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Episode 244: Healing Politics: A Doctor’s Journey into the Heart of Our Political Epidemic, Abdul El-Sayed

by Scott Jones
September 26th 2020
My guest is Abdul El-Sayed. His new book is Healing Politics: A Doctor’s Journey into the Heart of Our Political Epidemic. ( More
Welcome to give and take. It's a podcast where yours truly. Scott Jones talks with artists, activists, authors, theologians, philosophers, scholars, political pundits and a host of others about their world, their work and the lens to which they experienced life. I engage my guests in a conversation that's free, flowing, entertaining, unexpected, occasionally bizarre, oftentimes enlightening and informative and, above all else, deeply human. Thanks for listening to this episode of Give and Take. My guest is Abdul El said. His new book is Healing Politics. A Doctor's Journey Into the Heart of Our Political Epidemic. In this book, Abdul traces the life of a young idealist, weaving together powerful personal stories and fascinating forays into history and science. Abdul diagnosis and underlying epidemic afflicting our country, an epidemic of

insecurity. And to heal the rifts this epidemic has created, he lays out a new direction for the progressive movement. It's a really great book, and we had a great time talking about it. I give you Abdul El Se Abdul. Welcome to the podcast. Thank you so much for having me. It's a pleasure. You've written a new book, Healing Politics. The Doctor's Journey Into the Heart of our political epidemic. Now you're an epidemiologist. Im imagine when you started writing this book where we had the pandemic hit? Yeah, when you started or Or have you been working on it? Well before then. Now the book came out. Actually, March 31st, I had finished my final touches. Uh, by July 1920 19. So nobody knew what an epidemiologist waas. And it turns out that when the book actually came out, everybody was a known armchair epidemiologist on Twitter. So there's that now you're epidemiology have also run for the governor ship of Michigan. You ran for governor, and that was in the 2018

election, right? That's right. And it's you come from, uh, um Egyptian background, and I'm struck. You tell a story early in the book where you realized the kind of privileges and rights that come with being an American. You kind of liken it to like a control study group. Right where you go to Egypt and spend some time. And that was an eye opening experience for you. I mean, what what? What did you take away from your what? Let life lessons Did you take away from your time back in Egypt that shaped your own journey with professionally and politically in America. Yeah. I mean, so many. Number one, that my the privileges that I have having been born and raised in this country and with the educational opportunities that I had are, frankly, an accident of history. And I came to respect that so much more. Um, by spending time, where in the place where my father grew up with my cousins who, you know, my grandmother would always take the time to remind me we're just a smart, if not smarter

, You know, better looking taller, all of these things. But she remind me only I had opportunities. And I got to see those contrast between what I was living and what I could have lived live in living color in my own cousins. And a realize ation that that that accident of history it's owed something. That's number one number two. Um, you know, I was lucky not to grow up in poverty. Uh, two parents in my household, both of them had great jobs. And there are well educated. Um, but I still had a front row seat toe what poverty means for so many people and deep, profound poverty. Andi, I think it it soft in my heart to what it means to live between needs rather than between wants and andan. The third is just how big the world is. Um on And, uh, you know, the impact that our footprint in the world as Americans has on the rest of the world, you know, thinking

about my cousins and their their conceptions of what America Waas and who we were based on, you know, how we operated in the world was profound. And then the last one, um, was just a recognition of what we have in democracy and how quickly that could go away. I remember one time my grandmother had told me, You know, here you can't say anything bad about the about the president. This is not the America, and and so you know, the first thing I did the next time we went out was start using the choice words that my cousins had taught me about the then President Hosni Mubarak and my grandmother, you know, flipped out and pulled me inside. And she said, You can't do that. I told you can't do that. I said he's fine. We're fine. Like nothing. Nothing's happening until that evening when plainclothes cops came to the house on DMA. I grandfather, I asked me, where is your passport? And I sort of pulled out my passport. I gave it to him and he waved it like like an emblem, Um, or an ambulance against, you know? Against what? What

? What? The cops, You know, we're trying to say, um and, uh, and that that passport, my freedom of speech is an American protected me even 3000 miles away. And so, you know, what we're fighting for right now is, um, that we maintain that because it is fleeting and is so precious. Yeah. What would have happened to you had you know how the passport, You think? Like, if I was one of my cousins and I didn't have that American passport, I probably would have been disappeared. Um, cops would think nothing of dragging me off to some prison somewhere and, you know, interrogating me, torturing me, beating me up, and then, you know, if I'm lucky, I get out. If I'm not, then nobody hears from me again on that happens routinely in in countries all over the world, Egypt in particular. It's interesting you you are on the Democrat and the left kind of Bernie Sanders, sort of aoc movement in the Democratic Party. You're very self styled progressive and somebody who identifies religiously. I mean, you're a Muslim. You take your faith seriously, I wonder how that plays out because it seems

that I mean, one of the most reliable predictors it tends to be in American politics right now is if, for instance, among, uh whites, if you go to church three or more times a month, you're almost guaranteed to be a Republican, right? It's one of the number one predictors. So I'm wondering how the how you're seeing religion play out in the progressive movement that you're that you've kind of come up in and been involved in. Well, I'm proud of my faith, and I I find a lot of ah, lot of motivation, a lot of inspiration, uh, in my faith. And, um, so much of it is founded in this call to justice, you know, in the Koran and says if you want to seek proximity to God, do justice in the world and and I take that very seriously. Just saying of the Prophet Mohammed. Peace be upon him. Hay said if if you were to see injustice in the world, you should seek to change it with your hands and you can't change it with your hand. You should change it with your tongue. If you can't change it with your tongue, at least change it in your heart. But understand that that is a mark

of of low faith. Um and and so there is a strong call to justice in the Muslim tradition. And I see that, you know, not just consistent with my ideals as a progressive, but also consistent with the history of progressive change in America s o. Much of the radical civil rights change came out of the black church. Andi, I think they're they're deeply consistent that you would you would seek to fight for something bigger than you. Um, if you believe in something bigger than you a same time. I've got so many colleagues who have different days or no faith at all. Andi, they fight for something that is bigger than them. And you know the source of that or the inspiration of that May be different, but it's the same fight. And so I am always saddened when people use faith as a means to divide rather than to unite and to bring together around something that is so much bigger than any one of us. For me, I've always I've always sought toe

live out my faith in a way that calls to justice and unity rather than injustice and division on DATs. How I think you tell a interesting story in the book when you were selected to be your college graduation speaker. This is, you know, the big university, 60,000 people with the graduation, and you're sharing the platform and none other than Bill Clinton. And he actually remarked on your eloquence and asked, you know, like privately to you and asked if you're going to run for office. And you said to him that people with a name like yours don't get to run for public office, right? What? But you did. So what changed in you? I mean, what change from that 22 year old student to the guy who ran a bold, progressive campaign for the governorship of Michigan? Um, you know, that was 2000 and seven. And in 2000 and eight, another dude with the funny name ran for and won the highest office in the land on. Do you know, I've got a lot of criticisms of, of

, of some of Obama's policies, but it was the first time I ever saw myself in a politician, and I'm really grateful for him and the sacrifices he and his family made, um, to show people like me that we could be included in, uh in our politics in America on, But that was part of it. The other part of it was also that I did not believe at that point that politics is was necessary for change. I thought that as a physician and epidemiologist that I was going to be able to take on so many of the causes of ill health and health inequalities, um, without having to engage the political space. And I think my career is a process in learning how the world worked. Andre, recognizing that so much of what we get wrong in our society isn't because we don't know enough, it isn't because we don't have enough. It is because we systematically make the wrong choices about where we put our resource is and ignore what we already know. And for me, my, my, my

, my decision to run for office was out of that recognition and out of a realization that I felt like I had a responsibility to step up. And then, you know, in that moment it was It was early, 2017 when I made the decision, Um, I had watched the Flint water crisis happened live as a health commissioner in a nearby city on was involved in a lot of the cleanup effort at the state level on Li. To appreciate that, frankly, the State Administration that it caused the water crisis had no intention of of fixing it. They wanted to put paper on it. I watched Donald Trump run for and win the presidency after Barack Obama, and and I knew that in that moment that I could do a good job given the work that I had done at the Health Department and that the country could really benefit from hearing a story about who we are and who we want to be. And, you know, I was raised by my father, was an Egyptian immigrant and my stepmother, who who

was a daughter of the American Revolution, born and raised in the middle of Michigan. And so, um, you know, my very existence and my upbringing is a testament to what happens when we come together. Andi, I felt like I could share that and hope to inspire us. Thio be the kind of America again, um, that believed in our mission and our ideals. We hold these truths to be self evident that all people are created equal. Andi And so that's what really motivated me to run. Yeah, I was struck in your book when you talk about when you're in Michigan working in public health and and they were shutting down the water of people that were poor and you tell the story of going in someone's bathroom visiting, you realize there's no water in their toilet. We've got bottles of water in the bathroom, and it was shocking to read about your encounters with people in the city, uh, in the Detroit like system that they're just completely were completely indifferent to the plight and just saying this is above your pay grade or something we could do about it. I mean that that had to be debilitating and and just so disheartening dealing with those people. Yeah

, I loved my work at the health department, but one of the parts of it that was frustrating was just the degree to which people had gotten inured to all of the bad stuff that happened every day on dewater shops is just one example of it. And I felt like there there needed to be changed at the ATO political level. Um, that brought these issues to the fore and insisted that we looked at them. I'm curious, Uh, is an epidemiologist who has devoted their life to public health. It must be a nightmare to watch the killed response because it seems like if this is like an m. R. I for the country, it seems like we've got some. Really. It seems like our whole body is a mess, that we've got these chronic and systemic conditions. But I mean, I was just looking today in the New York Times Corona site were up 14% in cases in the past two weeks, and we're up 1% on death. And it's just, you know, we're the richest country in the world with arguably the most scientific resource is and things. And I mean what

? Why can't we fix that? Why can't we get a handle on this? Well, you know, it's a zoo. You mentioned Scott. It's not just that we have science, it's not the problem of what we don't know. Um, it's not the problem that we don't have. Resource is the problem is that we're unwilling to invest in one another through collective action. And there is no public health without collective action. Every time somebody chooses to wear a mask, they're doing that Yes, for them. But they're also doing that for everyone around them every time. Uh, a governor or mayor makes a hard decision to lock down. Ah, a community there not doing this because they just want to kill business. They're doing it because we have to make a collective investment in our collective well being. And stopping the transmission of this disease is the best way to be able to bring business pack because people don't go buy stuff when they're afraid that they're gonna get sick and die on DSO. This is not a problem of lack of resource is It's a problem of lack of will and lack of trust. And part of the point that I

trying to make in the book is that insecurity is debilitating because it leaves us constantly asking, What are they going to take away from me now, right? And when you're asking, what are they going to take away from me now? You're not asking What are we going to gain? And that is where we are right now. We're suffering an epidemic of insecurity, and this insecurity is what's robbing us of the ability to invest in one another through collective action, which is, you know, glaringly necessary right now on. Do you know we're not willing to do it? And so it is. This is a cultural issue. It's not a technical issue, and it's not a financial issue. It is a cultural issue in our country. Yeah, that's strange. I've talked to a lot of Canadian friends over the past couple months who are, you know, just one border away and dealing with the same pandemic, and they just can't believe we've politicized the public health crisis that we have. I mean, they don't understand. They're asking me like How do you guys do this? I mean, how do you even make this about politics? It's not about politics. I mean, is that part of the problem? It's strange that and

that seems kind of unique to this country that we politicized. To a degree. We have no other country in the world is politicized it like we have, and it is a function of, I think, a perfect storm. Part of it is that we are a large country with a large, diverse set of viewpoints. But those viewpoints have been driven further and further apart the set of structural mechanisms. One of them is just physical segregation. We don't live amongst one another anymore. But then also institutional segregation used to have in this country, institutions that brought people together, whether it was a bowling league or a church like those replaces that people with different socioeconomic backgrounds or racial backgrounds or even religious background in the case of the bowling league would come together and see one another is people. Those have disintegrated and instead we've replaced them with um with Elektronik spaces right in social media, and the problem of social media is a social media literally segregates us further intellectually. Psychologically, we are algorithmic. Lee sorted

on bond, uh, and were delivered information that that that that forces us deeper and deeper into our worldview rather than asks us to consider the world from a different perspective. And I think between those things, we are now in a situation where, um, we haven't just we haven't just sort of segregated. We have started to vilify the other simply for being the other on. Do you know the point always to make the focus is I I don't I don't vote Democrat because I like the color blue. Um, on I don't I don't, You know, vote against Republicans because I hate the color red. Um, this is not a a team sport where it's your team versus the other team. This is about a set of public policies in the ways that they deliver for people. And if you hate another group of people simply because they're on the other side, then how can you invest in the kind of public policy that will invest in them? And so to me, right, the poverty that is experienced in low income urban neighborhoods that are predominantly black eyes, a terrible

thing, and racism plays an important role in that. But there's also poverty among low income white folks in rural communities. Onda, we've gotta be considering considering thoughtful about that, too. I don't care if they vote Republican and they don't care. Ah, lick about about progressive politics per se. I care that those kids get educated. I care that they have clean water. I care that they have food to eat, a good job and a roof over their heads. Andi, that's because of my beliefs in, uh, in what government ought to be able to do for all of us. And we've got to keep that in mind. A zoo. We think about where we go from here because this really is a unique and treacherous time. You mentioned social media, and in the conclusion of the book, you have 13 policy prescriptions for the country, and one of them is regulating social media. Remember watching hearings, Senate hearings with Mark Zuckerberg, and I think it was Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah said to him, Well, you provide all these services for free. How could you give all these people these people your users these things for free. And Zuckerberg looks confusingly

and says, We sell ads. And I thought at that moment, how in the world is the Senate going to regulate social media? If the people that are questioning Zuckerberg don't understand the basics of selling ends, that's how they make money. I mean, I'm just thinking, Do we even have a chance with with with With regulation and all? And so often, you know, with any like any big business, right? You bring them in to help write the regulations that then advantage the big corporations that the only people that can afford to to abide by the regulations that their lawyers and stuff make, you know? I mean, it just seems the possibilities of regulating social media seems so grim. But tell me I'm wrong. Tell me you've got some hope that we could do it. Well, I'll say this. I think people are starting to get wise toe how they work on die. I also think that that there are some simple things that we can do that we can all agree upon like they should not be able to buy or copy into oblivion. Other

platforms that can compete with them, which is what Facebook does. I don't know if you saw, you know, on Instagram folks who are Instagram Instagram just released their new rials feature which is just basically a knockoff tick tock. But it's not tick tock on instagram, right? And you know, the stories feature was a knock off on Snapchat and so, like, that should not be. And that's what you're hoping for now is a tech company, right? You're not hoping to be competitors. You're hoping to build something that gets acquired. That's exactly right. You want to sell off on day? It's just well known that you know, you can sell toe one of the large companies you know, Google Apple, Facebook, now Amazon. And you know, if you could do that great. And if you can't, then you don't survive. Um, so that that that's part of it. So breaking them up is, I think, really important and stopping them from being able toe to just acquire and acquire right in the same way that we leverage antitrust regulation to stop, you know, businesses from from from becoming trust, we should do the same thing with social media, the second, um, is thinking about liability, right? And social

media companies ought to be liable for the mistruths that are spread on those platforms. And if you did that on day were open to lawsuits, there would be a lot bit better about regulating what happens on that space just so that it meets the basic, the basic agreed upon norms and moors that exists in other kinds of speech. The third one is bots like, Why should box be allowed right? I understand that you have your right to free speech and I have my right to free speech, but I have the right to buy a bunch of box that then accelerate my speech on day and make it viral. I just don't think that that's okay on Glenn The third, um, it means to be the fourth eyes that I think we've got to be really thoughtful about about how we sell certain kinds of advertisement, right? If you're selling a good or a service, that's one thing. But if you're selling a viewpoint, um, and you're leveraging a platform that is intended to be able to change and shift and share viewpoints, that's a real problem. on

DSO. I think rethinking what kind of advertising can be done on social media eyes perfectly within the bounds of the First Amendment. So it's gonna be hard, and I think you're right. Gonna have to have some turn in the leaders who are making these decisions because, you know, people who grew up social media native have a far better understanding of how social media works than people who didn't. But I do think that it is gonna be critical to saving our democracy to be able to do that because right now, whether it's us tearing ourselves apart or you know the Internet research agency, Russia's you know, social media troll farm arm eyes is catalyzing, staring each other apart. It's not working, It's not working for democracy, and it's it's hurting us. And it's it's, frankly, a bastardization of the idea of free speech. I'm interested. Are you a tall guy? No, I'm very short, actually. Five. You know, it's not not five, but because you remarked a meeting Bernie Sanders that he was a lot taller than you thought. Iwas, right? Yeah

, he was. He was several inches taller. Yeah, he's like almost 6 ft tall right, or he's like 6 ft. I know I was shocking and ran there because I picture him. It's sort of a short, hunched over guy. He's, but you say he's cast a bigger physical presence than that he is. You know, it's funny because a lot of people think I'm tall, but I'm not. I'm 58 Um, and he is a He's a he's a big guy on guy. He sort of comes off as a sort of the you know, your grandfather. That's, um, that sort of doesn't occupy as much space, but he's a He's a tall guy, almost 6 ft tall and and you see all all 6 ft of it s So it was It was it was striking because that's your right. Like that's not how you picture him in your mind's eye. Yeah, I wonder. What's he like? I mean, you've met him before, and, you know, he I think he helped your campaign. What? What's he like? Was he was he what you expected? Um, exactly what I expected. Hey, is the thing about Bernie that all of us who love him love the most is that he is truly who he is. Bernie is not putting on a show. He is not pretending to be

somebody who is not. He's not acting for the camera or for the microphone. Bernie Sanders is the same Bernie Sanders that you will see, you know, in in private versus in public, in large groups of people in small groups of people. He truly and deeply cares about those things. And I think one of the things that made him so successful in this moment and sort of answers the paradox of why so many young people in a moment like this love this. This 78 year old, 79 year old politician is that he is authentic. And I think we are part of a generation that has been, um, that has that has been over, performed to in so many ways that we can see through the act. And I think when you look at Bernie or like this guy is not putting on an act, this is exactly who he is. You know exactly what he cares about. He's been caring about those things before. We were born on DSO. It really is a in honor have been supported by him and have supported him in his election

bid in 2020. And, um, you know, I'm really grateful for his his his influence on me and his mentorship and, you know, one of the things he told me, which is really ironic when I was when I was campaigning. I'll never forget. I'm this 33 year old up star candidate, and this is a 78 for at that 780.77 year old man. And I asked him, I was like, What's your advice? He said, Stay close to young people. I looked at almost like I am the young people, Um, but But his point was that you know they're going to show you where the world is going, and you need to be really, really toe listen to them and that most politicians don't think that way. Most politicians look at their own sort of evolution in their career and say, Well, when I was young, I used to think like this, and I have gotten older, and I realized that I was wrong rather than saying. Actually, there's some there's some truth. There's some deep truth in the idealism and feelings and emotions of young people, and you have to listen to that and dignify it, um, and and helped tow help to nurture it and helped tow Give it a pathway forward. And, you know, that is really, really remarkable for someone for someone like him, one of the things that I noticed that the convention

, the Democratic National Convention this year and I think it's gone. It's an issue that's run right through to the campaign of the state is there seems to be this issue where on one hand, you know, you had people saying you had Republicans, Other people saying another moderate saying Look, I know a lot of people are worried that Joe Biden is gonna leave them behind and go far left. No, no, no, that's not what's gonna happen. And yesterday Biden was saying, You know, look, I beat the Democratic Socialist. I'm not one of them. And then you have people like Bernie saying he's helping shape the agenda. He's the most progressive candidate we've had. And so that seems like a, um, advertising problem for Democrats these days, right? Like, how do you is this camp? What is is Biden this kind of moderate that is that people that are are worried that the Democratic socials they're going too far, is he Is he the guy that beat them? And it's going to keep things, uh, in a way that's at least recognizable, um, and gradualist and reform? Or is he really, uh, you know, in step with the more progressive visionaries in the party? I mean, how did the

Democrats deal with that? Yeah, well, I mean, look, I think I think this speaks to a a moment of profound and very quick evolution in the party, and that's really that's happening. You know, if you pull older Democrats versus younger Democrats, they don't. They don't always agree on a lot of with the direction forward. But you know, the the the nature of the world is that young people build the future. The the The other point I'll just make here is that Joe Biden has always been a very smart politician around finding the middle of a conversation and helping to usher. That conversation is, it changes, and you talked about himself is a gateway to the future. Um, and I'll point back in our history and look at someone like LBJ, right? LBJ was was was not even a moderate For most of his time in the Senate for most of the time, the Senate LBJ tried to squash civil rights legislation as, ah, Southern Democrat on Ben when he got elected president, right in his own term after

his his partial term after John F. Kennedy's assassination. Um, he was a progressive progressive, but he was doing it in a way that, uh, that really made sure that he was able to hold the middle of the political spectrum as he did it and what that means for those of us who believe in policies like Medicare for all the green New Deal on debt free college, um is that our job is to push him right. You're not necessarily naturally going to go there himself. Our job is to push him on those policies on do drive them forward and recognize that, you know, for him, uh, this is going to be a calculus about where the country can go and where people are. And so you know, the he's not Bernie Sanders, and he will never be Bernie Sanders. He never was Bernie Sanders. Anyone tries t to say that either it doesn't understand politics or doesn't understand Bernie Sanders or Job I, um, but But I think he recognizes that the country is changing and that the the moment right now

requires a level of leadership and a profound investment in the in the work of government. That will very well if he's successful. Well, very well. Have toe look like, um, you know, a FDR or LBJ presidency simply to solve the problems that exist in front of us on dso I think these ideological debates are a little bit less founded. I think the bigger question is, what kind of policies do we need to solve the big picture problems that we need to solve? Um, where is the balance of power in American politics right now? Andi, where do we go from here? The last point, I'll say, Is this like, on the other side, Donald Trump has fundamentally hijacked the Republican Party, right? I mean, he's no longer a lower case C Conservative party. You just can't call it that anymore. On dso you know, this is the party of what, like this is the party of white supremacy on bond. That's what they're playing to. And and so you know we're having this conversation about about where Bernie is and or where Biden is relative to Bernie and others, my point is like, Look, that dude's a white supremacist. He's a fascist

. He very well may try and undo democracy, right? Like if if if you're really that focused on you know where this president is on an ideological spectrum that still spits within the bounds of democracy on and a democratic norms and mores, you're missing the show, right? The show is that that due to fascist, he cannot be allowed to have another four years in the White House on. Do you know if he does, he would radically remake America's image so that people like me on DSO. Many others just just are told constantly that we don't belong here even more so than than we already are. It's interesting that you bring up the good. The green New Deal. I had a guy on the podcast. Gosh, this was in 2019. His name is Joshua Goldstein. He wrote a book called A Bright Future. How some Countries have Solved Climate Change and the Rest can file and now he is a pretty progressive guy, Uh, his his self identified liberal. He's got a PhD in international affairs or something, and he

went into this thing pretty open minded because his passion is climate change. He thinks it's the number one issue and it is kind of the number one, because if we don't have a planet, there's no other issues right. Like basically, it doesn't matter. You know you can't deal in income inequality if there's no planet on which turning income. His conclusion was that that nuclear power is an essential part of the solution. And he looked at Sweden, which has, like a zero carbon footprint. And it's renewables and nuclear because compared to Germany, who runs on a good day, can get 70% of its energy from renewables. But the other 30% is coal, which then just mixes out all the product all the carbon progress they made with renewables. And he looks at that puts like France and the places that use nuclear power and have just really reduce their carbon footprint. I mean, but that seems to be something that most progressives are not open to, and I'll tell you, quite honestly, until I read the book, I was not. I was not very open Thio. And then he just systemically kind of from a progressive perspective, dissected all the arguments against him. I was like, Wow, I just I never thought of

it through the issue. That's clearly, I'm wondering, do you think there will be a place where, for the sake of climate change, progressives could take another look at nuclear power? So I'm not an expert on clean energy tech. What I will say is that you know, the world is changing fast and part of our job and our responsibility is to innovate newer and safer ways to go about producing, um, renewable energies. Uh, you know, uh, the other. The other point here is that I don't You know, the challenge with with with nuclear energy is not that it doesn't produce clean energy. It's that there are so many risks, uh, implied in it. And we have watched as those risks have fundamentally devastated whole communities on dso. You know, I think we have toe way, um, our pursuit of of clean energy against the potential harm to people in the planet. Um in doing that. And I think the most

important thing that we can do is continue to invest in better tech and better understandings of energy sources. I'm almost certain that there are multiple sources of renewable energy that we have not even tapped yet. Um, you know, and you know, the three corporations that are so focused on fossil fuels have tapped many, many new technologies. I mean, fracking is in new technology, uh, intended upon releasing the sort of the molecular fossil fuels that just exist in shale on DSO. You know, we can do the same if we're willing to invest in it, and that's where I'd like to go. And so, you know, I think it it would be, um it would be, uh, I a an over commitment to short termism to say that you know, we can't do it without it, because I do believe that if we're willing to invest in the tech, we can find other ways. When you ran for governor, you ran against Gretchen Whitmer, right? Did you debate her? I did. What was it like? What is she like? I mean, because she's I mean, she's a figure that has become kind of a national figure. She probably wouldn't be had we not

had the coronavirus, right? But because she was she's been pretty aggressive in in, you know, kind of lock downs and things like this. Early on, she became a kind of political figure. I mean, what what did she like? I mean, you've had a unique perspective of getting to debate her. You know, I'm sure you guys had some conversations. You know, just cause you're debates and campaigning and things. I mean, what she like is as a person. Yeah. Look, she's She's a fine individual. I I think she's handled this crisis exceptionally well in our states. The better off for it. Um, you know, I think it will be interesting to watch how national politics evolves over the next several years. But, you know, she is. She has stood up to a lot of hatred and a lot of pushback for enacting policies that have definitely saved lives. Eso You know, I've got nothing but credit for her on that front. If you were governor right now, let's say you had won that election, right? And you're not. You know you're not back in public health and stuff full time. Your governor. How? What? What would you have done in Michigan in light of the Corona outbreak

? Other things you would have done differently than she didn't. Yeah, hindsight's always 2020. I mean, there are a couple of things that probably would have done differently. The difference, obviously, is that I would have been the only governor for miles would ever actually done an epidemic response before. Um and so, you know, the recognition of what we're dealing with and the ability to sort of understand the the kind of exponential dynamics of this kind of of a threat is something that, as an epidemiologist, you learn how to dio. And so, you know, I think the lockdowns were critical. I think I'd like to say that I would have started them early, but that's that's really hard to know what you would have done based on the intelligence that you have. Um, I think the the persistence of the lockdowns was was really, really critical. And I thought Governor Whitman did a great job maintaining that kind of persistent lock down even the face of a lot of pressure. Um, the the other part of it is also that, you know, I wrote up a whole sort of ah whole sort of guide

Thio how to think about this way back in march. Um, and the way that we use testing, I think was all wrong. Um, we were so focused on testing people who are already sick that we did not have enough testing Thio do surveillance testing in the community, which really would have been important to understanding where the disease waas and how fast it was spreading. I also think that, you know, testing people when they're already sick and their presumed positive is a waste of a test on dso. You really wanna be testing people who are exposed but not yet sick? Because those are the folks who who's management you will change, um, investment in contact, tracing and in the apparatus of public health. Um, I think across the country should have come earlier, but obviously governors were dealing with a, frankly, a failed president, um, and the public health apparatus that is intended to be run from the top and so, you know, it's really hard. Just really second guess what they did simply because there were so

little resource is and so little knowledge and so much malfeasance from the president that I'm getting this right would have been very difficult. You've committed your life to public health, and we need more people like you. Azzawi deal with this pandemic that we really you know, so much of it is learning mawr and then committing is you're saying to collective action to public health. So thanks so much for your commitment to public health and for writing this great book healing politics. I mean, so fantastic. Read. And thanks for spending some time to talk with me about it. That was my privilege. I really appreciate you having me on and on. Thank you. And yeah, I do hope that we have more more folks, Um, getting into public health because we now understand as a society, what happens? One public health fails, and we need some of our best and brightest invested. So thanks for having me on. Thanks for Ah, great conversation. Pleasure is all mine. Thanks for listening to this episode of give and take. If you like what you've heard here, please do a few. Thanks for me. Go share about this episode in iTunes. Write a review. Give it a rating. Share the love and goodness or

go on social media. Share a link to the episode on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram. Please pass along the love and goodness. If you've experienced here, Thanks again. Thanks again for listening to this episode of give and take and until next time friends fare thee well.

Episode 244: Healing Politics: A Doctor’s Journey into the Heart of Our Political Epidemic, Abdul El-Sayed
Episode 244: Healing Politics: A Doctor’s Journey into the Heart of Our Political Epidemic, Abdul El-Sayed
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