’s nearly impossible to truly be a perfect representative of a district with so many diverse experiences.

“I have 800,000 constituents. Every single one of them has a different perspective in life. And part of an elected official’s job is to try to cobble those together into one voice in Washington," Capuano said. “I just don't think that identity politics has a place in today's world. President Barack Obama did not run on that. [Former Massachusetts] Gov. Deval Patrick did not run on that. They ran on the concept that any individual is capable of representing all of us if they share our values and are willing to fight for them.”

PHOTO: Congressman Mike Capuano speaks after being endorsed for re-election by Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, left, in Boston on April 22, 2018.Keith Bedford/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
Congressman Mike Capuano speaks after being endorsed for re-election by Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, left, in Boston on April 22, 2018.

Pressley reflected on the concept as well, observing that it does not usually arise when discussing white male candidates.

“I do feel that this is a charge that is only called into play with women and candidates of color. Donald Trump ran the biggest identity politics campaign in history. And that is rarely, if ever, called out,” Pressley said.

PHOTO: Boston City Councilor and congressional candidate Ayanna Pressley talks to Jeffrey McNary as she campaigns against Michael Capuano at the Jackson Square MBTA Station in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston on July 10, 2018.Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
Boston City Councilor and congressional candidate Ayanna Pressley talks to Jeffrey McNary as she campaigns against Michael Capuano at the Jackson Square MBTA Station in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston on July 10, 2018.

Capuano also felt that the best way for progressives to respond to the anger generated by Trump’s election was to focus on defeating him and his allies, rather than going after Democrats whom they tend to agree with.

“Absolutely, people are angry. I don't blame them so much. But you don't take out your anger by punching yourself in the face. You take your anger by finding the people you're angry about and take them out,” Capuano said.

The two candidates face off in the Democratic primary on Sept. 4.

Every Wednesday, ABC Radio and iTunes bring you the Powerhouse Politics Podcast which includes headliner interviews and in-depth looks at the people and events shaping U.S. politics. Hosted by ABC News’ Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl and ABC News Political Director Rick Klein.

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