Md. Lawmaker Talks Politics, ‘Dumb Bills’ and the Generation Gap in Podcast

Del. Mark N. Fisher (R-Calvert) and Del. Brooke E. Lierman (D-Baltimore City) debate the No Lexus Lanes Act on the House floor earlier this year. Fisher has poked fun at a Lierman bill on his weekly podcast. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines

One of the most voluble conservative members of the Maryland General Assembly is having his say beyond the State House, in a weekly podcast called “Mark and the Millennials.”

Del. Mark Fisher (R-Calvert) started the podcast almost a year and a half ago to explore the divide between conservative millennials and the baby boomer generation. Now, “Mark and the Millennials” has almost 70 episodes on Spotify and iTunes, 22,000 likes on Facebook and a YouTube channel. Fisher declined to divulge subscriber analytics for the podcast.

Each week, Fisher, 57, sits down with one or two millennials, and sometimes a boomer, to discuss news. Each 45-minute to hour-long episode has a theme — examples include  “Deep State Media,” “The New Hampshire Primary”  and “Elitists Exposed.”

“We love the fact that the millennials have a different point of view,” Fisher said. “It’s fascinating to listen to them.”

Perhaps the most popular part of the show is “The Dumbest Bill in America,” a segment at the end of each episode in which Fisher and his guests make fun of bills that they believe are unnecessary.

Del. Mark Fisher (R-Calvert). House of Delegates photo

“We have way too many laws that are trying to micromanage every aspect of human life,” Fisher said. “The way you fix issues in America is through innovation. There is a whole trend to ban things, and it’s very tyrannical.”

Fisher spoke of legislation like an Illinois bill to ban gasoline powered leaf blowers and his colleague Del. Brooke E. Lierman’s (D-Baltimore City) bill to ban plastic bags in Maryland. But, the point is not to offend people, Fisher said — it’s to keep politics light.

“Republicans pass a lot of stupid bills too,” Fisher said. “There is plenty of material to work with.”

As an example, Fisher mentioned a Utah bill to decriminalize polygamy. He recently featured that one on his podcast, and plans to feature two more Republican bills next month.

“It’s pretty funny. All you can do is laugh,” Del. Brian Crosby (D-St. Mary’s) said about the segment. Crosby has sat beside Fisher in the House chamber for two years, but only recently learned about his colleague’s podcast and began to listen.

“A lot of time, legislators, we’re still people, and this is a way to put a light spin on serious issues,” Crosby said. “I’ve laughed at many of those segments.”

Fisher said that, more than anyone else, his millennial guests love to poke fun at unnecessary bills, because conservative millennials tend to be more libertarian.

But Fisher’s guests range across the political spectrum. One frequent millennial guest, Ryan Brady– nicknamed “Squirrel” on the podcast for his tendency to change the subject — describes himself as more moderate.

“I always strive to ensure we have a difference of opinion on the show,” Brady said. “The last thing we want it to be is an echo chamber.”

Brady met Fisher when Brady was an intern for the House Economic Matters Committee. Brady’s friend, Garrick Ross, who was then an intern for Fisher, introduced them. Ross is a frequent guest on the show, doubles as the podcast’s assistant producer, and is also Fisher’s chief of staff in Annapolis.

Fisher said about eight millennials have been guests on his show, and they often return. Brady said he has been a guest on at least 30 episodes and that he views it as an intellectual exercise.

“Ryan tends to be more moderate and we argue over that frequently,” Fisher said. “His points are often well-taken. I don’t want the podcast to be about what I say.”

Brady said they are working to get a wider range of opinions on the show. There’s value in discussing issues with someone who thinks differently than you, Brady said.

In one episode, Fisher and Brady interviewed the founder of Maryland’s socialist Bread and Roses Party, Jerome Segal.

“I do have to agree that some of your ideas have merits and I tend to agree on some things,” Brady told Segal during the interview, before pushing back on a few of Segal’s points.

“Wow,” Fisher said, laughing.

“Not a lot of millennials are having dialogue with someone in a different generation,” Brady said later. “Dialogue between boomers and millennials provides value. It helps you reevaluate your opinion.”

For Fisher, “Mark and the Millennials” is fun. But, it’s also time consuming. For each episode, Fisher does research, creates an outline, pulls clips and invites guests. Fisher has an assistant producer and a producer to help, but still works on the podcast — which he said does not take advertising and makes no money — for about 25 hours a week.

“It’s a strange time in America, and the intent is not to discuss difficult issues in a way that offends people, but rather to discuss difficult issues in a way that engages people,” Fisher said.

In the most recent episodes, “Mark and the Millennials” has been light on guests, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fisher is still producing the podcast weekly, but when guests are on the show, they sit apart from each other in his home, where the podcast is recorded.

“There’s a lot of podcasts coming out of Annapolis,” said Del. Warren Miller (R-Howard, Carroll), who has been a guest on “Mark and the Millennials” several times. The podcasts “Red Maryland,” “Conduit Street” (from the Maryland Association of Counties) and “A Miner Detail” (from Ryan Miner) are also Annapolis-focused.

“But I think the unique thing is that Mark is focused more nationally, it’s an elevated point of view,” Miller said. “That’s why there’s people around the country listening.”