America Dissected Podcast with Abdul El-Sayed | Crooked Media
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Mark Brewer 0:12
Welcome back to A Republic If You Can Keep It. In a few minutes we’ll take a deep dive into Michigan electoral politics with the leader of the progressive wing of Michigan’s Democratic Party 2018 gubernatorial candidate, Dr. Abdul El-Sayed. First, Jeff, let’s get up to date on an announcement you made last week about your promise to launch recalls against state legislators who vote to bypass Michigan voters and enact legislation which will restrict their freedom to vote.
Jeff Timmer 1:13
Well as we record here on late Wednesday afternoon. We know that earlier today the Senate Elections Committee held more hearings on portions of the 39-bill package following up on their hearings last week. They had discussion-only, no bills were voted out. Chair Ruth Johnson kept repeating that half of Michigan’s voters don’t trust election integrity. Big surprise since she and others spent six months telling them not to. So this is arsonists saying, hey, look, there’s a fire we need to put out we started it. Let’s put it out. You know, that’s the excuse to limit voting and maybe if Republicans didn’t keep repeating this big lie, they wouldn’t feel this compulsion to satisfy their mob of angry voters who have you know, they’ve they’ve armed them with the pitchforks. They’ve given them the torches and Gee, they’re storming the castle thing. Big surprise…
Mark Brewer 2:06
Yeah, it really is a self fulfilling prophecy. Right? I mean, this goes back to, you know, the lies and misinformation we heard out of the Trump campaign. And we continued after the elections with all the frivolous lawsuits, and the continued drumbeat that there were problems with the election, despite audits and all the studies indicating that everything was fine. But you’re right, Jeff, now they have created a situation where they’ve got to feed a beast that they created. And if they had a leadership bone in their bodies, they would stand up and say, all that was untrue. And there’s no need for this legislation, but instead to go in the other direction.
Jeff Timmer 2:45
Yeah. Well, Ruth Johnson certainly has never met a leader that she wouldn’t follow. She’s She’s not one. She has zero leadership qualities. She’s willing to go along where anybody tells her to go. You’d think she’d know better on this having served as Secretary of State for eight years, but here we are, and so they see intent going down this path. And so, you know, Ruth Johnson seems like a great one to put in the recall crosshairs. The district she represents is one that can has recalled legislators before Paul Scott, the last successful legislator recall back in 2011. His house district was in Ruth’s Senate District, so there is some history there. She was an anemic underperforming candidate in her election in 2018. Again, after having been Secretary of State for two terms, she limped into the State Senate with a very unimpressive vote total. If I was her, I would be real nervous about recall petitions showing up in my district.
Mark Brewer 3:46
Yeah. And that’s a district that Democrats once represented. In the in the prior redistricting. There was a Democratic state senator who hailed from Genesee County, yes, yeah. And down into the Oakland County portion of that district. And I know there’s a lot of Democratic activists in both the Genesee and Oakland County portions of that district who I think would be eager to have a contest and give Ruth Johnson a real run for the money in a recall election. Shall we talk about some of the some of the legislation that the committee talked about today? I mean, some of this stuff is just you know, the worst of the worst. They talked today about the legislation that would close dropboxes at five o’clock the day before the election, and leave them closed on election day. And as you and I both know, from our election experience, that’s the time of the election when those drop boxes are used most. And you know, it’s going to cause all kinds of confusion. It’s going to force people to go to the clerk’s offices, which are already going to be congested with people trying to register to vote and vote. So that that hostility to drop boxes that that legislation illustrates is a real disaster for election administration in Michigan, I think.
Jeff Timmer 5:01
It is. And it’s clear you have to look at the motive here, if the motive is to hinder people from voting early because in the last election just in the 2020 election, only Democrats voted early and absentee at a greater frequency than Republican voters did. So, since the Republicans seem to not be able to remember anything before, you know, Donald Trump, they don’t recognize the fact that they have historically benefited from early voting in Michigan. They don’t even recognize the fact that the increased turnout in 2020 is what saved them in down ballot races. Donald Trump lost because people who are inherently Republican voters center right voters were disgusted with Donald Trump did want to vote for him. But they did want to continue voting for Republicans as they behaviorally had down ticket. And so you know, the Republicans are cutting off their nose to spite your face. And, you know, I’m in no mood to help save them from their own stupidity.
Mark Brewer 5:59
Yeah, Jeff, I mean, two points. First, the history you recite, of absentee voting in the state prior to last year is exactly that.When I was party chair, I looked with great envy on the greater volume and percentage of Republican votes that came in by absentee ballot, you all had a great program, and your voters generally voted absentee rates higher than Democrats. And so again, Republicans have got complete amnesia about how popular absentee voting was, and has been with their, with their voters. Second point is, of course, while the abilities introduced was bad enough, they did make an amendment. Today, we’ll see if that ultimately passes, which would say, well, you can close the dropboxes. Or you have to close the dropboxes at 5pm on election day,. That, frankly, doesn’t make it any better. Because that five to 8pm window, then is going to be a nightmare for the local clerks as those voters who discover and get angry about closed drop boxes then have to rush to the clerk’s office, adding to the congestion there. And on top of that, the clerks who can least afford to send staff into the field at that time on Election Day, are going to have to send staff out of their offices to lock the drop boxes. I mean, it makes no sense. And frankly, that improvement is not worth much.
Jeff Timmer 7:21
If the polls close at eight o’clock on election day, it seems that the dropboxes should close at eight o’clock on election day. This isn’t complicated. They’re only making it complicated, because their motives are impure, let’s call it what it is. And they’re trying to prevent people from voting, they’re trying to prevent people who vote in certain areas from voting. And this, this gets at the larger problem. You know, rather than some of the nuts and bolts of each one of these bills, their their motive overall is to put their thumb on the scale in the next election to give themselves some benefit and latitude that they feel they lacked in the last one to to manipulate who voted prior to election day who was able to participate. And then to manipulate the certification and counting process after the polls close rather than who wins the most votes. If something is simple and fundamental to our Democratic Republican is who gets the most votes, wins the election. If now we have to rely on which party controls the state capitol and Lansing to determine the winner we’re headed in a in a illiberal authoritarian direction. And I’m going to do whatever I can and I know you are too and I think our listeners and most people in Michigan the sizable majority of voters do not want to make these changes. And so the Republicans are heading in the wrong direction. And we’re going to pursue recalls against the those who are intent on walking this plank.
Mark Brewer 8:54
You make a good point, Jeff about manipulation of the structure of the system of elections. It wasn’t on today’s agenda. But one of these bills will change the local boards of canvassers and in big counties will enlarge them adding another partisan or two and in addition for the first time ever allow those boards to have a role election in election administration. Specifically, they’re going to have the authority to approve or disapprove these ballot drop boxes. And I bet you what’s going to happen here is that county by county, Republicans on those boards are going to say no to drop boxes. So the legislature’s gonna be able to effectively ban these drop boxes, but do it at the local level with these Republican Trump activists that are going to get appointed to these canvassing boards. And then we’re going to be in a world of hurt because they are then going to use that position to manipulate the administration of the elections. This This has problems written all over it.
Jeff Timmer 9:55
There’s a reason why the county clerks’ Association those who admitted Mr. elections, predominantly overwhelmingly made up of Republican clerks oppose this, there’s a reason that the largest employers and largest business groups in Michigan are saying don’t do any changes to election law without bipartisan support. If there are things that make sense, by all means, do them if you can agree across party lines to do it, but otherwise, don’t do it. And so we’re not going to listen to that to those who deal with this as part of their job whose job it is to administer the elections, who happened to be Republicans far more than they’re Democrats, those county clerks, if we’re not going to listen to them, if we’re not going to listen to the major employers who say, our customers don’t want this, our employees don’t want this. We think it’s bad for business in Michigan, we think this is the bad, bad face for Michigan to show the rest of the country. Don’t do this. The Republicans in Lansing ought to listen to the majority of people in Michigan, they ought to listen to the clerks and they ought to listen to the business leaders, who are some of their biggest donors.
Mark Brewer 11:06
Yeah, it’s like really encouraging Jeff, in addition to your recall efforts, to see all of the opposition that you just outlined, mean, I’ve been involved in elections in Michigan since the 70s. I’ve studied elections and election laws going back decades, this would be the biggest rollback of voting rights in Michigan history easily, far and away. You know, there been efforts to ban straight party voting, that’s been contentious between the parties, that’s a drop in the bucket, compared to what could happen here with the imposition of a photo ID requirement, these restrictions on absentee voting, and the election administration, changes that are rolled into this package really is a counter revolution, to what we have progressively seen in the state under both Democrats and Republicans, you know, progressively` facilitating the right to vote, and Michigan’s got a great tradition, frankly, of nonpartisan election administration, or bipartisan election administration, these canvassing boards function very well, Democrats vote against keep an eye on each other, as you’ve indicated, and as I’ve seen, I have not seen Republican clerks in the state either at the local or county level, doing anything other than their jobs, which is to count the votes, honestly, regardless of their party, regardless of who’s on the ballot. But these changes open the door to wreck that system, which has served Michigan well since the 1950s. And it would be a very, very bad thing for Michigan, as you point out, for our national image, for our business image for people wanting to relocate here, either personally or for business reasons, to have this kind of chaos and uncertainty introduced into our election system.
Jeff Timmer 12:49
And let’s go back and put the again, put this in the context of all of these changes being pursued by Republicans in the legislature are to fix non-existent problems. There were not widespread, massive irregularities in the last election, we had the biggest turnout ever, by far in 2020. And the number of irregularities precincts out of balance, for instance, was smaller than in any previous presidential election. So increased turnout, decreased problems. There was no fraud, there’s been zero evidence of fraud that’s been brought forward by anybody not wearing a tinfoil hat by anybody not named Pat Colbeck, who comes out with his, you know, batshittery that, you know, now has Dominion, you know, threatening him with a $1 billion lawsuit like they have the my pillow guy and, and Fox News. There are no massive problems that need fixing. We had tremendous participation. The Republicans lost the presidential election, but they won pretty much everything else. They can hold on to the to the legislature, they held on to county commissions. They didn’t lose congressional seats this go around. And so this, this is a is a solution in search of a problem. I am all for I spent the last 30 years doing battle with you and others under the a defined set of rules. We knew that people had access to participation, we had to make our case to the voters, and you win some elections and you lose some elections and then you go on to the next election. You don’t try to cast doubt on the previous election. You know, you know we didn’t spend 2003 with Dick Posthumous out there saying, you know, Jennifer Granholm stole the election. I really want it she’s an illegitimate governor. People go on, unless you’re Donald Trump or the Republicans today. This has never happened before. It’s happening now. It shouldn’t be happening now. And we need to put an end to it. Not not cater to it not change our laws. Because of this delusion, this insanity that’s fueling the supposedly public outcry that Ruth Johnson mentions here with nearly half of Michigan saying they don’t trust the election. It’s only because people like Ruth Johnson have told them not to trust the election.
Mark Brewer 15:15
Right. You know, my experience on election day in the Democratic Party, legal boiler room, and at the TCF center, I was at the TCF center, you know, verifies everything you said, you know, I’ve been monitoring elections in the state, like I said since the late 70s. And given the volume, and the other challenges election was one of the smoothest I have ever seen. There were remarkably few problems for the legal boiler room to deal with on election day at the TCF center where I spent all day Wednesday, starting very early in the morning, and then into the into the late evening and morning the next day. I’ve never seen such a smooth Detroit absentee voting counting operation. It was very impressive. They got through Gosh, I think nearly 170-180,000 ballots of very promptly, everybody was thinking, Oh, it’s going to be Friday before we have the final count out of out of Wayne County, Detroit, they finished up late late Wednesday night, early Thursday morning, which was remarkable given the volume that they had, it was very smooth by right the only problems there were the people like Patrick colbeck and others are trying to create problems. And this Melissa Carrone You know, a lot of her testimony was based on what she allegedly saw that day, she had no idea what she was looking at. And she was a mere, at best a clerical employee that day of a vendor, you know, but from from Colbeck being there from her being there. We get all these wild accusations
Jeff Timmer 16:49
…and Meshawn Maddock another one. Yeah, that’s spreading the these outright lies and deliberative misinformation.
Mark Brewer 16:56
on these No, there are a number of out of state groups that were there who lied their way onto the floor until they were caught and put in their place. So again, the only disruption that was going on that day, not inside the room as well as outside the room, pounding on windows, chanting and so forth, was caused by these Republican and allied group challengers. So it’s just remarkable to me that they continue to try to perpetuate this myth when unfortunately, many people around the good party continue to buy i
Dr. Abdul El-Sayed is a physician, epidemiologist, educator, author, speaker, and podcast host. He’s a commentator on CNN and his newsletter. The incision cuts into the trends shaping our moment. His books include healing politics, a doctor’s journey into the heart of our political epidemic and Medicare for all a citizens Guide, which offers a no nonsense guide to that important policy area. He’s also the host of America dissected a podcast by Crooked Media, which goes beyond the headlines to explore what really matters for our health. He’s a senior fellow at the FXV Center for Health and Human Rights at the Harvard th Chan School of Public Health, and a scholar in residence at Wayne State University as well as American University where he teaches at the intersection between public health, public policy and politics.
Jeff Timmer 20:16
In 2018, Dr. El-Sayed ran for governor of Michigan on an unapologetically progressive platform, advocating for universal health care, clean water for all, debt free and tuition free higher education, a pathway to 100% renewable energy and to rebuild the barrier between corporations and government. He went from being politically unknown to garnering 30% and coming in second in a three way race. He was the youngest health official in a major US city when he was appointed health director in the city of Detroit. He was charged with rebuilding the city’s health department after it was privatized during municipal bankruptcy. As a professor at Columbia University’s Department of epidemiology, Abdul became an internationally recognized expert in health policy and health inequalities. Dr. El Sayed holds a doctorate in public health from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, as well as a medical degree from Columbia University. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa with the highest distinction from the University of Michigan, where he was chosen to deliver the student commencement speech alongside President Bill Clinton. It It’s a pleasure to welcome Dr. Abdul el Syed to a republic, if you can keep it.
Abdul El-Sayed 21:30
Hey, how are you? Thank you for the invitation. I do what do I have the privilege?
Mark Brewer 21:35
I don’t know how you’re doing all this. Reading the list made me tired?
Yeah, well, I was just saying, you know, we were talking about, you know, the intersection between public health public policy and politics. And, you know, you’re right there at the hub and have a, I think, a very interesting perspective on on everything that’s going on right now from the, the science with the pandemic, the politics of everything, and COVID related, as well as just a general discussion of how things are affecting our politics and the intersection. The kind of the, the way politics and culture are so intertwined right now. And so, you know, we just we’ve been having these conversations now for a couple months. I think this is our eighth or ninth episode. So one a week. And so we just wanted to reach out and we’re having some guests from with creds on the left, and creds on the right and some, you know, from a non partisan kind of media, some personalities, but we’ve had folks like John Kasich, and Mike Dukakis. On the right, Bill Kristol. And so we’ve, we’ve had a in, we try to mix it up with some people with, you know, very close to Michigan and those who, you know, are coming in from the outside. And so, thanks for taking the time.
Abdul El-Sayed 22:55
Yeah, thank you for having me. I really appreciate it. And I’ve got to say, Mark, the the COVID flow here is really, I mean, really impressive. That they ask us how Democrats are gonna win young voters should be like, shown the picture.
Mark Brewer 23:13
I wish it were that easy, doctor, I wish it were that easy.
Jeff Timmer 23:17
I think when the when we had Mike Dukakis out a couple of weeks ago, he recognized Mark from his days as an undergrad in Harvard, back in the mid 70s.
Abdul El-Sayed 23:25
There you go back.
Mark Brewer 23:27
Wow, there’s so much here to talk about. Dr. let’s talk about your views on where you think we’re gonna go. Now, frankly, with the pandemic. I mean, you know, we have seen it’s just been remarkable to me, I’m no doctor, I’m a lawyer, tells me remarkable to me how politicized the response to the pandemic has been I remember, I mean, I took the Salk vaccine when I was a little kid, right? And we’ve been through, you know, flu, pandemics and so forth before, or everybody without regard to partisanship, from what I remember, responded and did the right thing. But now, it seems to depend on your politics, as to whether you actually believe there’s a pandemic, whether you’re going to get a vaccine, etc, etc. So I’d be very interested in your views on how this is gonna play out.
Abdul El-Sayed 24:15
I have to say it is really disheartening. You know, obviously, I wear two hats, one as a, as a former public health official, and one as a former candidate for office. And, you know, 2018 is when I ran for office, and that was, you know, approaching the height of our political polarization. And as the pandemic hit in the first couple of beats, right, you could tell that this was this was going to be a real challenge to get through, particularly considering who was president at the time. And I worry a lot about it, because I think at core, right that the central question is whether or not we can still achieve a bipartisan agreement that science is a legitimate means of ascertaining truth. In the world, and the hard part is that a lot of the folks who have been pushing back on the idea that there’s a pandemic or that the idea that that that vaccines are something that can prevent viral illnesses, particularly in in pandemic proportions. The pushback stems from this almost assault on science and scientific integrity as a means of ascertaining truth. And I worry about the way that a particular brand of, you know, conservative, (I don’t want to say conservative) as a pseudo conservative populism has rejected science, wholly. And I think part of that honestly, is in line with a full on rejection of any system of truth telling our truth ascertainment that is not you know, what do your leader says, and you know, that that’s it is it is part of the playbook of autocracy that you tear down any other system of truth that is independent of you. And I think that’s what, what Trumpism has done. And it is, it has left a lot of people very sick and unnecessarily dead as a function of it. And the sad thing is, I actually think that we are going to get to a point where we have largely controlled this pandemic because of vaccines and what they enable out of the limited public health policy that we can do around like testing and tracing. We never got to do that at scale in this country. But I think we can do that at micro scale, because most people are vaccinated. The worry that I have, though, is that because COVID denialism and anti vaccine resistance run together, that you’re going to keep having pockets of outbreaks in traditionally conservative communities. And, you know, like, as a scientist and a humanitarian, like, that’s a terrible thing. And none of us should be okay with that. But the hard part is that, what do you do when you’ve given folks that you can lead lead the horse to water, but you can’t force them to drink? So what do you do? At that point, and I I’ve, I’ve had, you know, a hard time wrapping my mind around that I’ll let, I’ll finish with one little point here, which is that I think there is a way forward. I worry though, it’s not going to come from people who look like me, it’s just a function of, you know, what I look like, what my name is how I pray, but also who look like me as a function of my education and, and academic credentials, because this is going to have to be a conversation that folks have inside of, you know, the sort of Republican tend to that, you know, Jeff, I’d love to hear your perspective on have a sense of, of what you think about how big or how far the Republican construct but, you know, this is a conversation that that folks like you would in folks, you know, to the I don’t know, if there’s a right of view, or to the populist view, are going to have to have amongst themselves because at some point, this hurts people, it hurts people in profound ways, and it doesn’t have to happen. And, you know, what is the cost of an ideology? I think we’re gonna find out and that’s a sad thing. I don’t want to have to find out I don’t want anybody to have to find out.
Jeff Timmer 28:00
And well, we’ve seen what the cost is, the cost is, you know, half a million lives or, you know, a good number of those who are unnecessarily lost their lives, because of reluctance because of stubbornness, because of politics, because of political party and political leadership that was unwilling to confront the realities, for whatever reason, and have perpetuated not just the death, but the economic destruction. You’ve got the the kind of the paradoxical positions of people like Mike Shirkey, here in Michigan, who are bemoaning the the governor’s, I think, very effective mitigation policies. They fought at every step of the way. And because they people like him, and like that, listen to him, people like him all over the state, we continue to have these outbreaks and we continue to have needs to shut down businesses. The second wave that we saw last fall where restaurants had to be shut down. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. They won’t, they won’t mask they won’t adhere to just simple. I mean, you know, the social distancing that people in the Middle Ages figured out before they knew what the hell of a virus was. They could have figured out how to how to stop the spread. And then you have last week, I think it was that you know Shirkey saying the government the government should be encouraging people to get vaccines. I’m not going to get one myself but the government should do a better job of… it’s, it’s that kind of psychotic, you know, just kind of dual personality message coming from arguably the top Republican leader in the state that is going to continue to make it hard to get that the necessary level of vaccinations. You know, we’ve seen kind of the low hanging fruit people who are willing to go out and get vaccinated have done that are continuing to do that. But now we’re seeing the diminishing numbers everyday of people getting vaccinated, it’s getting that next, you know, attempt, we’re a 50% or so of the population who have gotten that first shot in their arm. But it’s going to getting that next 10 or 15, or, you know, to get up to the 70% of the population, that’s going to be galactically more difficult than than it has been so far in it’s going to be almost impossible, unless there is some level of sanity and encouragement coming from the political leadership on the right, because that’s the only reason, that’s a large reason there’s hesitancy, that’s the only reason that there’s there’s real hesitancy in rural Michigan. And it’s going to continue to cause a problem, then in Michigan is going to pay a price for it.
Mark Brewer 30:56
So you know, what is? I’m curious to doctor, if we go down this path a little further. I mean, should we have some kind of Rural Health Corps? You know, something maybe akin to what we saw during the New Deal, where to deal with these issues? And you know, and you’re right, somebody that looks like you or like me, in terms of my background, my education, so forth,
Abdul El-Sayed 31:19
and your hair and your hair? Sorry, that’s like a non starter,
Mark Brewer 31:22
right. So, you know, do we need to figure out a way that in these areas where this denialism where this antivax attitude is particularly strong, to develop some kind of, you know, local public health Medical Corps, that goes into those areas that people are from those areas that are trained and can talk to folks and be persuasive. Because I expect, y’all there’s gonna be more pandemics, right, they’re gonna be more public health issues, and you’re the expert on public health in this conversation. And if we have people denying the facts, the science, as you’re indicating, this is just gonna be the tip of the iceberg. We’re gonna have worse and worse public health problems in these areas. because of this denialism.
Abdul El-Sayed 32:05
I mean, we have, and we’re speaking to Mark is the fact that our health health care system has been supremely unkind to rural people. And, you know, obviously, I have a particular viewpoint on on healthcare, I wrote a book called Medicare for all, but one of the reasons that I I believe in it so deeply and you know, obviously, it’s a it’s become a politicized position, I came to this position when I was a medical student who never ever thought he would ever ever run for office, let alone, you know, be political. But the point here is that the people who benefit most from Medicare for all, to be quite honest, are rural people, they’re the people who benefit absolutely the most. And the reason why is because rural communities as a function of automation as a function of unregulated and unthoughtful, free trade. They have, they have lost earning opportunities, they they are poor, and they’re either uninsured or on Medicaid, the average Medicaid reimbursement is 27% of the average private health insurance reimbursement. So if you’re thinking about a hospital in a for profit health care system, and you want to make money, you’re not going to keep a hospital open in a rural community, you’re just not not only is it that you are hit by the fact that most of your potential patients and customers in the system that we have, are, are paying you 27% the price, it’s also that they’re far away, and they can’t get there. And so, you know, between those two things, we have an epidemic of rural hospital closure. And it’s not just the hospitals, it’s the primary care Doc’s it’s all of the pieces of a healthcare system that underserves, systematically, low income people in rural communities. And the second group that it hurts the most tend to be a group that I know a lot about from my past experience, which is low income people in urban communities. And the problem here is that politically right, these two groups never the twain shall meet, right. And we allow our segregation, physically to also be a segregation, intellectually and socially. And that means that the people who would benefit most right, are unwilling to make common cause with the other people who benefit to actually get the thing done. Now, we can talk about costs, and we can talk about how you pay for it, we can talk about choice, but let’s be clear, right? low income people in rural communities have no choice at all, there’s no one there to take care of them. 47 hospitals close in the middle of pandemic We’re the only country in the world where 47 of hospitals closed when people needed health care the most and, and so, you know, I think the idea of a rural corps is is is is smart but I take it a step further and just say foundationally if health insurance is your ticket into the health care system, then not giving people systematically access to health insurance means that nobody has a ticket means that you know, the the the the carnival’s not coming to town and that’s exactly what’s happened. in our rural communities all over the state and all over the country. And so it’s a fundamental fix, right? We’ve got to rethink this, this idea of whose body matters to get health care, because implicitly in our health care system, if you’re a rural employee, your body doesn’t matter. If you’re if you’re urban employee, your body doesn’t matter if you’re poor, your body doesn’t matter. We believe that it’s worth 27%, the value to care for and that’s, that’s how it’s written in our system. And so we could do better. And that means I think, deciding that everybody’s body matters the same. And that is the central premise under under Medicare for All. So, you know, there’s a lot that we can do around the icing, but we got to get the cake right. In order to get the icing right.
Mark Brewer 35:36
You think there’s there’s a place doctor for a leader who can unite those two groups that you talked about? That like you said, never the twain shall meet? They don’t agree politically, they don’t agree culturally, they don’t agree on a lot of issues. But they have these same basic health care and economic needs. Seems to me, there’s an opening there. Maybe it’s a President Biden, maybe it’s somebody else who can truly, you know, deal with the needs of both of those groups, and somehow bridge that divide. You think that’s possible?
Abdul El-Sayed 36:08
I hope it’s possible. here’s, here’s my worry, you know, you sort of think about, about two people in a fight. And, you know, there gets to a point where folks are even one side of this one side of them is so hot and bothered that that reason doesn’t matter anymore. And I just think, what, you know what this this strain of ideology, this Trumpism has done, is it has stoked that anger, resentment, racism, to divide folks in a way that makes it almost impossible to cut through. Right. And I really appreciate, you know, there are a lot of things about about President Biden’s policies. I wish I wish to go further. But I really appreciate the fact that that he has, at all points, tried to lower the temperature on our politics, because I think that that’s part of it. And the other part of it, though, is I actually think that we have to also deal with the elephant in the room, no pun intended, sorry. Which is that, which is that is that racism has been used as a tool in ways that, that make it you know, historically, at least, a, an axis of foundational resentment and frustration, among folks who believe that other people have taken theirs whatever that is, whether it’s their health care, or it’s their job, or it’s their, their, their, their, you know, their stimulus, their stimulus check. And, you know, the original identity politics in our country is is no white identity politics, right? It was leveraged by Jefferson Davis way back against against Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Douglas debates. And I think that there was a there’s a great book written by Heather McGee called the Sum of Us and she makes the argument that actually, the fundamental challenge that we have to that kind of unity to that kind of collective public good, is his racism. And he or she uses the, the drained public pool metaphor, back in the 50s, and 60s. So you know, when Brown v Board passed, they realized that this applies not just to schools that apply to any segregated facility. And when black citizens pressed their municipal boards for access to these lavish public pools in the south, instead of providing them access, they just shut them down. And it’s a fantastic metaphor to understand health care and to understand all of these public goods today. And I worry, right that unless we are able to have a consensus conversation about race, and about the way that racism has penetrated people’s lives, that racism has been leveraged in ways direct and indirect, to take resources away from from from black folks and brown folks, it’s gonna be really hard for us to come together. And I worry because it’s this is not just a static issue. It’s been accelerated in a particular direction, by a particular group of politicians who have leveraged it for their own power. And they’ve made it this, this, this this impenetrable, and I worry a lot about what that what that leaves us with my hope is that Joe Biden, another leader, can bring folks together. I worry, though, that that coupled with the system of our conversation, you know, social media and misinformation, makes it almost impossible to do well. But, you know, we can hope against hope.
Jeff Timmer 39:27
Yeah. Well, I was gonna add to that, I mean, what I see when I look at the Republican recipe for election success in 2022, and 2024, is going to be not just more of the same as we’ve seen over the last four years. It’s going to be a heightening of the us versus them politics, because let’s be realistic, their coalition is shrinking. It’s a diminishing number of voters that the Republican Party is attracting and so the only things that they can do is to whip, wiith the smaller base voters that they have the smaller number of base voters into a frenzy motivate them to get out and vote. They’re not offering a an affirmative kind of policy position. They’re not there’s nothing aspirational about the Republican message right now. And that’s what frustrates me that’s that’s been lost on the center right? This is just become this, this grievance, you know, festivus Eve politics where we’re, it becomes somebody else’s taking what belongs to you. It’s in I think we’re just gonna see more of it. Because there’s no other recipe, given today’s makeup, the leadership of the Republican Party, nobody who would offer an alternative voice has any prayer of winning in the party right now. And so, what we saw in 2020, what we saw in 2016, and 2018, we’re going to see again, next year in the midterm election, and we’re going to see it it can in you know, gaudy Technicolor in 2024, with Trump or a Trump anointed candidate, being the Republican nominee. And so we, we, we’ve talked about this on past episodes of this, we’ve certainly dodged a bullet in the last election, in the aftermath, but it’s the those who would lead us down the path of authoritarianism are just one election away from success. And that should scare everybody listening.
Mark Brewer 41:38
Yeah, you know, in my lifetime, we’ve gone over, you know, the arc from your Nixon’s southern strategy, right up through the Willie Horton ad. And every time we thought, it can’t get worse, it can’t get worse. And then we get to Trump, you know, ban Muslims, build a border wall, keep the Mexicans out. And that was just the tip of the iceberg. You know, the the open hatred. No, not even dog whistles anymore. The open hatred of other people who don’t look or talk or act like you, is really tearing our society apart. And I worry, as Dr. El-Sayed does, about whether we can come back together and find common ground and have the kind of dialogue we need to have where we agree to disagree on policies. But you know, we’re all in this country together, none of us are going anywhere, despite what some may want, or say, we’ve got to figure out a way to get along. And to make this country work again,
Abdul El-Sayed 42:36
I’d love to leave you with just two thoughts on this. I found that, you know, when I was campaigning, obviously, I was campaigning in the Democratic primary. But there were a lot of folks who wanted to see the roadshow of like this, you know, brown, Egyptian dude. And we went all over the state. And I remember that, you know, even when I talked to folks, and some who came to, like, actively protest that I would even dare to run for office. When you actually talk to folks, one on one, there is a challenge. It’s deeply ingrained in humans, that we, we, when we’re looking at another human’s eye, it’s a lot harder for us to deny their humanity. And you’re not dealing with the abstract concept, right of a person, you’re dealing with a living, breathing human being, whose emotions are shown on their face. And I think if we’re, if we have, if we have a future, it’s going to be because we are able to get past these systems of communication that make us think that we are talking a lot, because we’re saying a lot of words, and put us in granular communication that force us to see all the communication that’s lost in our words, when they’re just words, they’re decontextualized, from a person. The second point I’ll make is just, this is worth protecting. And, you know, for me, I spent a lot of my summers in Egypt, where there is no democracy. Nobody even really pretends like there’s democracy. And I remember my grandmother, I was 13 years old, and I was, you know, starting to have a little bit of facial hair and looking a little bit older. And she pulled me aside and she said, Look, you can’t say anything about the president here. You do not have free speech. And the next time I went into the market with her, you know, being the iconoclast that I’ve always been, I started to scream my my cousin’s favorite words that they taught me at the top of my lungs about the president. She pulled me aside and I thought I was fine. I thought, you know, nothing had happened until that night. And there was a group of plainclothes cops that came to the house and asked, where’s that boy who’s saying things about our leader? And my grandfather sold vegetables in a fish market? He’s never been afraid. I’ve literally never seen him afraid in my life. toughest guy you’d ever meet. And I saw fear in his eyes the first time he said, Where’s your passport? And I went, I got my passport, and he held it up like it was an emulet against them. And he said, he’s an American. He has the right of free speech, and you can’t say anything to him. And they said, okay, but tell him to shut up, and they left and my American passport back in 1998 protected my freedom of speech 3000 miles away. My dad came to this country, my mom came to this country believing in that and that’s what they wanted for their own country. They never got it. Right. There’s still no democracy in Egypt. But we have that here. And I think folks need to remember that that’s a special thing, the ability to say what you believe, to hold your views to live with others who have their own views that is worth protecting. And I think we have responsibility to protect it. So I really appreciate y’all having me on. I know it’s called Republic, if you can keep it and the hope is that we can keep it
Mark Brewer 45:28
And with your help. We will Yeah, we really want to encourage folks to subscribe to your newsletter, The Incision, which I get regularly and encourage folks to do that, but also, to listen to your podcast America Dissected. I think that we have great value for all of our listeners. In reading that newsletter and listening to your podcast. Dr. El-Sayed, thank you so much for being with us. We just barely scratched the surface here today. Hopefully we can resume the conversation sometime in the future.
Abdul El-Sayed 45:56
I look forward to that. I appreciate y’all have me on.
Mark Brewer 45:59
That’s our time for this week. And a special thanks to Dr. Abdul el Sayed for sharing his wisdom with us.
Jeff Timmer 46:05
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Mark Brewer 46:15
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Jeff Timmer 46:27
If the republic is still standing, we’ll be back in a week. Thanks for listening.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai