Coronavirus COVID-19 impact on Michigan, election day challenges and results, Dr. Abdul El-Sayed is guest

March 16, 2020

Michigan Policast for Monday, March 16, 2020

  In this episode:

  • Trump response to Coronavirus COVID-19
  • Michigan & Gov Whitmer response to Coronavirus COVID-19
  • Economic impact of Coronavirus COVID-19
  • Political impact of Coronavirus COVID-19
  • Abdul El-Sayed on the impact of Coronavirus COVID-19
  • Michigan Primary: voting challenges and election results
  • Gary Peters v John James
  • Transcript


Jump to:

Trump response to Coronavirus COVID-19

“Who would have thought?” he asked during a visit to the @CDCGov last week. “Who would have thought we would even be having the subject?” @RealDonaldTrump #Coronavirus #COVID19 Click To Tweet

Michigan & Gov Whitmer response to Coronavirus COVID-19

'We had data the last few weeks that #flu season might be starting to taper off a little bit, but we're seeing it start to go back up again ... a second strain is infecting more people' @MartinEpi @umichsph #H1N1 #influenza #Coronavirus #COVID19Click To Tweet
'We will not tolerate people attempting to swindle and scam others based on their fears and uncertainties during these trying times ... There are various methods we can ratchet it up” Joe Potchen @MiAttyGen #PriceGouging #COVID19 #CoronavirusClick To Tweet



Economic impact of Coronavirus COVID-19

Humans to @MiSenate: 'we've got a #pandemic, can we talk about paid sick leave?' ... @SenMikeShirkey @McCann_Amber: 'It's not a topic that has come up' @bridgemichigan #COVID19 #Coronavirus #lameduck2018 #adoptandamendClick To Tweet
Humans to @MI_Republicans: 'we've got a #pandemic, can we talk about paid sick leave?' ... @LeeChatfield: ... (*crickets) ' @bridgemichigan #COVID19 #Coronavirus #LameDuck2018 #AdoptAndAmendClick To Tweet
'we are encouraged that (federal) leaders seem to agree there may be a need for wage and other support for workers, businesses' ~W. Block of @michamber, 3.5 mos. after testifying against paid sick leave.' @bridgemichigan #COVID19 #CoronavirusClick To Tweet
According to the @BLS_gov, just 31% of U.S. low-income workers in the private sector have access to paid sick leave - @bridgemichigan #COVID19 #CoronavirusClick To Tweet
We propose #UI to provide income to covered unemployed workers, to workers still technically employed but without sick leave, and to those unemployed but not covered by UI... limited to an 18-month time frame' - @UpjohnInstitute #COVID19 #CoronavirusClick To Tweet


Political impact of Coronavirus COVID-19

'We are facing a crisis, an emergency due to the #coronavirus, it (is) downright irresponsible of #MiLeg ' @LatanyaRep on @Mi_Republicans efforts to force work req's on #Medicaid recipients during #pandemic #socialdistancing #COVID-19 Click To Tweet

To be clear, social distancing comes with a substantial economic cost as people aren’t engaged in the same work and life activities that fuel the economy as they were just a month or two ago. As a result, public health and government officials are faced with balancing the public health push to “flatten the curve” with desires to minimize the impact on the economy. ~ Source


Abdul El-Sayed on the impact of Coronavirus COVID-19

#HealingPolitics is about an #epidemic of insecurity, the challenges that #coronavirus #pandemic is going to lay bare. Homelessness, a lack #healthcare, a gig economy that doesn't provide benefits ... the epidemic underneath the epidemic ~@AbdulElSayedClick To Tweet
If @BernieSanders is not the nominee, he's going to put all of his support behind the nominee and we'll take it forward, beat @realdonaldtrump, and build an America that dignifies all of us. ~ @AbdulElSayed Click To Tweet
It's not just beating @RealDonaldTrump, it's about building an America after Trump that dignifies us and solves the challenges that we're facing now. ~ @AbdulElSayedClick To Tweet


'We cannot mistake beating @RealDonaldTrump for building what comes after Donald Trump' ~ @AbdulElSayedClick To Tweet
We're going to have more bad news for the next six weeks at least, that's if we're lucky. .. It's not a time to panic, but it is a time to prepare. And understand that that is going to take a whole-of-society response ~@AbdulElSayedClick To Tweet

Michigan Primary:  voting challenges and election results

Gary Peters v John James



Walt Sorg  0:00

The presenting underwriter of the Michigan Policast is Progress Michigan providing a strong credible voice that holds public officials and government accountable and assists in the promotion of progressive ideas.


Gretchen Whitmer  0:15

In an abundance of caution, I am ordering the closure of all k 12 school buildings in Michigan for three weeks, starting Monday, March 16. until Sunday, April 5th.


Walt Sorg  0:32

Much of the world's activity grinds to a halt has COVID-19 becomes a worldwide pandemic, a pandemic that caught our very stable genius flat-footed.


Donald Trump  0:41

No, I don't take responsibility at all because we were given a set of circumstances and we were given rules, regulations, and specifications from a different time wasn't meant for this kind of an event with the kind of numbers that we're talking about.


Walt Sorg  1:01

This is the Michigan Policast. We're all about Michigan politics and policy and the outside forces impacting our pleasant peninsulas. I'm Walt Sorg practicing social distancing from Lansing.


Christine Barry  1:11

And I'm Christine Barry practicing my social distancing from my liberal blogging compound in Corunna. It seems like ancient history, but it was just this last week that saw Joe Biden storm through Michigan's presidential primary, pulling off what Susan Demas referred to as the full Whitmer. Because much like Whitmer and her primary Joe Biden when all 83 Michigan counties essentially locked up the Democratic nomination. We'll take a look at some of the numbers behind his victory as well as some new wrinkles in the reelection efforts of Senator Gary Peters.


Walt Sorg  1:42

And in a few moments, we'll be joined by Detroit's former public health director in 2016 Gubernatorial Candidate Dr. Abdul El-Sayed. His specialty is epidemiology. We'll talk about his new book Healing Politics and his thoughts on how both President Trump and Governor Whitmer have responded to the Coronavirus


Music  2:01

Everybody's got the fever ..


Walt Sorg  2:14

Okay, we're recording on Sunday. By the time people hear this, the numbers will have changed probably very dramatically for the worse. For the very latest information. A couple of excellent sources are bridge magazine and Michigan advance. Both are free online publications. And of course, Christina has links to that in our notes. We're going to focus on secondary issues today some of the Economic Education and political implications of the biggest healthcare crisis of the last 100 years. Okay, Christine, let's start with the politics. It may not seem to be the time to talk politics, but that's what we're about. Let's talk about the pathetically inept response of the Trump administration versus the poise and competence of Governor Whitmer.


Yamiche Alcindor  2:54

You said that you don't take responsibility, but you did disband the White House pandemic Office and the officials that were working in that office left this administration abruptly. So what responsibilities Do you take to that? And the officials that worked in that office said that you that the White House lost valuable time because that office was disbanded? What do you make of that?


Donald Trump  3:14

Well, I just think it's a nasty question. Because what we've done is, and Tony had said numerous times that we've saved thousands of lives because of the quick closing. And when you say me, I didn't do it. We have a group of people I could, I could ask perhaps it may have been the administration, but I could perhaps ask Tony about that because I don't know anything about it. I mean, you say you say we did that. I don't know anything about it.


Yamiche Alcindor  3:38

You don't know -?


Donald Trump  3:41

It's the administration, perhaps they do that, you know, people let people go. You used to be with a different newspaper than you are now. You know, things like that happened. Okay. Please go ahead. We're doing a great job.


Walt Sorg  3:52

And it shows like surgeon Schultz, nothing, I know nothing. And he probably is true. He does know nothing.


Christine Barry  3:57

Oh he's such a tool. So what they're talking There is the White House National Security Council's Directorate for global health, security and biodefense. That's the pandemic response team. And actually, the pandemic response was just part of its mission was to prepare for that. But it was created by President Obama in 2014, in response to the Ebola outbreak, and in 2018, the Trump administration reorganized that when John Bolton took over, and it effectively dismantled it really. But what happened was a lot of the expertise, the people who were really specialized in this kind of diseases and viruses and so on, left, and the expertise and responsibilities that were left from that office were dispersed through different departments. So there was no particular agency in charge of evaluating public threats abroad or coordinating different levels of government and private sector responses in that kind of thing. That's what they were talking about there. Now, you know, he says he has no knowledge of it, or he was responsible for it or whatever. But when he was asked about it before, he said, I'm a businessman and you don't have 1000 people hanging around, if you don't need them, you just call them back and when you need them, anytime you try to run something like a business, this is, you know, some government thing like a business, this is what you get. And second, he's just so disengaged from the actual gravity. Yeah, it's, I mean, what a mess.  That particular action has been cited as a cause for the sluggish domestic response in the United States.


Walt Sorg  5:39

A crisis is when a political leader either makes or breaks their reputation. And it is the big moment for any political leader. You think back in a Ronald Reagan after the challenger explosion. Barack Obama after the shootings and in the church, you think of George Bush in the screw up with Katrina, which really demolished his administration. If you can, when you think of Rudy Giuliani after 911, he's become a total jerk now. But that was his shining moment. It made him America's mayor. It is that opportunity. I saw Trump's speech to the nation from the Oval Office described on one of the Sunday shows by a republican analyst as perhaps the worst ever speech from the Oval Office. It was so bad the stock market immediately tanked Bigley, to the point. Now, we're in a bear market. And he hasn't recovered from that. You contrast that, and it's not just governor Whitmer. It's been governors all across the nation that have really responded well, and mayors across the nation. They don't have the power though of the presidency. But you've seen a governor DeWine is taking very decisive action in Ohio republican governor. You've got Governor Inslee in Washington, which is kind of the epicenter in the United States. of the contagion and you had Governor Whitmer really taking some very, very strong steps before it even officially got to Michigan. I mean, we had I think 12 cases when she announced the shutdown of the schools Now that is starting to grow exponentially because she saw it coming. She had her emergency in place. She had her emergency team working before we had one confirmed case in Michigan, and just basically leveled with the people. She didn't try to paint over it and say, oh, everything's fine. We're going to be fine. And all that. She said, Okay, here's the situation. And here's what we're gonna do about it. You've seen that replicated in a lot of places around the country, but not at the White House.


Christine Barry  7:24

And she did this. Yeah, she was up against a lot of criticism from people who probably would have would criticize everything she did anyway, but what she activated the Emergency Operations Center on February 28. And then it was like 10 days later, when we had our first couple of confirmed cases, and she declared state of emergency. And still people were saying you're overreacting. It's just like the flu. And then he said, like, I think it was March 12. She closed all k 12 buildings, which by the way, I really appreciate because we had superintendents, I'm sure all over the state But in my area anyway, superintendents, we're not sure what to do. And most superintendents in a region like in a county or something, they want to work together and make the same kinds of decisions. You don't want one school doing one thing, and then another school just a couple miles away doing something different, you know, in a different district there. So I appreciated that she stood up and made that and she ordered the closure, I really do.


Walt Sorg  8:26

And they also were prepared for the secondary impact of the fact that a lot of kids, that's where they get their nutrition. And they took that into account and they made provisions for it so that those kids will not go hungry.


Christine Barry  8:37

Exactly. And then she went on to say, Okay, now if you're going to have over, you know, 250 people in a shared space, we're going to have to cancel that or postpone it. You know, at this point, I think Michigan's cases, we're up to 25. And still people are saying it's just the flu. It's, you know, not not that it's a hoax anymore, but it's just like the flu and you're you're panicking While all this is going on, Dana Nessel was warning companies not to price gouge she's already had, I think ninety complaints on that Secretary Benson restricted branch office visits to appointment only. I think we're seeing very, very solid coordinated leadership at the state level. I'm really pleased with that.


Walt Sorg  9:21

And you talk about some of the secondary impacts, which leads right into the economic impact on Michigan. Just one small thing on the band of large assemblies I I'm in the Lansing area, the Wharton Center at Michigan State University, a very large theater 2200 seats in the main auditorium there and they've had to cancel a lot of shows there. They had wicked coming in beginning April 1. Every night, that wicked is canceled cost them $350,000. And you multiply that over 18 performances and that's just one relatively minor impact. It goes on and on and on and on, and it's gonna lead to job losses, short term and perhaps long term. And it's going to reduce tax revenues. It's going to probably keep us in near recession, if not a recession for months,


Christine Barry  10:09

it's definitely going to be tough. And the really sad thing about this is the people who are going to be hardest hit from this are going to be those low wage hourly workers who can't work from home. So you see a lot of companies, I think, doing the right thing sending their so called white collar workers home a lot of corporate officers sending people to work from home, but that's fine, but the people who sell them coffee in the morning or who, you know, take care of them at lunch or something, they can't do that work from home. We talked about people not having sick leave, so they go to work sick. Well, even if they weren't sick or went to work sick. There might just not be any demand for them to be there. And so the those jobs will go away for a while or they'll be cut back so much that they might as well go away.


Walt Sorg  10:57

Yeah, those businesses could go away to the Small businesses don't have the economic reserves to weather this kind of a storm. In some cases, you'll see businesses going out of business simply because they lose so much. It's really ironic Michigan has a new sports betting program. So it's illegal now to bet on sports events. And the date went into effect was the day before they canceled the NCAA Tournament. We've also got the political impact at many, many levels. We've talked about the impact on the President's image and his total ineptness. I think it's really kind of stripped away the power of the great businessman. He was running for reelection, basically on the strength of the economy in the stock market. And well, that's gone, and many of his supporters were willing to overlook everything else he did. That was so repugnant. And now all that's left for Trump is the repugnant


Christine Barry  11:44

Trump has a way though he recovered from that hurricane that I think Puerto Rico still underwater. I don't know,


Walt Sorg  11:50

Yeah but the hurricane didn't impact you and me. It didn't impact everybody in the country. This thing's impacting every single person in this country. Another impact is On Joe Biden, Republicans have pretty much given up on the health care issue early on, Democrats have adopted health care as their number one issue going into just the 2018 election and continuing into 2020. And this really elevates the awareness of the need for really solid health care in this country. And it also elevates the need for stable leadership on top. And I think both of those things help Joe Biden immensely like him or not politically. You see somebody who's pretty stable, who's going to be pretty confident, and above all, has stressed healthcare is both a part of the Obama administration. And in the subsequent debates,


Christine Barry  12:37

well, as you mentioned, he was part of the Obama administration. I mean, he's been through a pandemic before and the recovery of a pandemic and the recovery of a recession. And he's just a more stable, well-rounded person when it comes to actually governing. So I think this only helps him. I hate to put it in those terms. You know, I hate to put it in, in that kind of, you know, this pandemic helps Joe Biden, I don't mean to put it in such a way. But I do think that's the case. It's really exposing the weaknesses and the absolute incompetence of President Trump.


Walt Sorg  13:19

Another impact, which nobody's really talked about yet, although I'm aware of it because I'm involved in one of the ballot drives that's underway right now petition drives to change Michigan law. And that is people trying to collect signatures to put things on the ballot are basically stopped in their tracks. There are there's no way to collect signatures at this point, because there are no large gatherings of people where you can collect signatures and going door to door you're very likely to have the door slammed in your face.


Christine Barry  13:47

And the US census is going to going to take a hit as well. It's going to be more difficult to count those populations that are already harder to count. right the college students the homeless where you actually have to send out census takers to go and talk to those folks, people who live in, in group homes, those people don't just go online and fill out their forms there, they actually get a census taker usually come out and do the paperwork. So it's going to be harder to get that work done. And those are the populations we really yeah, it's already hard to count them, and we really need to make sure they get counted accurately. Now, the US Census Bureau does have kind of a backup plan where they can extrapolate data, but the US census is supposed to be a really accurate count of things. So, you know, trying to extrapolate data from other sources. That's not really what they want to do to get the information.


Walt Sorg  14:46

And if you'll recall from our discussion with Karis Singh, I think was on last week's pod. They were behind the curve anyway and hiring people to work on the census. I got a call earlier in the in the last few days from the Census Bureau offering me a job and trust me, there's no way I'm gonna get involved in something like that which involves so much human contact. And I think they're gonna have a tough time filling the positions that aren't filled.


Christine Barry  15:07

You know, if you're out of work because you know, your restaurant closed or you don't have any hours or whatever, and you've got to pay your bills. I mean, that might be where you go,


Walt Sorg  15:18

Okay, go to slash jobs. If you're interested in you know, somebody who is interested in a part time gig with Census Bureau, they really need some help right now. I just got my form in the mail. I haven't filled it out yet, but a lot of us will be able to do it online. So it's not a problem. It's those people that don't do it online who can't be reached online, who are homeless or as you say, college college should be pretty easy to find, just go to the bars. Apparently in East Lansing, they've had a real problem. The day that it was announced that they were going to go to no in person classes, the lines outside the bars are absolutely insanely long. And I can understand it from the perspective of a college student because they're relatively low risk for having any serious implications from the coronavirus. But it's spreading the virus so that people that are more susceptible to serious impacts, people like you and me, are more likely to catch it just because they're spreading the virus.


Christine Barry  16:10

And Governor Whitmer does have the authority to shut down establishments that aren't being responsible if, if they pose a public health risk. I'll have all of that in our show notes. But I just I saw these pictures on Twitter of students just packing the bar and I thought, wasn't it just last week where we saw that MSU students were all afraid of Asians? So like, Are there no Asians at these bars? I mean, I'm not gonna make it a racist thing. But come on. You know, if you're afraid of somebody from a particular part of the world, why are you all congregating at these bars? But whatever.


Walt Sorg  16:48

it's hard to understand the psychology of college students sometimes.


Christine Barry  16:51

Okay, so the COVID-19 pandemic is both a political and medical crisis of the First Order, who better to talk about it than a politician who is also a medical doctor specializing in epidemiology. Even better if they've just written a book calling for political healing in America, we talk with someone who fits that description perfectly 2016 gubernatorial candidate, Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, the man who goes by his first name came out of nowhere to give Gretchen Whitmer, a strong challenge in 2016. And he's gone on to become a national voice for progressive causes as a CNN commentator and a host of his own podcast.


Walt Sorg  17:29

Dr. El-Sayed, thank you so much for joining us on the polycast. First of all, I guess, condolences on your book tour. You've got a great book, you've got a great subject, but you can't go out and promote it right now.


Abdul El-Sayed  17:41

Yeah, it's, it's frustrating, but look, considering the circumstances and the moment that we're in. I'm one of the lucky ones. I have a family you know, I have health care and I have a home and thankfully, my family is safe and so all things considered. I'm not feeling sorry for myself. Plus you know, it's the book I wrote was about an epidemic of insecurity, all of the challenges that this coronavirus outbreak now pandemic are going to lay there. I talked about in the book, whether it's homelessness or a lack of access to health care or a gig economy that doesn't provide basic benefits to people. And so, you know, in a lot of ways, it's about the epidemic underneath the epidemic. And, and I do hope that that folks will pick it up to try and understand a little bit more about not just the coronavirus itself, but also why it is that we are so vulnerable to something like this.


Walt Sorg  18:34

The title of your book is healing politics. And it really strikes me that during your campaign against governor Whitmer, it was a very tough campaign. But it was never the fractiousness that we're seeing right now, in the National Democratic campaign. There is a lot of bitterness, it seems right now between the two sides. Is that something that can come together?


Abdul El-Sayed  18:55

I hope it does. You know, if if, if you need any indication, Why we have to come together, just look at the person who's in the white house right now and look at where we are because of his failed leadership. And so I do believe that we can come together, you know, this is the nature of campaigns, you're actively trying to draw contrast between visions for what the country ought to be. And that means that your goal to you know, disagree and disagreement has to come to the fore to offer voters the best choice, but afterwards, we know that clear and present danger that is Donald Trump, and we understand the responsibility that we have to beat him. And so I do believe that, that we can come together. And I know that, you know, Bernie Sanders, for my support is committed to beating Donald Trump first and foremost, he realizes that this man is anathema to everything that he stood he stands for he has stood for he's campaigned on and beating him will be the most important thing. And if even if he's not the nominee to do that, I know that he's going to put all of his support behind Joe Biden if he's the nominee, and and we'll take it forward, be Donald Trump and continue to work to build the kind of America that that that dignifies all of us


Walt Sorg  20:00

You talk about the insecurity of voters the insecurity of our populace in the book. And it strikes me that you are an example of what comes out of that insecurity, a Rhodes Scholar who came out of nowhere to become a leading political figure. And then now we've got Pete Buttigieg, the same sort of MO, another brilliant man came out of nowhere to become a major political player. Is that what we're looking at in the future? You're really Donald Trump came out of the same sort of insecurity. He came out of nowhere, really, because people just weren't comfortable with where we were at. Is that the cycle we're going to continue to go through, do you think?


Abdul El-Sayed  20:40

Well, what I talked about in the book is the way that the governing consensus really since reagan has dismantled the basic infrastructure on which Americans have relied for a very long time, and that's left us deeply insecure because we are all vulnerable to the whims of a market that's been dominated by the Uber powerful. For me, I was never supposed to run for office. That wasn't in the plans, I became a doctor because I believed in the institutions that were out there to take care of people and that working within them could allow me to help solve some of the deep inequalities in health that I saw, both between where I grew up in the suburbs of Detroit and Egypt, where my family's from, or between the suburbs and Detroit itself. And then I became sort of ensconced in those institutions and realized that actually, they were completely undone and focused on the wrong issues. And that's, that's ultimately, you know, over time what led me to career in politics. I know Mayor Pete, and I go back, we were in the same scholarship program. And I know for him he was a lot more interested in public service from the outset. But the need to to jump in to the fray, try and solve some of the challenges that people face. I think that's motivated a lot of young politicians. You think about an AOC in in New York and she's in the same boat. And at the same time you have the, you know, the scary sort of dark image of the kind of demagoguery that can come out of a moment like this ala Donald Trump, right, he sees an opportunity to feed his inherent narcissism and egoism, by climbing to political power on the pain and suffering of poor folks and us who feel like they've been left out by that system. And so our responsibility is not necessarily just to run against the institutions. It's to run to rebuild and refocus the institutions on the challenges that poor and working people face and to open up those institutions in a more democratic way. And that's what's framed my work, what's framed this book and the kind of work that I hope to be doing in the future.


Walt Sorg  22:48

I'm from the Vietnam protests generation. And what I see now is a movement among young people in ignition of flame that hasn't really been there for 50 years. But you look at the Sanders campaign and you look at your campaign, and that has energized a sizable segment of young people, are they likely to tune out? Because in fact, you did lose your campaign? Where do Sanders appears to be losing the presidential nomination? Is that going to turn them off? Or are they going to continue to fight?


Abdul El-Sayed  23:21

No, look, the you know, your generation and I don't deign speak for your generation. And I'd love at some point to sit down and learn from you about that. But you saw the clear and present danger of the war happening thousands of miles away and the impact that it would have on your life. I think for young people, they see the clear and present danger of things like climate change, and the fact that the economy that they're graduating into, doesn't have the means to provide them meaningful work that allows them to live a dignified life and they ask, you know, what does the future have in store for me? You know, think about my general self. I graduated in 2007. We graduated right into the worst recession in history since the Great Depression. So, you know, all of the things that we had worked and studied for all of the debt that people in my generation had taken on, was enough. And so that doesn't go away simply because a couple of campaigns don't go our way. All that shows is that we have to press down harder and the movement that has been built right since 2016, into 2018, now into 2020, it has galvanized around the series of policy recommendations, not even requests, but demands that would solve some of this and, and so I think, you know, all we're going to do is double down, we all realize that we've got to be Donald Trump to do that. But it's not just about beating Donald Trump. It's about it's about building the after Trump that really dignifies us through the challenges by solving the challenges that we faced and, and I think that's not going to go away anytime soon. Especially especially if we mistake beating Donald Trump building what comes after Donald Trump.


Walt Sorg  24:51

Okay, I've got to revert to your your old gig if you will. Not only a physician but of course a public health professional love the Detroit Public Health Department. What is your evaluation of how both the federal and state governments have responded to something that's really kind of unprecedented in our time?


Abdul El-Sayed  25:08

Well, I'll tell you this, you know, the federal government's response has been too little too late. And, you know, specifically coming from the president you have just Stark, deep, dishonest misinformation, right, telling people that they're fine to go to work if they're feeling symptoms, or that this is going to go away because of the temperature change. That kind of leadership from a president is is dangerous, it's really dangerous. And then we've seen you know, just the botched rollout of basic things like testing kits. I we just kicked off our second season of my podcast American sec did specifically focusing on coronavirus in our first episode, which actually just dropped on Friday really focuses on exactly how this mismanagement has led us where we are. I do think the state's done a much better level there, you know, some things that I would have done differently. And it's it's funny to me to be like, Well, you know, Michigan could have had an epidemiologist as governor in the context of the biggest epidemic in history, but I feel that there has been a real focus on being prepared and being vigilant. And I, I think that Governor Whitmer is doing a strong job leading and being thoughtful and putting science and public health officials on the front line to speak to us, I do hope that we'll be able to contain this. At the same time we're dealing with just a biological pathogen, that that is quite virulent in the way that it moves. It's thankfully not as, as as as deadly among younger folks, but still quite deadly among among seniors and folks with underlying chronic conditions. And so we have a responsibility to keep all of us safe. And that's the thing about public health is it's not just me or you, it's about us. And it really is the you know, the starkest consideration about you know, how government ought to work. It's a collective action that we take to protect the most vulnerable among us. I'm also concerned about what the consequences of mitigation itself are going to be. And those consequences often play out far longer than the outbreak itself, right? When You shut down schools and you shut down workplaces, which are all the right things to do. Because we, of course, have failed to contain this virus, those things have long term consequences. And I really hope that those long term consequences don't fall disproportionately on low income people on vulnerable people as they appear to be falling. And so we've not, we don't just have to control the outbreak and the epidemic itself. But we also have to mitigate the consequences of the mitigation and make sure that we are investing in policies that protect people that sew up our broken social safety net, that address the insecurity that I write about in the book.


Walt Sorg  27:35

What do you do with a single parent who has to go to work to pay the rent, has to take care of their kid and has to avoid possibly spreading the virus at the same time? It's yet it's a Gordian knot. You can you can untie it,


Abdul El-Sayed  27:51

You know, well, I mean, think about this, what if that person is a nurse? Right, and that person needs to show up at our health system to be able to take care of a massive influx of new patients suffering from this coronavirus and now has to worry about taking care of their kid. Now let's complicate this even further. Now the burden of caring for that kid falls upon, you know, that nurse's parents who are elderly, who are the most vulnerable people in the context of this epidemic. And so, you know, we've got to think through the full picture of, of everybody's lives in the context of this epidemic, and make sure that we in the in the in the focus that we have on controlling and mitigating this outbreak, are thinking more broadly also about the life circumstances that get interrupted. And like I said, I'm not in a position to second guess any choices that are being made. And I believe that everybody has to follow the direct directives of their public officials. And so I'll be the first to say, look, if we shut down schools, then we've got to do what it takes. And I'm not on the front lines right now. But I will say that, you know, my recommendation to people who are making those frontline policy decisions is to put themselves in the shoes of the people whose lives are affected by this and make sure that that our choices truly do optimize to what the lived experience is for While we, at the same time do everything we can to mitigate this pandemic


Walt Sorg  29:04

is our health care system in Michigan up to the challenge?


Abdul El-Sayed  29:07

Look, our healthcare systems been misaligned for a very long time. We have this patchwork system that relies on a system of private health insurance to provide care and we know that it doesn't provide care for about 10% of people who don't have health care at all. And then another 30% are under insured simply because the cost of getting health care even if they're insured is prohibitive. And so I worry about that health care system in the context of a massive influx that we're going to see because of coronavirus. So, I don't think the American healthcare system is ready for it and so far as Michigan follows the same patterns it's not I believe that in the places where where they've seen some success, specifically South Korea and in you know later on in the game China for what they've been able to do is create an alternative, almost coronavirus care system that takes the stress of coronavirus, often the current system and allows an efficient sort of allocation of resources to the people working are most affected by this. And I think, you know, in time, we're going to need to do something very similar in the United States to be able to take this on. Because, you know, we're just getting started. You know, while I hate to say this to your listeners, but we're going to have more bad news for the next six weeks at least. And that's if we're lucky. And so people just have to hunker down, be ready for it. It's not a time to panic, but it is a time to prepare. And it's a time to understand that that this is going to take a whole of society response. That is breaking precedent, because we've never faced something like this in our lifetimes, right? The last time that something like this happened was literally 102 years ago, and it was the 1918 flu pandemic. And obviously, we've come a long way in 100 years, but in some ways, we're also a little bit more vulnerable, the world is more globalized than it was before. There are, you know, thankfully, because of modern medicine, we can keep people alive longer. But that also means that you have a larger proportion of the population that's more vulnerable. It's going to take a massive effort on the part of society, and we've all got to be ready for it. We've all got to do our part. That means empowering our leaders to make their best decisions. It means listening, when they make those recommendations and it means being ready and preparing ourselves and doing the things like social distancing that we need to do. And that's why for me, you know, canceling a 38 stop book tour was a minimal thing in the context of doing my part to protect our country and our state. And, you know, that's that's the world that's life. Sometimes you get curveballs, and we all got to be ready to deal


Walt Sorg  31:17

Well let's close on a positive note. One thing you can do to help prevent catching the disease yourself is sit in your living room and read your book. When's it coming out when you get it?


Abdul El-Sayed  31:29

Yep, it comes out on March 31. folks can preorder at, I recommend going your local bookstore and picking it up there. And if not, then you can get it delivered to your home from somebody like indie bound or or books a million or you know, even Amazon but, but I hope that folks will check it out. You can also listen, I narrated the book on Audible. So if you're the kind of person who likes to listen to a book, you'll get a lot of my voice in your ear for about 15 hours. So I hope that you enjoy it.


Walt Sorg  31:55

And also, of course, your podcasts from our good friends at crooked media is


Abdul El-Sayed  31:59

It's called America Dissected and we just started season two. So go ahead and pick that up right here on whatever podcast app you're listening to, to the Policast on.


Walt Sorg  32:08

Okay, great. Thank you so much. Dr. Abdul El-Sayed thanks for joining us on the podcast. Thanks for having me.


Music  32:14

You say you want a revolution …


Walt Sorg  32:45

Bernie Sanders revolution hit a brick wall in Michigan last week. a decisive 17 point victory for Joe Biden pretty much sealed the deal. It's going to be evolution, not revolution for the 2020 ticket. Christine, were you surprised?


Christine Barry  33:00

I was not surprised. But Joe Biden was very, very strong. But you could see that he was going to be because he was building that coalition. He was pulling in support from everybody as he came into Michigan. So I wasn't surprised that he won Michigan. Not at all.  I was surprised that some of the interesting polling that was done, I mean, he won so many demographics, according to the polls.


Walt Sorg  33:26

They want every county For starters, even Washington or the counties, and Kalamazoo counties, large college counties, he still managed to squeak through even there so that the Sanders plan of bringing up the young vote in the college towns especially, simply didn't cut it.


Christine Barry  33:42

I know his Sanders' supporters are very heartbroken over that because they are really counting on some things from Sanders, the agenda, the health care and the changing of our economy, so that it's a little bit more supportive of pulling wages down. into labor rather than letting them be sent offshore and letting the money be sent offshore and hoarded by the 1%. But what I think Sanders has done really well, is get people so excited for this. And then, like his base is what what was that poll under 35?  18 to 34 years old 60% went for Sanders. And if that's the same nationwide, which I don't know, the nationwide numbers, but if that's the same nationwide, then the next generation is going to have Sanders-like leaders. And so I don't think they have to be heartbroken for too long. When it comes to Joe Biden, I think Chris Matthews said it best when he said we just need a designated driver for the next few years until we can, you know, get to the next point.


Walt Sorg  34:48

I think the big issue in Michigan too was Medicare for All. I think that had a profound impact. The polling that was done by EPIC-MRA, just before the primary, only 21% of those polled said they would favor a Medicare for all system 20% like the idea of a Medicare like public option 50% favorite expanding and improving the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare. And so I think that was really decisive. Of course, the people that were for the public option went for Sanders, two to one. But on the other two categories, they are when overwhelmingly for Joe Biden, that was that doesn't match national polling amongst Democrats. It's Medicare for All is more popular among Democrats nationwide, but it's certainly a key I think, to the union states, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, that Medicare for All is not the issue that Bernie Sanders thought it was going to be.


Christine Barry  35:39

Well, definitely not. Not here, like you said, you know, it's clear that Bernie Sanders is going to stay in for a little while I think, I hope for his sake for his followers sake that he is just staying into leverage a little bit and push Joe Biden to the left on a few things, but Bernie Sanders is not going to be the nominee. I don't see any clear path for him at this point. Do you?


Walt Sorg  36:04

No, it's I think it's just a matter of now. Now we're recording before the Sunday night debate, but I think we're going to see a Bernie Sanders much more conciliatory and supportive of Joe Biden. They'll continue to campaign for his issues. You'll still hear him talking about Medicare for all and income, inequality and other issues, but I don't think you're going to hear the attacks on Joe Biden that you would have heard a week ago. The other big story out of our primary election was the turnout. It was just insanely good. It was a record turnout for a primary. More than 1 million people voted by absentee ballot, which is a tribute to proposal three, because it became so much easier to vote by absentee ballot, more than 13,000 people registered to vote and cast a ballot on Election Day, which is another part of proposal three, if that kind of turnout continues, especially in the suburbs, which are going more and more towards a blue vote that spells good things and for returning Michigan related the blue column and November and showing the 2016 maybe wasn't separation.


Christine Barry  37:01

It was clear, I think, from all the numbers that you saw, if you watch john king and his map on CNN, on election night, it was clear that the way things went for for Bernie in 2016, it was just a matter of people just did not like Hillary. They just did not take to her, or her campaign, whatever I I really liked Hillary, apparently, she just, you know, just didn't work for a lot of people.


Walt Sorg  37:27

We had a situation where we had nothing but Clinton and bush was running the country for 25 years. And that may be a better part of it, too. Was Clinton bush fatigue.


Christine Barry  37:37

Well, hopefully we've we've had Trump fatigue now and we don't have any more of those guys. And speaking of Trump, he won his primary to it by 93.73% of the vote.


Walt Sorg  37:50

Well, congratulations, Donald Trump. You beat Bill Weld, congratulations.


Christine Barry  37:55

Okay. So Meanwhile, backers of Gary Peters reelection campaign are working to frame that debate with the Senate Majority Pac going for the jugular right away, hitting republican john James on health care.


Narrator  38:07

Listen to john James.


John James  38:10

Our failure to repeal and replace Obamacare is the surest sign that we need someone who will go and work their tail off to remove this monstrosity.


Narrator  38:20

James's plan increased the cost of prescription drugs, charge and age tax on older Americans, eliminate protections for pre existing conditions. JOHN James wrong on health care wrong for Michigan. SMP is responsible for the content of this advertising.


Walt Sorg  38:37

I find it amazing that john James continues to be totally invisible from the campaign trail 275 straight days that he hasn't done a major interview in the state of Michigan. He's not giving speeches accepted very carefully controlled republican events and very few of those. Mostly he's raising money and most of that out of state. What is it? What's wrong? This campaign.


Christine Barry  39:01

I mean, that's probably his best bet though. He, you know, when he ran against Debbie Stabenow, he was full on Trump and saying things like this that you we heard right there in the audio, which by the way, I have that video. So it'll be in our show notes. But what can he say if he actually faces the public? He can't, he can't say anything he's going to go, especially now that we have a pandemic, he's going to, he's going to go out and talk about health care again, he can't do that. Not really much to say about the economy while we're heading into a recession, thanks to a pandemic that he doesn't want anybody to have health care for. What is there for him to say he can run from Trump but then he doesn't get any support from Trump? Uh, you know, maybe there's a part of him that's just really sorry that he's part of this Republican Party. You know, maybe he's like an actual kind of old school republican and doesn't want to be associated with Trump anymore. It's hard to say for me, what is it About john James, why is he hiding? But I do know that you know, the James group, his family business, really successful, big part of Detroit. I don't think he wants to be affiliated with Trump.


Walt Sorg  40:14

On paper, he's should be a great candidate. He's got everything going for him. But so far he's running a campaign that has been totally inept and and maybe it's just as he sees reading the circumstances that he's facing with Trump right now. It also makes me wonder about those two congressional races in the western part of the state where you've got john hoadley challenging Fred Upton and then you've got the three way race in Grand Rapids for the Justin Amash seat with the Hillary Scholten running for the democrats not running unopposed in the primary. Does this shift enough of the vote to make those seats winnable for the democrats? They've been trying to get those seats for a long time. And if ever there was a perfect storm for Democrats to tip those two seats, this is it.


Christine Barry  40:53

That's true. And I really think that if the democrats as a whole get the messaging on health care Right, then yes, we we win those seats because like you use the phrase perfect storm, just on healthcare alone. Walt,, if you look at what's happening at the federal level with just the bumbling of the response to the pandemic, while it might not be a healthcare debate there, it's certainly got people thinking about their insurance and their health care. At the state level, you've got the Medicaid work requirements just overturned. Meanwhile, in the middle of a pandemic, the republicans in the legislature are trying to sue to get those reinstated, which would make people go out into the public looking for work, or working or something to keep their health care you've got john James talking about the whatever he's talking about there with health care at a time when people more than ever need their health care. I just I just think if we can get a cohesive, clear, concise message in a little nugget, and we can stick to it, that right there is the ticket, we can really get the republicans on health care because it's clear and you could even go back you go back to, to the way that Rick Snyder handled things. And the things that he did that are related to health care, the Flint crisis, the Detroit water shutoffs in 2014, all the all the different things that happened while he was governor.


Walt Sorg  42:32

we'd be a little remiss to if we didn't talk about the number two spot on the national ticket. Now that is pretty certain that Joe Biden is going to be the nominee. Speculation in the Washington Post in the column this week on the top candidates for vice president on a Biden ticket. Nine of the 10 were women. No surprise there. The only man on the list was Cory Booker. And I was very interested to see that number five on their list in the rankings was Gretchen Whitmer.


Christine Barry  42:58

Well that would be a no on Gretchen. She's got to stay in Michigan she can't leave.  But that's nice.


Walt Sorg  43:02

I think personally, I think personally, the number two on the tickets got to have some it's got to be somebody with a deeper national resume. Then Gretchen Whitmer or Stacey Abrams, two people I adore, who I think are wonderful people, wonderful leaders. But I think she's only been governor for a little over a year now. It's just it's a matter of timing just as it was with Pete Buttigieg. I mean, eventually I think people are just going to be president, the United States. It just isn't going to happen right now. And you've got people like Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar ranked ahead of her. And I think justifiably so given their resumes.


Christine Barry  43:38

I think it's just an emotional response. You know, they're they're popular right now. Gretchen Whitmer, and Stacey Abrams. So that's really all it is. If you look at it strictly through the lens of what are they going to bring to the ticket? And what can they do at the national level better than others, then it's, you know, Gretchen Whitmer is gonna be more effective in Michigan than anywhere else.


Walt Sorg  43:59

Yes, Michigan. sportsbook was taking political bets I put my money on Kamala Harris with a possibility of Amy Klobuchar. I think those are the two eyes on favorites.


Christine Barry  44:08

I'm guessing Kamala that's where my money's going.


Walt Sorg  44:11

Yeah, like either one of us is gonna bet anything on it. We're too cheap to do that.


Christine Barry  44:19

So that's gonna do it for this week's Policast. For more information on today's subjects head on over to for leaks, videos, tweets, memes, General snark, and I think, an excellent playlist for this pandemic.


Walt Sorg  44:33

Oh, really, I'm looking forward to that.


Christine Barry  44:36

We miss get down with the sickness. We missed I'd start a revolution.


Walt Sorg  44:43

you're dealing with an older playlist with me, we welcome your feedback, just email us at And if you've got a secret source for Purell or chicken or toilet paper, let us know about that as well.


Christine Barry  44:56

Yeah, and thanks a lot for listening and I'll talk to you again in about a week.


Gretchen Whitmer  45:00

This is going to be hard. But we're going to get through this. And we're gonna get through it together. Michiganders are tough. We stick together.


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