The Economic Pandemic, with Connie Schultz and Sherrod Brown

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Andy is joined by Lana this time for a conversation with another cool couple, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Connie Schultz and Senator Sherrod Brown. The four of them talk about the changing political climate of Connie and Sherrod’s home state of Ohio and their commitment to people in the working class — many of whom are on the front lines of the pandemic. Plus, what everyone thinks of President Trump’s recent executive actions and Sherrod’s take on what the Senate will do for a relief package.

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[01:23] Andy Slavitt: Welcome to In the Bubble. This is Andy Slavitt. We have a great show today. Connie Schultz and Sherrod Brown are both on the show today. Connie is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for Commentary. The judges have called her out for what they describe as her pungent columns and her voice for the underdog and underprivileged. She’s also an author of her first fiction book called Daughters of Erie Town. She really does an amazing job chronicling the life of the working class and underserved people. Sherrod is a wonderful, wonderful guy. He is probably one of the senators that is dead-focused on the life of essential workers, people on fixed incomes, people on low incomes. He’s in his third term in the Senate. And the two of them are great individually, but I think you’ll see how special they are together. My wife, Lana, is joining me for the interview. We are going to have kind of a four-way conversation, which I had to tell you was one of the favorite conversations that we had. You listen to them and you will wish you knew them personally if you don’t know them personally. Now, let us get Zach to give us a fact. 


[02:55] Zach Slavitt: With the world COVID case count reaching 20 million, I thought to be a good time to estimate how many COVID cases the world and the U.S. have actually had. The reason is 20 million number is so much smaller than the real number is largely because of a lack of testing and asymptomatic cases. I’m going to use what we know and a couple of estimations from the WHO and data scientist Youyang Gu about the death rate. And I’m going to find a range of more realistic numbers. So starting with the world case count — and you have to remember that this isn’t active infections, but total infections at any point — the infection fatality rate, or the death rate, is estimated to be between .25 and .6 percent, assuming the 737,000 deaths is accurate, we would be looking at 122 million cases if the IFR were .6 percent, and 294 million if the IFR were .25 percent. So somewhere between 1.5-3 percent of the world has had COVID-19. Now, for the U.S., we can assume the death rate is the same, and the U.S. has had 165,000 reported deaths, which we’re again going to assume is correct. And this means that there have been between 27.5 million and 66 million cases, which is way more than that 5.19 million confirmed cases. 


[04:25] Andy Slavitt: OK, so that’s a lot of numbers. What’s your biggest takeaway? 


[04:28] Zach Slavitt: My biggest takeaway is it really shows just how bad the testing has been that we have in the U.S. Between five and 13 times as many cases as we actually think we have. Just as we’re either not testing the right people, not testing enough people or both. 


[04:45] Andy Slavitt: But the president says we’re testing too many people. 


[04:48] Zach Slavitt: Well, I would disagree. 


[04:50] Andy Slavitt: OK. Well, I hope he doesn’t have to debate you, because I think your logic is pretty sound. All right. Thanks a lot, Zach.


[04:57] Andy Slavitt: All right. Before we get to Connie and Sherrod, I want to just cover a couple of update topics. Probably the most interesting development right now is we are beginning to see hopefully the proliferation of new types of tests. That is the diagnostic tests that tell us whether or not we have COVID-19. We have hopefully faster tests, cheaper tests, higher turnaround type tests. That is going to be one of the keys to being able to get back to normal life. Of course, once you test people, you’ve got to isolate them and you’ve got to be able to contact-trace all the people that they came into contact with. But that is, I think, the promising news around the South, we are seeing cases begin to flatten and we are hopefully in for an August where the death toll will come down just a little bit. And, of course, everybody’s favorite topic, still school and colleges. Will Zach go to Penn, will he not? That’s the big question. We will know shortly. So far, they’ve told them he’s going. All of you I know are making decisions, tough decisions for your kids, your grandkids, what you’re going to do. Not easy. I will say that the next few months are going to be challenging. Some schools will start, some will pull back, some will be online. But the hope should be by January to have things squared away enough where we can get people back to school safely. And I think tests will be a big part of that. All right. So let me get Lana, and then let’s get Connie and Sherrod.


[06:45] Connie Schultz: How are you doing, Andy? 


[06:51] Andy Slavitt: I’m great. How are you, Connie? 


[06:52] Connie Schultz: I’m good, thank you. It’s good to see your face. Where’s my husband? Sherrod! Welcome to our marriage. There’s my guy.


[07:06] Sherrod Brown: Hey, everybody. Andy, you’ve done good work throughout this. Really good.


[07:38] Andy Slavitt: Thanks. What’s the day like for you guys now during the pandemic?


[07:41] Connie Schultz: Well, right now, Sherrod’s — normally on Monday, he’d be gone already. And I’d be doing my thing. You know, I’m working on a new book. I’ll have a column this week and of course I’m tracking news and doing various interviews. Sherrod would be on the road right now. He’s home, so when Sherrod’s home, I hear so many of his conference calls that are so sobering because he’s talking to some of the most vulnerable populations in the country. Basically, that’s what it is. Or the people who are trying to help them right now. Teachers, doctors, public health. So it’s a different life here in that way. I just want to say the one thing that we were happy to discover, we’ve never had this much time together. We were together 45 straight days when everything first shut down. And we’ve been married 16 years and we’ve never had that amount of time together nonstop. As it turns out, we played to like each other’s company, which is a great thing to know. We’re working all the time. As you know, I work from home a lot already and I’ll start teaching again soon by remote. When you’re accustomed to working home, this isn’t quite the adjustment that it’s been for Sherrod. So, Sherrod, you talk now. 

[08:48] Sherrod Brown: Yeah, Monday morning I leave, votes Monday night, get home at eight or nine or ten o’clock Thursday night and work Friday. Weeks we aren’t in session, which is a third of the time, it’s just conference calls kind of all day long with YWCA presidents or small businesses, restaurants, people that advocate for the unemployed, NAACP leaders, housing advocates. What do we do to help? And what’s puzzling to me about all this is how — I mean, my favorite Lincoln quote is, “I’ve got to get out of the White House and go get my public opinion bath.” And I don’t know how anybody who’s in elective office can possibly think that there is no sense of urgency, that we should not be engaged, whether it’s extending unemployment or rental assistance. I spend a lot of time with school board members, principals, teachers, cafeteria workers, superintendents, walking through how they have to open the schools safely. They can open them, but to open them safely takes a whole lot of money. They’re getting cuts from the feds, from the state government, obviously, because their revenues are down, they’re squeezed with their own local tax revenues. So we’ve got to put tens and tens of billions of dollars directly into schools, and we’ve got to trust them to know how to spend it. McConnell and Trump essentially don’t trust local communities, local governments, local school boards. They want to put all these strings attached to it. And they’ve got to figure out how to open safely, and they need federal dollars to help. And you can’t not hear that if you’re paying any attention to your community, to your state, to the country. 


[10:31] Andy Slavitt: Let’s go back and talk about the deal in a bit, but Lana and I were actually just thinking about how you guys both speak in many respects to and for working people better than most. One of the things you guys have in common. So maybe we should just start there. 


[10:51] Lana Slavitt: We were talking actually about the industrial Midwest last night, and how the Democrats lost it for a generation, stopped really paying attention to people out there. Not you, Sherrod, but like, you know, more at a larger party level. And, you know, Connie, your book obviously talks a lot about, you know, people who live there across multiple generations and the challenges they face. And, you know, especially in the more rural parts of the area. Yet Sherrod keeps winning right out there. So what do you think about Biden’s chances? Like, what does he need to do in this race to actually win that area or at least not lose too much of it? 


[11:32] Sherrod Brown: Biden needs to — and I think he has — campaign through the eyes of workers as he needs, even more importantly, to govern through the eyes of workers. To make a contrast, Trump has clearly betrayed workers in this state. He’s betrayed workers at Lordstown, where after the auto plan announced it was shutting down or cutting back, Trump said, “don’t sell your homes, we’ll bring these jobs back.” He lifted not even a finger to try to help. He won’t raise minimum wage, it’s been a dozen years since minimum wage has been raised. He took away the overtime rule that Vice President Biden and I flew on his vice president’s plane to Columbus to announce with the secretary of labor. 130,000 Ohioans would have gotten a raise, time and a half overtime pay, people making 30 and 40 thousand a year. Trump took away two-thirds of those raises. The Secretary of Labor Trump has appointed who spent his career fighting workers and especially fighting unions as a corporate lawyer. So Trump has clearly betrayed workers. Biden needs to make that case to all workers. And the dignity of work is about — you love your country, you fight for the people who make it work. And it’s whether you punch a clock or swipe a badge, whether you’re an essential worker or not. And Biden is especially paying attention to the essential workers, the grocery store workers, the bus drivers, 150 bus drivers have died from the coronavirus. Paying attention to the supermarket, to the drugstore checkout person, the people that clean hotel rooms, and the people did prepare food and provide security and people that change sheets in hospitals. All those people Biden is paying attention to. Trump has abandoned them and betrayed them. So I don’t subscribe to the view that we’ve lost them for a generation. I think they went to Trump because they thought something might get better. Many, many of them, union or non-union, have seen that it’s not getting better. 


[13:27] Connie Schultz: It’s also important to emphasize over and over again that when we’re talking about working-class people, we’re not talking about just white people. Let’s start with that. And that has to be emphasized over and over and over again. And I am, of course, thinking a lot about the working-class women, not just because they are so much the focus — I mean first of all, I come from that. I come from the working class. And I talk to working class women all the time, increasingly so since my novel came out, because it’s about working-class women. But the other thing I keep thinking about is what happened in 2018. You mentioned how Sherrod keeps winning. And he won two years after Trump won. And Trump won by a little bit over eight, Sherrod won by over seven points. Sherrod is not allowed to sit on any of the focus groups. But I do. And I sat in on the focus groups with Trump voters throughout that campaign year. And we always split them by gender, because you know what happens if we don’t. The women are not going to talk much. And what was interesting to me — and keep in mind, this was a fall of 2018. The men were still lost to us, the male Trump voters. Two weeks after John McCain had died, they were talking about how two of them in the focus group said he wasn’t a war hero because he’d been captured, which is straight out of Trump’s playbook. But the women were peeling off. And I’ll never forget the consultant sitting next me and saying, this is the first time I’ve heard Trump voters say they regret voting for Donald Trump. And they were peeling away on two issues at that point. Those family separations at the border and healthcare. Think about that. Healthcare. And this was in 2018. This is also before the shootings in Dayton that we had here in Dayton, Ohio. That’s why I keep emphasizing the women, because I think the women are the ones who are going to come back in larger numbers. But we also need more women to vote, and they need to feel like we care about their vote. They need to feel that Joe Biden cares about their vote. And that’s why I hope to see a great initiative in that regard to reach the women in this state. 


[15:19] Sherrod Brown: Connie mentioned essential workers, the essential workers are more women than men, and they’re disproportionately people of color. And we talk to them. We fight for them. You win elections, and you win the industrial Midwest by really focusing on — not only essential workers only, of course, but fundamentally, they are the voters that are paid less, that need government on their side and when we should be that.


[18:13] Andy Slavitt: I’ll never forget the first time I met you in your office, Sherrod, in Washington. You took out this book, I think it was Living on a Dollar a Day. And you basically said, you know, in some respects because I was writing a big benefits program for the country, like, you need to understand this. You need to understand how people live if you’re going to be doing this job. Put politics aside for one second, describe what an industrial Midwest town in Ohio, not a big city,  what is it like these days? What has happened over the last couple of decades in all of the socio-economic and drug addiction — I don’t want to stereotype. But I really think people, particularly more and more people who live in cities, don’t really have a good picture in their minds. And therefore, when it comes time to say, hey, I want to win their votes, it’s very superficial sounding when they don’t really understand. 


[19:19] Sherrod Brown: Connie and I come from cities like that. She comes from Ashtabula. I come from Mansfield, which is a little bit larger. They’re both diverse cities racially. They’re both cities that had a lot of good paying industrial, manufacturing, mostly union jobs. They were cities of destination during the Great Migration when African-Americans — those who came from Ohio typically came from Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, came up the Illinois central, came to Chicago and then headed east to Ohio. And they are workers who have felt betrayed. They have been victimized by bad tax law and trade law, so that company after company in our country, their business model was shut down production in Mansfield and Ashtabula, Ohio, get a tax break, move overseas, use cheap labor and weak environmental laws, and sell those products back into the United States. So as a result, those workers lost their jobs or their pay stagnated or worse, because they had to compete with overseas subsidized manufactured goods. A government that betrayed them. Republicans betrayed them more than Democrats, but neither party, frankly, fought for them the way that we should have. And we see these cities now with higher drug addiction, young people so often leave Ashtabula and Mansfield. It breaks your heart when you see the size of the public high school, the size of the graduating class, the pain and those communities are great. They’re still great places to live. They’re great places to grow up. They should be that, still are for some, they should be that for everybody. Whatever was happening, Trump has accelerated and made it worse. 


[21:11] Connie Schultz: I want us to think about the hopes and dreams of the people who are coming from those towns who are a younger generation. I teach at my alma mater, Charleston School at Kent State, and almost a third of my students typically are first-generation college kids, just like I was. They’re coming from a lot of these regions and a lot of these towns. And one of the first assignments I always give my students, regardless of the class, I hand out the first column I ever wrote, which was a story about my dad’s lunch pail, and how he had vowed that none of us whatever carry that lunch pail, and how I wanted to have it as a reminder of where I came from. I wanted to set it next to my computer. So I give it to my students and say, tell me a story from your life that lets me know a little bit about you. Obviously, I want to see how they’re writing, because they’re upperclassmen, but I also want to see how they frame their own lives. And the thing that never changes, no matter where you’re from, and no matter how hard it’s been, is when you’re young, you want to believe it can be better. And you are often being raised by parents who, despite all the setbacks and heartbreaks in these industrial towns, want to believe it could be better for their children, which is why they’re at Kent State University. And this is the thing that I want us to be more mindful of in this last part of this presidential race, because the other population of voters we’re not talking enough about right now are the young voters. 


[22:40] Connie Schultz: And I tell my students all the time — they complain that they don’t care what they think. I say, well, they don’t have to because they know you’re not going to vote. If they thought you were going to vote in large numbers, you could definitely drive the agenda or at least be a significant part of it. But at their core, remain the same hopes and dreams of these very wealthy people in America now, who never have to worry about the chances their children will get. And the thing I want us to remember when we talk about people coming from these communities — and many of my students are black — the pride they take in their histories and knowing their family histories, which is one of the reasons I have them write about it. Helps them remember — I say this all the time, our roots are our beginnings, they’re not our excuses. And certainly the working class has its issues, as does any population of people. But they are worth our attention. They are worth our minding. If my parents were alive right now and working, both of them would be essential workers. My mom was a nurse’s aide and my dad was a utility worker. And especially I think about mom, because it’s mostly women still who are nurses aides, and they are on the frontlines of taking care of people in this pandemic. And most of them have no union representation. That has never changed. But they, too, have hopes and dreams for their families. 


[23:55] Sherrod Brown: What Connie just said about her mom, that’s why one of the unforgotten things Democrats are insisting on his pandemic pay for these workers. Everybody that’s out there exposed while we get to be home, and earn likely higher salaries or wages, they should get that $10,000 dollar pandemic pay. Grocery store workers, home care workers, utility workers, people that are exposed to this virus every day have the anxiety of going home then and potentially exposing their families. 


[24:25] Lana Slavitt: Right. It’s like people who work on oil rigs, they make more money because they take on more risk. I mean, they should be making more money because the job that they signed up for now comes with a much more risk than it did when they took it on.


[24:37] Connie Schultz: Right. Great analogy. That’s very, very apt. 


[24:38] Andy Slavitt: Do a lot of these folks feel like Democrats forgot them? They all vote for you because of all that you’ve just said, and because you understand them. But the narrative that in 2016, Hillary Clinton didn’t understand them. You may not agree, but there’s a lot of talk that if you add a bit on the ticket, things might have gone differently in that election. But be that as it may, you know, the sense that kind of this, despite all of the logic that, you know, “Trump gets me,” you know, he came out here, he talks to me, etc., that there is some psychological connection point that exists despite the bad economic record. Do you believe that? And why is that? It’s certainly true the least to some extent.


[25:22] Connie Schultz: I think we have a very different conversation with this pandemic. And I’ve been saying this every chance I get, you can’t un-die people. And most people now, particularly the most vulnerable populations, they either have loved somebody who died. They know somebody who died. They know somebody who has survived it, but we’re not sure how well they’re going to survive it. And you can’t change these numbers. And there is too much audio and video of this president so openly dismissive, not doing his job. It really comes down to just not doing his job. He is not going to protect us. He is not going to help us. We live in the city of Cleveland. We hear it from many of our neighbors. Some of them also are working class. Were they predisposed to being Democrats? I would say more likely they’re predisposed to vote this time. And a lot of it is around what has happened since this pandemic hit our country. 


[26:18] Sherrod Brown: And I think they saw it wasn’t working. They’ve seen 20 years of stagnant wages. They’ve seen their kids not have opportunities that they might have had half a generation or a generation ago. They saw Hillary as very much the establishment. They saw presidential candidate Donald Trump play to their fears and resentments, and they were willing to roll the dice and take a chance. Many of them have seen that, that he doesn’t care about them. Many think that he still does. I would make two corrections to what you said. I don’t think my being on the ticket would have mattered. I mean, no Democrat does as well as we used to because our party seems to, in their minds, moved away. I mean, we’ve been part of these trade agreements. We’ve signed off on tax bills in too many cases that have betrayed the middle class. We’ve seen the wealthier do better and better. And we don’t see Democrats raising — I mean, Republicans, of course they didn’t. They support them. Put it this way, it doesn’t surprise me that they’re dissatisfied with Democrats. What is a little more difficult to understand is why they would throw in with this billionaire who cares nothing about them, and a Republican Party that clearly cares overwhelmingly about the wealthy. I was talking to a Republican House member who had retired who was genuinely a moderate, if they aren’t an extinct species now in Republican government. He said Trump wasn’t an outlier, Trump was an accelerant. Wherever their party was going — appeals to race or appeals to resentment, their faux populist. I mean, it’s a phony, phony populism. Plenty of people call me a populist because, I mean, I fight for people who work and of all races of all kinds. Trump’s populism is underpinned by racism, is undergirded by resentment and greed. And it works for a while. Like Lana said a few minutes ago, are the people in Mansfield nice to be lost to the Democrats for a generation? I think not, because they’ve had a taste at what plutocratic rule is, and that’s Trump and McConnell and sort of the whole Republican establishment. 


[29:43] Andy Slavitt: I want to educate people about how this negotiating process in Washington is supposed to work. So as we sit here today, the House three months ago passed a bill, a relief bill, which we talk about as COVID 4, which would provide extended unemployment insurance. It would provide security to folks from being evicted. It would provide money to state and local governments for Medicaid and for education. It was about a $3 trillion bill. And as we sit here today, you know, we are halfway into a month where people have not been getting paychecks. Landlords have been free to evict people. And I am wondering, maybe Sherrod, if you would mind helping people understand, when you have a negotiation like this — you’ve got a White House involved — who is actually in the room making the negotiation? What are the dynamics? Why are we in this situation we’re in? Because I think for the life of people — we’ve been talking about working people for the last 20 minutes. I don’t think people could possibly understand how they could be abandoned like this at a time like this. 


[30:53] Sherrod Brown: Yeah. It’s hard for us to understand it, too, Andy. Go back a little further, go back to March, where in the space of about two weeks, every single senator voted for a bill that really mattered in people’s lives. It kept people out of poverty. That $600 a week. One of the stunning things about this pandemic with up to 40 million people being laid off, is the poverty rate in this country didn’t go up much, because of the $600 a week, and the $1,200 and the other things that happened. So we all came together. Most of us thought that, OK, we’ll pass this in March. On the same track — think about this at the same time — in the United States and South Korea in March, about 95 people had died in each country from rotavirus. Since then, 300 Koreans, fewer than 300 have died. Their unemployment rate is under four percent. In the United States, 160,000 have died, our unemployment rate’s three times that. So look at the difference in how this was handled. So we thought after we passed that unanimously that we’d come back in maybe early June, maybe even earlier, maybe before Memorial Day, and sit back at the table. McConnell and Schumer, the two Senate leaders, the two House leaders, probably the secretary of the Treasury, and they would negotiate the general confines, then about a dozen more of us would come in like we did in March and negotiate housing. I would do the housing things with Mnuchin, that kind of thing. But McConnell was not interested. He wasn’t interested, his Republican caucus wasn’t interested. They were not pushing him to do it. 


[32:35] Sherrod Brown: The country began to wonder, when is this going to happen? McConnell waited until the week that unemployment was about to expire and the moratorium on foreclosures and evictions was ending, was expiring. And there are dozens and dozens of moratoria around the country prohibiting shut-off of water and electricity. All of this came together at the same time that eviction courts were opening up around the country, so landlords could go to court for eviction. Columbus opened up its arena, the largest city in the state, its arena to handle evictions because there were so many, they needed that much space. And McConnell says 20 of his members, Republican senators don’t want to spend anything. And what happens to our country? What happens to schools? How are schools going to open safely? If we do nothing like right now, it looks like it’s possible that we’ll do nothing, we’ll see a tidal wave of evictions. And that means people sleep in their cousin’s basement or go to overcrowded shelters. And what happens to the virus? It’s both heartless and it’s incredibly stupid policy to not extend unemployment, to not keep the moratorium and put some money out there for for rental assistance, to not help schools open. It’s just puzzling to all of us. 


[33:47] Andy Slavitt: So then the president says he’s going to take money from the payroll tax, which funds Social Security and Medicare, and use an executive order to pass some sort of share of a much smaller amount for the unemployment benefit. I mean, if people can’t tell I’m not a big fan of this executive order. What do you think’s going to happen to this executive order, which doesn’t seem legal to most people? Is it just a threat? Do you think it will bring people to the table? Do you think a deal will end up getting done? If not, do you think this executive order will go through? How should people look at this?


[34:25] Sherrod Brown: I think because of the president’s unwillingness or disinterest in leading on scaling up testing and leading a charge to get protective equipment to people — one essential worker said, I don’t feel essential, I feel expendable because I don’t get paid much and I don’t have protections at work. The president’s inaction, indifference and incompetence — choose your adjective. Really, all three. It means that the workers will not get $600 a week that they got until last week. State unemployment bureaus were barely able to handle this. They won’t be able to handle this weird thing he’s put together. But I think the pressure still should be on McConnell to come to the table, and the president to come to the table, and negotiate a real package that will save people’s lives. We’re four percent of the world’s people and we’ve had almost 25 percent of the world’s deaths. It’s not because we don’t have good doctors or medical researchers or productive workers. It’s because of leadership, clearly.


[35:24] Andy Slavitt: I would just like to get a bead on whether or not there are people in the Republican caucus, whether it’s Portman or or others, or whether or not the president’s going to feel any pressure, or whether the governors like DeWine are going to feel pressure. I mean, is there something that’s going to bring people to the table? Or should people just expect that they don’t see the political — I mean, that’s obviously a political calculus for them. I would have thought Trump’s hope would be to put money back into the economy and into people’s pockets. It felt like Mnuchin would have headed there maybe without Meadows. But, you know, as I sit here today, and as you talk to people all day long, both of you, people got to be incredibly worried. They must ask you what you think’s gonna happen. 


[36:10] Sherrod Brown: Yeah. Go back to what you were talking about earlier with the money for the payroll tax cut, if you will. I was on an AARP conference call today with probably a thousand seniors in Ohio, and somebody asked about that. What happens to our Social Security and Medicare if the president’s passing that payroll tax because it takes money out of there, as you know? I mean, that’s how short-term and unthinking his reaction is. But some people probably woke up today and say, well, the president’s going to get me some unemployment dollars back. That’s good. But they’re not going to see it because it’s probably illegal what he did. Probably won’t ever be even be enacted or passed as a rule, promulgated, whatever. But more than that, the states can’t carry it out. They can’t carry out this unemployment and get that money out to people. There’s going to be a huge gap, if it comes at all, unless we pass it. We just ask McConnell to let us do our jobs. And he’s not. Ultimately it’s not Republican senators talking to McConnell because they have not shown great courage from Trump’s swearing day since. I just remember sitting five feet away from a Republican across the aisle, from the Republican side of the Senate. And I just watched the fear in their faces during impeachment. They don’t want to offend ever this president or his base. So they’re not going to do it as much as the elections are going to force McConnell, and all of them, that they’ve got to address this in a significant way. And it means unemployment. It means rental assistance. It means money to open schools. It means some state and local government money. It means some money for elections to make sure they’re run fairly.


[37:56] Lana Slavitt: So, Connie, when you were talking about how important it is for potential voters to feel listened to, and to feel like somebody actually cares and understands their lives, it reminded me about how you talked about everyone having a tale to share. And, you know, the challenge as an interviewer is to listen so that you hear that tale. You know, I kept thinking about that in the context of this election that, you know, we need to give people a way to tell their tale. If they don’t tell the tale to somebody, then there they have no confidence that that person is listening. 


[38:27] Connie Schultz: As Sherrod knows, I’ve been needling him, they need to be putting more voices out. They need to have Americans talking, and immigrants talking, and talking about their lives and what it’s been like. And to close the distance as a concept I always think about as a columnist. How do I close the distance with my readers? Well, with Joe Biden, the challenge is how do you close that distance with voters? How do they believe that you see them? And I think with how weird this election is, how different this campaign is, one of the ways you show people that you hear them and you see them is to actually show them and show that you’re listening to them and their stories. There are so many universal tales. But every person has his or her own way of telling it. And the thing is, if we show people who normally aren’t getting screen time, and they are talking in this campaign, we start convincing voters I think that we really do care about them. 


[39:17] Lana Slavitt: There are more people out there who need to talk about their struggles with child care or schools opening or things like that, than there are people who need to talk about their struggle with their first sourdough bread starter. The narrative needs to shift to what real people, you know, and we’re all real, obviously, but, you know, the vast majority of us are actually dealing with during this pandemic. 


[39:38] Sherrod Brown: I think one of the few good things that have come out of this pandemic is elected officials, regardless of philosophy, to do our jobs — and I think most probably most have pretty well in this — we have talked to and listened to so many more people than we normally would in the course of the day. I would travel to Columbus. It’s two hours and 15 minutes. I’d have a series of meetings and roundtables. I think big town halls are often screaming about issues you disagree with without listening. Roundtables of 15 or 20 people, you do. But I can do a number of those roundtables by phone and get 15 or 20 people just talking for an hour and a half. I hope it’s taught all of us to listen better. And I think it’s surely given us tales to tell. I think we know more about people’s lives. Going back to the Andy’s original question about why are these people not doing more in Congress? That’s puzzling to me because any elected official doing her duty, doing his duty — and for Republicans, it’s almost always his duty — are they not listening to people and the pain they’re hearing? From food banks fuller than they’ve ever been with people that never went to a food bank before? What’s happened to renters being evicted and people losing their homes and people losing their jobs and then their jobs aren’t coming back and how they’re making it each week. Aren’t they listening to people like that?

[41:15] Connie Schultz: I agree with that. I mean, there are going to be a lot of people watching this and listening to this that they just feel overwhelmed every day. In both our instances, and certainly all your colleagues, we don’t have the luxury of turning a blind eye or deciding we can’t hear anymore, we can’t bear any more of these stories. It is our job to be paying attention to this and figuring out how we’re going to respond to it. In my case, it’s how do we magnify these voices? How do we get more elected officials to pay attention, and the policymakers. And in Sherrod’s case with his colleagues, he works harder than I’ve ever seen him work. I worry, certainly, because he works so hard and I come up with ways to come up with some relaxation. But you know what? We both have just decided that will come later. This is not the time. And there’s just no whining on this yacht, as my editor always used to say. Look what we get to do. Look at the opportunity we have to help people. If we don’t do it now, that’s our story. When we talk about everyone has a story, that’s ours. If we don’t do what’s right now, that’ll be our story. That’ll be the ending to our legacy.


[42:18] Lana Slavitt: There’s no excuse for not stepping up right now. 


[42:23] Andy Slavitt: Well, I want to thank you guys. I mean, part of the reason we did this is the two of you individually are heroes of ours. I’ve always wanted to be a writer. So I’ve been a big fan of yours. Sherrod, you were the favorite of one of our sons who decided one day to take poli-sci. He said, my favorite senator is Sherrod Brown. But also, I think, you know, the love match of you guys is a little bit like Lana and mine, which is it’s as much about our values being aligned with each other as I can hear from you guys. 


[42:56] Connie Schultz: I can see that with you, too. You know, it’s actually really wonderful to be couples together talking about this today because we both admire so much what both of you are doing. And I don’t know, it felt really. Thank you. It’s nice to be able to talk about it with people who understand what we’re saying, of course, who share our values, but also who clearly love each other. Because we can’t get enough of that right now, can we? 


[43:17] Andy Slavitt: Thank you so much for what you do and for coming on today, which has been a delight.


[43:24] Connie Schultz: Thanks for the kind words. 


[43:34] Andy Slavitt: Well, that was cool. That was fun and awesome doing that with Lana. Hope you enjoyed that. Got a feel for what’s going on in Washington, but also how it connects to working people on the ground. Well, let me tell you the shows coming up because we have some great shows. Political season begins. And so we are going to try to give you a feel for how this election season will play into all the things we are experiencing with coronavirus. So on Monday, Neera Tanden will be on, and we are going to talk about the Democratic ticket and the Democratic convention. How they’re going to do that online, what the impact of COVID policy is. And what that’s going to mean for people from her perspective. So a little bit more political. And then the following Monday — I will come back to Wednesday. But the following Monday, we’re going to do the same thing with Republican convention. So equal time. Bill Kristol, who is a longtime conservative columnist, commentator, publisher who you’ve seen on TV before, is going to do the same thing for us with the Republican convention. And hopefully those will both be interesting. They’re both really smart, good folks. And Wednesday in between, that is a week from today, I am very excited. We have Steve Kerr, who is the basketball coach of the Golden State Warriors. A very outspoken social justice advocate. And someone who could talk to us about how both the sport is handling coronavirus, as well as some of the key issues of the day. Well, that’s it. Thanks for listening. Give us a good rating. Tell people about the show. Over and out. 


[45:29] Andy Slavitt: Thanks for listening In the Bubble. Hope you rate us highly. We are a production of Lemonada Media. Kryssy Pease is our producer. Ivan Kuraev is our editor. Jessica Cordova Kramer and Stephanie Wittels Wachs executive produce the show and run our lives. My son Zach Slavitt is my cool co-host and onsite producer. Music is by Dan Molad and Oliver Hill. You can find out more about our show on social media @LemonadaMedia. And you can find me at a @ASlavitt on Twitter or @AndySlavitt on Instagram. If you liked what you heard today, please, please, please tell your friends to come listen, but from a distance. And for now, stay safe. Share some joy. And we will get through this together. And #StayHome.


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