Welcome to the Jess Bidgood Era

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Hi, everyone!

I’m so pleased to tell you that after a long and exhaustive search, we have found our next newsletter writer, Jess Bidgood.

Jess is new to this newsletter but not to The New York Times. Many of us worked with her back in the 2010s, when she covered the country as a reporter for The Times’s National Desk, based in Boston.

Of course, the political world has changed dramatically since then. And Jess is just the right person to chart us through this uncharted territory. She has a keen eye for character, endless curiosity about the country and a wonderful sense of humor. (Just ask her about going off piste with Gov. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire.)

She’ll take over on Monday with her debut newsletter. After that, you’ll find her in your inbox three times a week — Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

I talked to Jess about her past work, her current sense about politics and how she envisions the future of this newsletter.

LL: We’re so happy you’re here. Tell everyone a little about yourself.

JB: Lisa, thank you! I’m an England-born political reporter who grew up moving around this country and became kind of obsessed with it. These days, I live in Washington, D.C., with my husband and my dog, whose name is Rhubarb.

I’ve been a reporter for more than a decade. I got my start in public radio in Boston on the 4 a.m. shift, at WBUR, where one of my duties was to bring the newspapers inside when they arrived at 5 a.m. In seven years on The Times’s National Desk, I wrote about everything from natural disasters to narwhals. But I grew hungry to cover politics, so five years ago I moved down to Washington to do just that for The Boston Globe.

And now I’m back to take the helm of this newsletter in this extremely chill and not at all dramatic political moment.

LL: So in this super-chill moment, what are some of your favorite things about covering politics?

JB: Politics give us a window into this country — what’s shaping it, who’s shaping it, how people feel. When you cover politics, you’re covering people. You’re covering voters. You’re covering political figures, people bursting with ego and ambition as they fight for power. You’re covering the change people want and what kind of country we’re going to be. I love that.

And what an adventure it is! I’ve taken that special nighttime flight from Iowa to New Hampshire right after the Iowa caucuses, when a candidate stands on the tarmac in the dark and insists her big moment is still coming. (Oftentimes, it is not.) I’ve held in my hand a fake slate of electors that a swing state’s secretary of state received from Trump supporters in 2020 and decided to ignore. I’ve listened to L.G.B.T.Q. teens tell their school board who they are, and watched a community sick of high taxes disband its local government altogether. These are important political stories, big and small, and I can’t wait to bring them to On Politics.

LL: You will be the third full-time writer of this newsletter. I started it. And then, Blake Hounshell, whose voice we all miss in our pages. And now it will be you. What should people expect in the Jess Bidgood era?

JB: This election is going to be strange, messy and deeply consequential, and every day this newsletter comes out, I’ll bring readers one idea, one story or one interview that will illuminate this country’s political morass.

And it will be fun. Really. I promise.

I’m going to take an expansive view of politics. We’ll travel far outside of Washington. We’ll talk to people who have nothing to do with campaigns or policy. We’ll get at how issues are really lived. We’ll bring in the fun stuff, like food, culture, style and sports — OK, I will need some help on that last one — and I’ll invite my colleagues from all over the paper to join us.

We’re also going to dig into the hard stuff. We’re going to ask tough questions of the people who want power in this country. And I’m going to bring you news about the races, the ideas and the debates shaping the election. You won’t agree with everybody whose voice you hear, but you might understand them a little better.

I want the newsletter to retain your cleareyed, conversational analysis, and to honor Blake’s legacy of deep and thoughtful reporting. I’ll be a steady guiding hand sending you dispatches from an election that really matters.

LL: So what would be your dream newsletter?

JB: My dream dream? That would be an interview with Taylor Swift, whose rain-drenched show I attended in Foxborough last year.

Taylor, I know you’re reading this: When you’ve got something to say about this election, email me. And that goes for the rest of you, too.

The epicenter of the presidential campaign shifted to New York yesterday, as the incumbent president and three of his predecessors descended on the area for dueling events that illustrated the kinds of political clashes that could come to define the general election.

In Manhattan, President Biden was joined by former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton for a celebrity-studded fund-raiser for Biden’s re-election campaign. On Long Island, former President Donald Trump attended a wake for a New York City police officer who was killed during a traffic stop on Monday.

Together, the events struck an unusual contrast in a general-election campaign that has so far been largely defined by appearances in courtrooms and at small, invitation-only events. They also hinted at the campaign to come, where the full force of the Democratic Party establishment will face off against the passion of the MAGA movement.

There were also signs that Biden and Trump are trying to defang some of the most damaging lines of attack against them.

Biden, Obama and Clinton appeared before 5,000 donors at an event at Radio City Music Hall that campaign aides said raised $25 million. The eye-popping number set a record for a single political event, according to the aides.

But the presidents were repeatedly interrupted by protesters, shouting “blood on your hands” — a reference to the war in Gaza that disrupted an event that was meant to be a show of unity and strength among Democrats.

Earlier that day, at a funeral home on Long Island, Trump attended the wake of Police Officer Jonathan Diller.

Trump — who is facing 88 felony charges, including some in a case in Manhattan that is going to trial in less than three weeks — stood in front of more than a dozen police officers and proclaimed the need for the country to “get back to law and order.”


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