The Democrats: What a Biden-Harris Response Looks Like
On the first day of the virtual Democratic National Convention, Andy talks to Kavita Patel, a policy advisor for Senator Kamala Harris, about what a Biden-Harris pandemic response would be and how it would change from the Trump administration. Then Andy chats with Neera Tanden, the President and CEO of the Center for American Progress, about what to expect this week from the convention.
Check out these resources from today’s episode:
- Read the Biden plan to combat coronavirus and prepare for future global health threats: https://joebiden.com/covid19/
- Watch Joe Biden and Kamala Harris speak about the COVID-19 pandemic: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/watch-live-biden-harris-speak-on-covid-19-pandemic
- Here’s a USA Today opinion piece by Neera Tanden titled “Like Kamala Harris, I’m the daughter of an Indian immigrant. We are the American story:” https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/voices/2020/08/14/kamala-harris-mothers-like-ours-define-america-neera-tanden-column/3369608001/
- Check out the official website for the 2020 Democratic National Convention: https://www.demconvention.com/
In the Bubble is supported in part by listeners like you. You can become a member, get exclusive bonus content, ask Andy questions, and get discounted merch at http://lemonadamedia.com/inthebubble
Keep up with Andy on Twitter @ASlavitt and Instagram @andyslavitt, and find Kavita Patel @kavitapmd and Neera Tanden @neeratanden on Twitter.
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[00:39] Andy Slavitt: Welcome to In the Bubble. This is Andy Slavitt. Our show today is focused on the Democrats. Why is the focus on the Democrats? Because next week is going to be focused on the Republicans. Equal time. And this week, as folks know, is the coming out party for the Democrats. It is the Democratic National Convention. And I thought the right place to focus would be kind of an explainer toolkit on what to expect that will be different from a Biden/Harris administration. And a little bit how a transition would work from a Trump administration to a Biden administration. So what we are going to do is we’re going to have on first Kavita Patel, who is a primary care physician. She’s a fellow at Brookings Institute. She’s had various roles within different administrations. She was a senior policy adviser to Kamala Harris. She worked for Senator Ted Kennedy. And she has a lot of insight for us. Second is we are also going to talk a little bit about what’s going to happen this week at the convention with Neera Tanden, who is the CEO of the Center for American Progress. And that’s gonna be a bit of a different experience. So I thought it would be good to orient everybody towards that. And I will say, if you go back into old episodes, you will hear various people who will be part of this democratic transition and team.
[02:15] Andy Slavitt: Ron Klain, many people think he would be chief of staff if that’s the job he wants. Dr. Vivek Murthy, who was the surgeon general, is one of the most senior people in Biden’s campaign. So you’ll be able to get a lot of insight and hear from a lot of the people that would be decision makers. But I’m excited to bring it to you. So let’s go listen to Kavita Patel. Let’s ring her up.
[02:40] Andy Slavitt: What have you been up to, Kavita?
[02:42] Kavita Patel: Nothing much. Nothing. Nothing of note.
[02:46] Andy Slavitt: Nothing of note. I usually don’t do any formal start. We just have a conversation. That’s how good I am at interviewing.
[02:51] Kavita Patel: I think your son is better than you.
[03:02] Andy Slavitt: Yeah. I think he’s better. The problem is trying to keep him on the show because he’s got this thing called college that he would prefer to do, even though he’s not going to do it in person. So I don’t know how I’m going to break it to the audience. Maybe this is how I’ll break it to the audience that we’re going to have a tough time holding on to Zach.
[03:17] Kavita Patel: The bubble has to burst at some point.
[03:20] Andy Slavitt: Exactly. So I wouldn’t get to what a pandemic response looks like under Biden. Harris.
[03:27] Kavita Patel: I was going to ask you, Andy.
[03:38] Andy Slavitt: Well, it’s funny. I mean, I will confess. I’ve been talking to the Biden team a lot. But I had made a decision not to be on any team during the primaries.
[03:40] Kavita Patel: Yeah. No, no. I know that. No, but I was just going to say, you probably know more than I do.
[03:45] Andy Slavitt: It may be helpful background — how does a vice presidential team and a presidential team’s ideas meld? You know, we both observed, Biden was a very influential part of the Obama/Biden world. He both had his own issues he owned that were his issues. You know, cancer being one, unions being another. But he also was a very close adviser to the president and the president trusted him. What do you know or what do you think about this dynamic? How do you think this will play out? And how do you think her policy ideas will blend with his policy ideas?
[04:23] Kavita Patel: Yeah, I will 100 percent tell you this is all wild speculation. But just given what I’ve seen her do on COVID, especially with regard to ethnic and racial disparities, and calls for data transparency, getting into the details about COVID in terms of its impact not just on Californians, but beyond. And given how this is a vice president, presidential candidate who is incredibly sensitive to that relationship that the two of them kind of need to have, I actually think that a lot of the issues that are plaguing us around the disparities are going to be a place where Senator Harris’ contributions shine. I think that it’s clear — you’ve talked to the Biden campaign — it’s clear that equity is important. There is no there’s no question. But I think there is an accountability that I think Senator Harris is going to — I think her and her team will bring to that. Because we don’t have a national strategy, it’s easy to get kind of lost in the forest and just look at the forest because we have nothing.
[05:33] Andy Slavitt: I want to explain the lingo. When you say equity and you say disparities, to healthcare people, that means different outcomes and results, including how many people live or die based upon their race, or based upon their income level and their gender. Which we’ve talked about on this program, is an enormous issue, even outside of COVID. But in COVID, as the data comes back, it’s striking. Sorry, I just wanted to plug that in.
[05:59] Andy Slavitt: This is why you’re a brilliant podcaster and I am not a podcaster, because I’m too full of jargon. So I think that Senator Harris brings that accountability and asking kind of on every level about a testing strategy and supporting states. Think about it, she’s in it right now. I mean, the conversations with California and just hearing back and forth when working with the constituencies there, I mean, they’re still in the thick of things with the coronavirus. So it’s incredibly front of mind. But I think the other piece that’s also going to be a kind of a Biden/Harris approach is the economic impact, and she, like the vice president, are going to be thinking how do we also have both a national strategy, but do something to resurrect, you know, kind of American opportunity, and where is the overlap in that.
[07:05] Andy Slavitt: So how long how long have you known Kamala Harris?
[07:08] Kavita Patel: I started to get to know Senator Harris when she first came to the Senate. Actually, that’s not totally fair. I was on the board of a hospital system called Dignity Health, which has since merged and become a much larger system that I’m not on the board of. But she was the attorney general and was a very kind of hard — in terms of kind of hard-minded. And I still think it goes back to a word I often used to describe her pragmatic approach for hospital mergers. Once she became a United States senator and a number of people who I deeply respect who I worked with in the Senate, continued to work for her in the Senate staff. And I saw pretty early on a lot of her viewpoints on maternal health. Just you could see in the cadence of some of the legislation she did and got to know her then. And then, of course, got to know a lot more about her and her team around the run up to her presidential campaign last year.
[08:10] Andy Slavitt: I mean, you kind of ended up in her inner circle. She’s someone who’s got a reputation of having a pretty small inner circle and being very loyal to staff. I mean, would you call yourself friends? How did you end up getting closer to her?
[08:25] Kavita Patel: People tossed around the word “friends” in Washington, and I don’t. I feel very much like she’s — I have kind of the respect and relationship that I guess is very common, where you end up dealing with what we call a principal, someone who is of incredible importance. And I worked for Senator Kennedy, and it’s kind of the same in a way, there was part of me that defaulted until like a staff mode. I understand this is a person who is incredibly — who is putting themselves in an incredibly vulnerable position. And our jobs, even though I didn’t have a job, just to be clear, I was not paid. I had no job. But just my innermost sense was that I had this kind of obligation to protect her by having this kind of almost staff-like relationship with her. And then here is what was interesting is now you and I have seen — and you’ve seen a lot more probably than I have — conversations with politicians. She always brought it back to some story. In this aspect, it reminded me of Bill Clinton in the ‘90s when you felt like Bill Clinton was looking at you and had a conversation with you, and then you actually felt like he knew you. And somehow when he heard your story, he knew your story. She would actually offer back these verbal quotes from these meetings. And she’s like, do you remember that person? And she would look at her chief of staff from the campaign and say, do you remember that person? You know? And, you know, he’s looking at her like, no, I don’t remember that person, but she clearly did. And I will say that when her campaign ended, I knew there were factors well beyond what I understood. It made me sad, though. So I’m obviously ecstatic that she’s got a chance to let more people see that side of her.
[10:08] Andy Slavitt: OK. So it’s November 3rd. Biden/Harris ticket wins. There is some work that begins immediately called transition work. Do you want to just give folks just a sense of what that is and what you see that being like, particularly in this kind of pandemic climate?
[10:25] Kavita Patel: Yeah, yeah, that’s a great question. So the normal cadence of transition work, it’s already started, by the way, and it starts with really what they call agency review, meaning all the little and big parts of the government all have kind of an exhaustive review as they exist today of, you know, budgets, dollars, leadership. And those leadership positions, obviously, the political ones will become new people in those roles, and I welcome that. So part of the job of the transition team is to also then work with the co-chairs of the transition team, who are usually like kind of key luminaries, ex-governors, senators, etc. Those are the very people who will drive what we call the lists, lists of people for political appointments, lists of people for very high-ranking career appointments that are open. And then also thinking about the shape of the agency, because it’s not something you can just start on January 20th. So thinking about budgets that would be prepared for a first year, first-term president. And it’s literally what I describe. It’s a review of every little fact. And I think it’s an opportunity for a Biden/Harris ticket, especially as Senator Harris as a vice president, to have a little bit of an input on people, on kind of direction. You know, you can imagine that the vice president Biden is going to offer her a little more leeway to kind of think about names.
[11:51] Andy Slavitt: And Pence picked a lot of people.
[11:53] Kavita Patel: It’s a very good point. In fact, I could point to a lot of the strong Trump people and I would say they’re Pence people. So that’s absolutely right.
[12:02] Andy Slavitt: So that’s under normal circumstances. We’re not in a normal circumstance. We’re in more like a 2008, Tim Geithner Treasury type of circumstance. Where for those who don’t remember, in 2008, we had to do a transition and that transition was when the economy was falling off a cliff. And so you really couldn’t do a kind of normal pace. Let’s look at all the budgets. Let’s look at all the people. Let’s take it slow. Let’s get some people nominated into these positions, as you just described, you had to do it differently. So what do you see happening differently?
[12:35] Kavita Patel: So usually what happens in circumstances that are unusual, as you describe, are a couple of things. One, Congress has a role in this. Remember, Biden was a senator for the longest period of time, not just a vice president. So I think there’s going to be an incredible reliance on key allies within the Senate and House, obviously for direction. But I also think you’re going to see a little bit of delegation. Instead of kind of this time and process and people in-person intensively in meetings, you’re going to see a lot more of, OK, we’re going to have a Zoom meeting and we’re just gonna have to get something done, which goes back to relying on a closer, tighter inner-circle. There are problems with that, though, Andy. The nice part of having something that can be kind of exhaustive is you look at your blind spots, or people point out your blind spots. They’re not going to have time to do that and they’re not going to have the luxury to do that.
[13:30] Andy Slavitt: So then what happens? How does this transition go? We’ve got a task force right now, supposedly, from the Trump administration. They’re meeting in Mark Meadows’ office, you know, three days a week or whatever it is. Does Biden create a shadow task force? Does he create a point person? How do you see the transition working?
[13:48] Kavita Patel: I don’t even know if it’s a shadow task force. I think it’s outright explicit in terms of transitional task force members, including staff who will staff it. And then the key kind of leadership roles to be part of — you’ll imagine that some of the people who were not brought forward as vice presidential candidates will actually be involved in that to a large degree. And then the way it’ll unfold is all of a sudden you’ll start seeing names popping up of people being floated for cabinet positions, and a lot of the key positions that now are, I think, on the table for many people. And I think you’re going to look to see pressure from outside organizations. The other part we’re not talking about that’s kind of a D.C. tradition is the, you know, progressive groups coming in with their, like, slate of people that they want. And those usually happen over in-person meetings. That’s not going to happen. So you’re going to have these like kind of awkwardly short Zoom calls where, you know, Randi Weingarten is going to say, here’s really what’s on our agenda for teachers. And interestingly enough, the thing I’ve discovered in this all this pandemic work, even with video visits with patients, it’s a lot easier to cut them off when you’re on video. So I think there’s going to be a tension about how stakeholders are going to have their “seat at the table” that they would normally have with a transition team. And so I actually think that’s going to result in the need to be even more attentive to key stakeholders, progressive groups, African-American communities, Latinx communities, which is why you see the campaign naming incredibly prominent people into those positions.
[17:32] Andy Slavitt: I want to focus very specifically on the crisis now. Forget the departments, forget the agencies, forget all that stuff. Handing off management of the pandemic crisis. How do those things transition in a way that things get better? And we don’t drop anything. I mean, do the Trump people just run to the wind? And the Biden/Harris team has to figure it out. Do they work together? How does that happen? Do they put in place a structure? What do you see happening?
[18:02] Kavita Patel: I’ve talked about this with other friends because normally coming in day one, there’s transition memos from the outgoing administration that actually provide what we call continuity of government. I do not expect this administration — actually, let’s say this. I do not expect those memos to be robust and offer a way to pick up the relay stick, so to speak. So I think before they come in there is going to have to be, to your point, Andy, kind of a group, not a shadow group, but a dedicated group that is going to almost act as if they’ve taken over in government without actually having the ability to. And that means that they’re going to have to understand from interviews of outgoing officials, career staff who will be candid and very honest and talk about status reports and have an understanding of whereas BARDA with this, whereas NIAID with this, and get those briefings so that they can actually build kind of their own transition map, because I do not think the Trump administration will offer that. And then day one, they have to be able to come in and have ready for the president executive orders that can just go, because that’s the fastest way — executive orders aren’t always the fastest way, but in the case of a pandemic, there’s a lot of liberties. So Biden will have to have and his team will have to give him ready to sign — and that means reviewed and packaged so that there is just no hiccups — executive orders for a testing strategy, for invoking the DPA.
[19:35] Andy Slavitt: The Defense Production Act for things like masks and tests and all the kinds of things that we need.
[19:40] Kavita Patel: The place where I would put a lot of attention to, and I’ve mentioned it to folks who would listen, the FDA. The FDA, obviously, we will likely have some vaccines, vaccines, plural, that are emergency use authorized. But we have other manufacturers that are kind of in the queue. Imagine in January 2021, career staff are running all of this. The good news is that the government doesn’t fall apart. Career staff have, as you have led, career staff have dedicated their lives to this. So the question will be, how do we come into the agency and provide continuity? And what that might mean is that some of the people who are there, even in political positions, might need to stay a little longer to provide that continuity. But that plan needs to be ready. And I think that day one, Biden has to have at least three to four executive orders ready to sign and ready to go so that you can actually start some of this.
[20:34] Andy Slavitt: Interesting. But given that, I think a lot of the criticism of the Trump administration has been that they haven’t been willing to take accountability, and that they haven’t had a real organized structure, like the one Ron Klain ran for Ebola, which turned out to be a successful model, one that Trump didn’t replicate. But presuming that that kind of playbook that they follow, would you expect that the president and vice president would name a single person to have accountability?
[21:05] Kavita Patel: Right, exactly. That was my final kind of comment, was that I expect there to be a point person. You know, there’s been rumors, you’ve probably heard them as well, about potentially elevating kind of a global health position to kind of a cabinet NSC-type position. So whether it’s that, or whether it is kind of in the model of the Obama administration with multiple, you know, they hated the term czar, but that’s essentially how they kind of operated. But it is going to be a single point person that is appointed and is very close to the Oval Office, which is exactly how it should be. And I’ll go further to predict. I don’t know who it will be. I don’t think Ron will want to do that, because I see Ron as actually being the chief of staff to the president. But I think it’ll have to be somebody with public health credentials. Because if anything, we’ve learned Dr. Tony Fauci has higher credibility than the president does. And why is that? You know, it’s because he really does try to kind of talk about the science. So I do think it’ll be somebody with a public health background.
[22:08] Andy Slavitt: Sure. Sure. And people may recall we’ve had Vivek Murthy on the show, who is the former surgeon general who’s very close to the vice president, has got a great public health background. He could be the kind of person. January 20th, they then have the reins. What are two of the three things that people you think we’ll see immediately that will be different than what they see today.
[22:33] Kavita Patel: You know, I’m hoping that there is going to be a vaccine that’s at least one or two manufacturers that will have readouts that provide an emergency use authorization. Day one you will actually see stood up an electronic health infrastructure for vaccine monitoring allocation. Having like senses of like percentages of uptake in communities. And being able to accurately relay information to Americans in a transparent way. At a minimum, relaying information to states, because we’ve already established that the federal government is going to play a role in the allocation of the vaccine. I fully predict I mean, like with remdesivir, one of the antivirals for coronavirus, there’s been a lot of speculation, lack of transparency, and even a hint that there’s been a political agenda of how the antiviral gets approved and allocated. Yes, you’ll see a high-tech infrastructure set-up because — God help us, you know, that’s a deep bench that the Biden Harris team has on technology. Or at least you’d see kind of a launch of something like that. The second would be, you know, would be interesting. Kind of turning back to you, Andy, would think about any executive orders or ability that they would have to open up enrollment. So I know we’ve got a public health emergency and some things that were done through CARES and other acts. But wouldn’t it be amazing if day one, you know, President Biden would be able to say we’re going to open the marketplace up now. I know that would be difficult with insurers, but it’s something that certainly he could look into. And why not?
[24:04] Andy Slavitt: So what you’re saying is enrollment in health care to get more people health care coverage. And actually January 20th will be after the enrollment period ends. It is December 15th. But what he’s able to do is create a special enrollment period. He’s able to create some rules which say, hey, if you have, for example, been impacted by the pandemic in any way, that is a legitimate reason to enroll. So, yes, that’s absolutely the kind of executive order he could issue and you might, in fact, see him issue. So let me run a few by you here. Universal masking mandate: is there authority to do that? And do you expect that Biden Harris would do that?
[24:53] Kavita Patel: It’s funny you brought this up. I’ve worked in the Senate, so I spent a lot of time with lawyers, but not being a lawyer myself, I’ve had a number of very strong Democratic attorneys tell me that that’s just not possible, that you can’t technically force that. So I would love to see it, I think it’s going to be something hard, which is why I don’t expect to see it.
[25:16] Andy Slavitt: What can they do short of that?
[25:17] Kavita Patel: I think what they can do short of that is basically give every — what I would suggest is a national put a mask in every corner. No state is going to say you’re not allowed to offer free things to our people like that’s crazy. So I think you would just be an incredible distribution program at grocery stores, at every place the consumer touches.
[25:40] Andy Slavitt: Got it. OK. Next one, PPE for workers. How much of a priority and how much do you think there’ll be a focus on getting gear to frontline medical workers?
[25:50] Kavita Patel: Yeah, there’s some part of me that’s hopeful that by January ‘21, we just don’t see the cases that we’re seeing today. But you’re right, I do think that we need to do that. And by the way, I think that’ll extend — not trying to be salacious here, but I was in-clinic yesterday and all I have is like this kind of sad face shield and then like my sad surgical mask, and I’ve got a 32 percent positivity rate in my patient population. So I think it’s going to be about getting PPE to community-based workers. The hospitals are going to also struggle, but they’re doing better. In fact, a number of us were talking about how we feel like we’re just little lambs to slaughter because this is all community spread. So I thank Andy Slavitt, the non-doctor, for bringing up advocacy for the doctors and nurses and frontline workers. But, yes, I think they will do that. And that’ll be a given.
[26:46] Andy Slavitt: Schools?
[26:49] Kavita Patel: The CDC still is the place that people trust for information, especially when schools are thinking about guidance. So I do think that — you heard it here first, I’m giving credit to the Trump administration. I think the CDC is trying to put out guidance day by day for educators to get children in-person in schools. I think a Biden/Harris administration will put even more emphasis on how to support schools, primarily by offering childcare support. And I think that’s something that’ll take dollars, which I think is hard to do on a day one. But I do think that they’ll put out not just more guidance to schools that can support in-person learning, but provide the necessary child care, which is why a lot of parents need to have schools open so that they can work.
[27:33] Andy Slavitt: And then how about massive accountability for national testing and making sure we have sufficient tests?
[27:39] Kavita Patel: Yeah. I mean, I do think that this tragedy over testing — I’ve now talked to some of the manufacturers themselves and still don’t understand. What they tell me is that they can’t make more machines because manufacturing facilities are not in the United States. And it’s hard. Then that’s not acceptable. We need to find a way to make every American, when we really want Americans to be tested and understand what the penetration of this virus is, how many people have it, we have to have more accessible testing. And hopefully more easy testing that you can do at home. That will hopefully be the trend.
[28:19] Andy Slavitt: Well, what you’ve described in a nutshell are both a process, a set of personnel, and most importantly, a set of elements in the plan that look very different than what we have today.
[28:36] Kavita Patel: Oh, and I should have said rejoin the World Health Organization, or I think a part of our strategy, a national strategy, is to be part of an international entity. And day one, we can talk about the WHO’s drawbacks, everybody has them, but we need to make a signal that America’s here and not going to play by itself, and that we’re part of the solution, not part of the problem, which is what we are today.
[29:03] Andy Slavitt: So go back and listen to the Chelsea Clinton episode to hear a great conversation on the WHO and what it actually does, and what we’ve just cut off funding for. And we’ve been just about to nail polio once and for all, eradicated from the planet, and we’ve pulled back.
[29:19] Kavita Patel: And then I keep thinking of more things. The other thing I’ll say, the notion of COVID as a chronic condition is going to be incredibly germane. It’s gonna be incredibly important in January, because we will now have people who’ve had almost a year and are suffering from fatigue and joint pain. And I see patients who have bizarre symptoms. And all we can chalk it up to is they were COVID positive, you know, four months ago, etc. And I do think that that’s just going to be a story. So I look for a Biden/Harris administration to really, like, double down — in fact, consider it like a research institute and an entity that’s more nimble, dedicated to this. It wouldn’t be a traditional NIH institute. It would be one that would incorporate bench science potentially along with kind of real-world evidence, comparative effectiveness. And then as you let at CMS, thinking about what is the impact to patients on outcomes and how does access impact that. So it’s kind of the intersection of the most relevant areas. And I think that would be brilliant because I think the world would benefit from it.
[30:23] Andy Slavitt: So Kavita Patel, caring physician working in clinics, wonderful policy mind, generous colleague, advisor to some of the people that may be leading the country next, depending on what happens in November. And I think it’s important for people who don’t get to see behind the scenes in Washington and wonder, what are the people like who make stuff work? What do they think about how, how do they touch it? This is it. This is you know, you’re meeting one and Dr Patel is one of the best. It’s so it’s so great of you to come on and thank you for all that you do.
[30:59] Kavita Patel: Thanks, Andy.
[33:22] Andy Slavitt: Thanks to Kavita. Let’s flip now to our next guest, Neera Tanden.
[33:35] Neera Tanden: Hi.
[33:36] Andy Slavitt: Well, thank you for coming on. We are putting this out on the first day of the Democratic National Convention. I thought you’d be the perfect person to have on for our, like, convention special show. But first of all, how the heck are you feeling? You had coronavirus, for people who don’t know.
[33:56] Neera Tanden: I did. I did. And I’m feeling much, much better. I was not feeling so great, when I had the virus. I was pretty wiped out by it. I was sick for about six weeks or so. But I’m basically, you know, I’m almost a hundred percent. I still get some symptoms, or I experience things that feel like the symptoms I had — muscle pains, stomach aches — when I had the virus. But I’m so much better. So thank you for asking.
[34:31] Andy Slavitt: Thank God. How bad did it get? Were you ever really worried, or were you just feeling horribly miserable?
[34:36] Neera Tanden: Well, you know, I don’t know what you would describe it, a mild or moderate case. I never had a fever and my oxygen was always fine. I have an oximeter and I check that. But I was at one point sleeping 20 hours a day. And when that kept going for a few days, I got a little worried. But I started recovering a few days after that. So it’s a long recovery and it comes and goes. I mean, you can feel great one day and then feel terrible for the next three days.
[35:10] Andy Slavitt: Yeah. Well, thank God you’re okay. So speaking of being OK, finally, the election is soon upon us. The period from the convention to the election. And this one is going to be different. Give us some background: how many of these have you been to and sort of describe what it’s normally like?
[35:35] Neera Tanden: I’ve been to every Democratic convention since 1996, so I’m going to leave to other people the math. But conventions are — I find them to be an intense, incredible kind of delight. You see people you haven’t seen in four years. People come from all over the country. It’s really people from all different parts of the country, all different walks of life kind of come together, all with a deep interest in politics. But they all kind of come together to, I mean, celebrate being a Democrat. And also, you know, you see the top talent in the party at the convention nights, but that it’s also a real opportunity to see where the party is headed and where the movement’s behind the parties are headed.
[36:37] Andy Slavitt: At some level there’s an electricity or enthusiasm that sort of pumps people up. And as you say, you hear a lot of great speeches. So how do you think it’s going to go this year without all that?
[36:52] Neera Tanden: Well, I think it’s obviously an extremely different experience. I think it’ll be more somber. I think this convention is really going to be essentially the coronavirus convention. It’s a convention deeply impacted by what we are living through, a catastrophe. And, you know, I mean, what’s good is that Democrats are taking the virus very seriously by the way they’ve approached the convention. And I obviously think we’ll remember it for the rest of our lives. I hope we’ll have conventions in the future that will be much more like the past. But I think, you know, the conventions can be celebratory. And, you know, regardless, that’s a little bit off the message right now, because I don’t think the country is really celebrating anything, just like I don’t think the conventions in 1932 were particularly celebratory. And I honestly feel this is a very similar moment for the country.
[38:02] Andy Slavitt: Let’s talk about the party and policy platform, etc. The big work was, of course, the unity team. We had Bernie Sanders on a couple of weeks back and he talked to the listeners of the program about the work that was done with the joint Biden-Sanders team. And, of course, the idea of unifying the party when there’s obviously kind of this notion of wings developing. How well do you think there’s a coalescing, and do you think it will happen better than it did in 2016?
[38:39] Neera Tanden: Oh, I think it’s remarkably better than 2016. In 2016, I was part of the platform writing committee. So that was the joint committee between the delegates named by Senator Sanders and delegates named by Hillary Clinton. And then there were delegates named to the platform writing committee, which is about 15 people or so that came from the DNC. And so that was a much more divisive process than the Sanders-Biden unity working groups, task forces, I think they’re called. And, you know, I think I think the reality is that in 2016, a lot of people didn’t think Donald Trump would become president, and no one could hide under that illusion right now, since he is president. And I think it has really focused the minds of everyone. I’ll say here, I’ve said in many other places, I really applaud the work of Senator Sanders to help unify the party and to really go out there and be a strong advocate for Joe Biden’s campaign. And I think the platform writing committee or the unity task force that worked on the new recommendations has been really important. It really is ultimately up to Biden and his, if he becomes president, what he does with those. But I think the work was really excellent.
[40:10] Andy Slavitt: If Biden does become president, which do you think is more important: that he pass some of the progressive policies that advance the country in ways that are consistent with the Democratic Party’s ideals and visions? Or that he unify the country and try to heal some of the fissures that broke a lot of the institutions, even if that means he doesn’t pass as many things as he would otherwise?
[40:38] Neera Tanden: So I think that we’re in a moment where this is a little bit of a false choice. What I mean by that is if you even look at what Joe Biden has proposed, whether it’s essentially a universal child care program that really creates jobs and caregiving, or his climate proposal, or his jobs agenda, there are obviously areas in which he has policy disagreements with, you know, some forces on the left. That exists. But I think the country’s mood, given the pandemic, is such that people are open to a bigger role for government to actually solve problems. And I think the way to meet these two issues is having a big jobs agenda that also addresses our climate challenge or having a big jobs agenda that also deals with the fact that the United States is unique in the world for not investing in child care. So you’re marrying issues that have been paramount for lots of Democrats for a long time, with a solution to the nation’s problems in this moment. And I actually think moderate voters are much more open to this. And, you know, essentially, Joe Biden has announced the largest-scale jobs agenda of any Democrat in decades. And, you know, it’s been welcomed and being perceived as a totally reasonable plan. And so I’m hoping that that’s the way we move forward.
[42:26] Andy Slavitt: All right. Thanks, Neera.
[42:30] Neera Tanden: Absolutely. Thank you.
[42:37] Andy Slavitt: All right. I hope that was edifying and useful and interesting. And let me tell you what’s coming up. On Wednesday, Steve Kerr from the Golden State Warriors and the NBA. Very exciting for me at least, I hope for you, too. That’s going to be a great conversation about how the different sports leagues are handling things and schools are handling things about social justice, race issues. Steve’s got opinions and everything, and he’s just fabulous to listen to. Next Monday, the Republicans. We’re going to talk about the Republicans with Bill Kristol, longtime Republican commentator, and he’s going to help us understand what happens with a Trump reelection and various thoughts on that. And then after Bill, we have another episode that I think you’ll want to listen to. It is with Brian Cashman. Brian is the general manager of the New York Yankees. And it is really an episode on how things have gone so badly wrong, quite honestly, with the management of the pandemic in Major League Baseball. So forget about whether you like baseball or not, there’s only mostly cardboard fans these days anyway, and enjoy that episode. And then we’re going to have our back to school toolkit, which I know everybody’s been waiting for.
[44:14] 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.