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[00:00:04]

Welcome to politics. I'm Ron Stessel. This is our weekly roundup, where we bring in a rotating panel of experts to discuss the truth. You need to know behind the most important stories of the week and how they're shaping the political landscape in this country. And on today's episode, I'm joined by a really fantastic panel, Lucy Caldwell, who is a veteran political strategist and tech founder and a former senior political adviser at the Goldwater Institute. Lucy, so good to see you.

[00:00:34]

Great to be here again, you guys. Also returning to the round up is political strategist and crisis communications consultant and MSNBC political analyst Susan Susan. Always good to have you back. Oh, so great to be with you. So it's been a really busy week, so let's dove right in. We're going to discuss critical updates in covid vaccine production and distribution, as well as some new insights into the politicization of the vaccine itself. And we'll examine the continuing evolution of the big lie that is the demonstrably, disgustingly false claims of widespread election fraud in 2020.

[00:01:11]

And finally, we'll get into the Republican Party's push to rebrand itself as the Workers Party. So let's start today, though, with some actually really fantastic news, which is that the FDA just announced its findings that a potential third vaccine option provides strong protection against severe disease and death from covid-19, and it may help reduce spread as well. Johnson and Johnson's vaccine, though it has a somewhat lower efficacy rate than the other vaccines, only requires a single dose.

[00:01:44]

It can also be stored at normal refrigeration temperatures, making its distribution considerably easier than the vaccines made by Moderna and Pfizer, both of which require two doses and extremely low storage temperatures. And the need for these freezing temperatures so everyone remembers, means more severe supply chain challenges. Also, according to The New York Times, the Johnson and Johnson vaccine was shown to induce milder side effects than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, and there have been no reports of severe allergic reactions.

[00:02:15]

Now, if the FDA gives its final approval, which could come as soon as this weekend, this is potentially going to accelerate the number of shots going into arms. And consequently, our return to I won't say normal, but what happens next? Right. So I want to give you both a chance to talk about this. But, Susan, why don't we start with you? Because I don't think we can really expect to go back to what we saw as normal before the pandemic, not just because of covid, but the racial justice protests and an insurrection at the Capitol, but with the increase in vaccinations.

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How do you want to reimagine how we want to see the world as we move forward? Well, you know, being in New York City being so hard hit initially last year and seeing the devastation it caused so fast, so quickly, I mean, I take walks every day in Central Park and there was a field hospital there last April.

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So when you think about what that means and just the stunning numbers of people and in the tragedy, it was overwhelming. When you think about where we can go right now, we're fortunate our hospitals are doing well, like they're managing the case as well.

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But the businesses are dying on the vine here in New York. And it's the small mom and pop shops. It's dry cleaners because people aren't getting their dry cleaning done and they can't afford the rent. It's manicure places and hair salons. It's in small restaurants. But also it's it's the bustling areas of midtown Manhattan where it's isolated and desolate. People are not going back to their offices. And even with the vaccination, there's a lot of talk about how officers are going to size down.

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So why do I bring all of that up? Is to say the economic impact and who will be hit the hardest are going to be the people who saved this city, the frontline workers, the people who worked in the supermarkets, the people who deliver our food.

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There's going to be a big economic shift in New York and that is going to have a big effect, I think, on the people who, you know, certainly are making a lot less money, but also trying to absorb the loss that they have. I mean, we're hearing about the Johnson Johnson vaccine. That's great. And people are getting vaccinated. But there are a lot there's still a lot of people very concerned about getting vaccinated, which is a whole separate issue that we have to talk about.

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But I give the community leaders a lot of credit for going out there and getting vaccinated and showing their communities of color that it's OK.

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But I am just really concerned about how this separates us more as a society going forward, because there is going to be a big economic shift. We talk about a case, sharp recovery. I'm afraid we're going to be living in a case shaped environment community more.

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And I think that's where we could potentially be going. And it's going to take a lot of work to bridge those divides.

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And, you know, for example, right now in New York, around the country, you talk me about hearing a lot more taxing of people. Well, if people leave the state, which they already have, taxing them isn't going to get us there and it's going to have a very bad reverse economic impact. So that's how I'm thinking of it. In a bigger picture is what our society looks like once we come out of this to a good vaccination rate and herd immunity.

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Yeah, and and I really want to get a what we want it to look like, given the reality you just described. Lucy, I want to get your take first and then let's let's dove into, you know, if there is any remedy, how we should be thinking about whether and how we can shape what that recovery looks like. Yeah, so I've been thinking a lot about how we get lots of folks vaccinated, what that rollout is looking like, I actually had the opportunity to volunteer in Arizona, where I've been spending some time during the pandemic at State Farm Stadium, the stadium where the Arizona Cardinals play.

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It's the largest vaccine site in the state. And yeah, it's incredible. So my job when I'm volunteering is to help people schedule second appointments. And so you're catching them. It's incredibly gratifying because you're catching people in this extreme moment of relief, which is that they've just gotten their first shot. Everyone at that site is receiving Fizer. And in Arizona, like a lot of states, people over 65 are eligible. People who are essential workers, including teachers, are eligible.

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And so you see a real cross-section of Arizonans. And something that is really remarkable about it is that, you know, people who are coming in in a Mercedes on the way to a golf game are getting the same treatment as people who are coming off a night shift. Right. It's a really, really equalizing force. And I think that some of that kind of question of how the rollout has been going, it's kind of put on display when my fellow Arizonan, Meghan McCain, said last week, how is it that I, Meghan McCain, co-host of The View, don't know when I'm going to be getting a vaccine?

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And I thought, no, that's that's a strength of the rollout. You're a healthy, able bodied 30 something. And so I think that in a lot of places we are seeing that the approach that we're taking to vaccine rollout looks more like the kind of approach that we would want to see our country take in a lot of different areas.

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You know, when we with that.

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Yeah. So I think think about the ways the vaccine rollout could have gone. Right. There's actually a little scandal this week with the concierge medical company, one medical group, because they were found out to have been giving vaccines to people who did not meet the eligibility.

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They were one of the the outfits that the outfits that had been received contracts, you know, I don't know which locality, but to give vaccines to people who are eligible. And they were found to have been giving vaccines to people who were not eligible. And it's a huge scandal and it's a scandal for a good reason, which is that we've made a commitment as a country to vaccinate people regardless of how much money they have or how much power or influence they have.

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And that means that Meghan McCain is way at the back of the line. And that's a good thing. You know, one of the things that I think struck a lot of people when the covid hit was, wow, rich or poor, connected, well connected or not, covid can really hit anyone. And that's proven to be true. It's been different than other crises the country has faced, but we still have seen that it disproportionately affects black and brown Americans, disproportionately affects lower income folks, because they just don't have the resources to hole up and live their life over Zoom.

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So seeing that this approach has been taken, I think in most places with the vaccine rollout has been really good. There are some signs that we're getting better, but we're not perfect. In L.A. County, there's been another little scuffle because community leaders were trying to figure out ways to help L.A. residents who were disproportionately affected a lot of folks and say the Latino community to get vaccinated. And they were sending out KUAC special codes and people who, you know, live in multimillion dollar condos in Santa Monica, got a hold of these and were scheduling vaccines.

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So I think the vaccine rollout has been a really interesting opportunity to kind of think about what kind of world we want to aspire to be, what kind of country we want to be, and having it happen in this backdrop politically, where we've had a repudiation of some of the ugliness that we saw create conditions for the social justice protests last summer. We've had a repudiation of Trump. We've had a repudiation of some of this ugly stuff. And and so I'm I'm just really interested and and hopeful about some of the parallels that I see in the vaccine rollout itself and and the country's direction as a whole.

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I'm intrigued by the way you're talking about this, because I. I really like thinking about covid and vaccine distribution almost as a different angle to look at a fresher angle, to look at that inequity within society and how we choose to deal with it, because the conversations around income equality and wealth inequality are are they sort of take on a life of their own because we know where all the all the. Set and what they think, but this is different.

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It is a different way to approach the same kind of inequity. Susan, how are you thinking about that?

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And and specifically as it relates to our economic recovery, I guess, what lessons can we learn and how should we how much should we be thinking about how we try to shape the recovery?

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Well, there's two takeaways. One is especially now under President Biden, we see that government can work and how we can put supply chains in place and operate better, that when you have good governance, people can be better served. But when I'm looking forward to is things like infrastructure, and I know it's going to sound really geeky, but we love this forecast.

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When you think about it and how it affects income inequality, take the subways right now. If we're going to build back better, as Biden says, we can look at things like making sure that our subways are and public transportation are not just improved, but that we have to fund it to keep the costs down. Because what happens if you can't afford to commute every day to work? If that costs is taking if they have to raise it by twenty five percent, that affects, you know, people who travel on the subway a great deal.

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And that really, you know, again, when it comes to schools, let's talk about we've just spent all this money and ventilation for so kids can go back to school. How can we expand on that and make sure that we're giving them good places to go? Maybe we can use some of those dollars to four as we're building the ventilation. We can also use the money to make the sturdy walls get rid of mold.

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I mean, like there's a lot of things there that we can be using these dollars to help us in a very societal way and to ensure that, you know, whether you go to a school in a suburb, a wealthy suburb or in an inner city, you're getting the basic good environment that every child should have.

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So I think that we can use the recovery dollars that way. So infrastructure is part of the rebuild, if you will, which goes into the economy because it also means more jobs. Right. But the overall economy, I think we have to start. You know, the debate about the minimum wage is an interesting one. I do think at some level, states should have a way of looking at what works best for them or an opportunity to maybe roll in and better a minimum wage like New York in New York at fifteen dollars an hour.

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But it took four years to to roll it in. And the last people who had to work in places that were much smaller and didn't weren't big cities where people tend to have a much more higher, expensive living. So I think we have to look carefully at things like that. But there are things that we can be doing that balance. You know, we hear about giving tax breaks to restaurants, for example, and that like in some cities, that's a big industry.

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People think it's just a bit like so people can go out to eat. Now, that's the economy. That's the fundamental issue.

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It's also how do you know what what is building in a city or suburb? If you're not building, you're not moving forward in a lot of ways.

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I know a lot of people hate overdevelop, but you want to see that growth and are we meeting those needs and challenges and be careful not to overregulate as we're going forward, finding the ways, the way the federal government has been able to work with states and states have been more able to work with municipalities over covid.

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And vaccination should be a blueprint on how to work on other projects. And I think that mentality can get us to a much better place that is much more equitable.

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Yeah, Lisa, I saw you nodding. Yeah.

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I mean, some of the kind of issues that we see popping up around the pandemic, I think to me remind me of why I once was attracted to certain aspects of old style conservatism and Republicanism, which is that there's a lot to say for federalism. It is good when state and local leaders can make decisions in the best interests of their communities because they have a much better handle on the issues and challenges facing their communities than a bureaucrat in Washington. Now, I'm really sounding like a like a conservative again.

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And of course, I don't use that label for myself anymore. But, you know, I think sometimes we see how things are going and we see an example of something going badly somewhere. And we think that means that we can't leave this up to a state. An example of this, I think, in in the covid vaccine rollout is that I think a lot of people have been following the kind of a hot button issue of should kids be back in school.

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Right. There's so many implications. Again, another issue that is disproportionately impacting lower income Americans, and I think people in the twenty eight states where teachers have been vaccinated think why would teachers in that other state not be eager to get back into the classroom? Do they care about kids? And they're not thinking about the fact that 22 states as of last week had not made teachers eligible for the vaccine, which is unbelievable. Wow. And so it's easy to then think, what's Joe Biden going to do about that?

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Right. But we we actually we just need state and local leaders to be better. And that in that situation, we need them to be more cognizant of the really challenging issues facing families and the tough positions that they're putting teachers in. And so I think that these kinds of opportunities, recoveries in general, you know, large federal stimulus programs and recoveries often include block granting to states to kind of help them figure out what to do with allocation of funds and what kind of infrastructure is it mentions to invest in.

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And so I think that we are on the precipice of of being able to make a lot of decisions in this new era that can help us reshape in local communities into the kind of country that we want to be.

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So with the good news now out of the way, because it never last for long, I want to talk about the largest hurdle after supply in achieving herd immunity, and that's vaccine skepticism. So a tracking poll from civics, that's Sivi IQ is for anyone who wants to dig it up themselves, made the rounds this week as it shows that skepticism and hesitation toward taking the vaccine has dropped substantially since vaccines began on December 14th. And this trend tracks with almost every demographic, including black Americans, Hispanic Americans and white Democrats.

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Only one group has stubbornly maintained an elevated percentage of those who say they will not take the vaccine or are still unsure. White Republicans. So just thirty three percent of those groups say they will take the vaccine once it becomes available and another 12 percent are reported to have already taken it. 14 percent are unsure and an astonishing forty two percent say they will decline the vaccine.

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So, Susan, I want to start with you here about what messaging could possibly reach these skeptics and who can deliver that message. Well, it's really interesting when you look at the numbers and where they've gone and where they've gone down as far as hesitancy, and it's because community leaders have been going out there to their regions, to their areas, to their churches and schools to get vaccinated, to show that they support this. For example, I know, you know, Reverend Sharpton and a bunch of clergy are getting their vaccination shots to show their communities and people of color like it's good and they'll get some television and everything else.

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But it puts out there that it's safe and with with trusted leaders. And that's so important.

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What these numbers about, you know, white people think it's right down to it tells me that there aren't people telling them it's safe and it's good.

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And I think there's a segment of that which is due to Donald Trump and that support of anti vaccines, which has been a movement long going. And Trump didn't even during covid and even though he was praising warp speed, he wouldn't necessarily completely tackle that issue. So I think that there's there is and that's probably we need to see more leadership out there addressing those issues from those people who communicate with them and who they follow. And it's amazing when you look at conservative media, how little they talk about vaccination.

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And this is the worst part. And this is the part that just gets me so much because they're afraid it makes Joe Biden look good.

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Yeah. So what the heck is wrong with with us with our conservative media when they are afraid to have to promote these vaccinations and in a positive way because they're afraid Joe Biden will get credit? Yeah, I'll give I will give Donald Trump credit for warp speed. I will. I'll say. I mean, there's a lot of things he didn't execute well. But for doing that and to get the vaccination production up and running before they even knew if it was going to work, that was really good and really strong.

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But not to keep following through on the need for it, as if to say if we don't talk about a vaccination, then maybe people won't think it is as bad as it is.

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I can't put my head around it. But that's where you have to go. When white Republicans are saying they're not getting vaccinated, it's because they're not getting a message. And I wish I could you know, it's not as easy as just saying, like, why doesn't Mitch McConnell go out there or Donald Trump? But it's amazing that the conservative media is not pushing this message harder, especially considering we know that their viewers and listeners tend to be older.

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I mean, this would just be good responsibility. And if nothing else, they should want them alive to listen and follow their broadcasts. Yeah, if for only selfish reasons.

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Right. So, Lucy, given given everything Susan just said, which I think is spot on. How do you think this discrepancy among who is actually willing to take the vaccine absent any changes in terms of signaling or or positive messaging around around vaccination to this to this particular group? How do you think that's going to affect recovery across the country?

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Here's why. Although I'm concerned about this, it's not keeping me up at night right now because we have supply issues. We still have supply issues. So the people I want to see get vaccinated right now are the people who want to be vaccinated. So let's get low income folks who live in cities where it's hard to socially distance and hard to be able to protect yourself from covid exposure in your job or in your high density apartment building. Let's get teachers vaccinated.

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Let's get all of these people vaccinated. I think that eventually I hope that more white Republicans decide to join the join the vaccine train. And, you know, I think that but I think at this point that's we cross that bridge when we come to it later this summer, obviously, we want to make sure that we don't have hospital overcrowding. So I'm not so fatalistic that I'm kind of like, well, if you get sick, you get sick because, of course, it will continue to be a drain on our health care system.

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But I think that there's another piece of this also and and I would agree with Susan that I actually think that the Trump administration and I probably never I never say this does deserve credit for operation warp speed and the rollout. You know, there was a lot of talk about how Canada last year had ordered like five X supply of the vaccine. And now Canada is way, way, way behind on vaccinating people because Justin Trudeau did not do a thing that Donald Trump did and that Boris Johnson did, which was very smart, which was that both the U.S. and the U.K. struck deals with vaccine.

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Makers to make sure that the production of the vaccine was being was happening in the US, right. Or in in their home countries. In contrast, Justin Trudeau could have made his bed with Western Europe in vaccine production, and now he's at the mercy of this ongoing fight taking place in the European Union over supply. So credit to the Trump administration for that piece of this puzzle. I don't think that Donald Trump is going to be coming out anytime soon and getting vaccinated on television.

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That's a fool's errand. But I do think that. But but I do think that hopefully we can convince these people. And I also think that probably overall some of the media coverage needs to change, not just on the right, but I've started to feel a little frustrated with mainstream media coverage of vaccination. There have been a lot of articles this week about how once you're fully vaccinated, you still need to be super careful and kind of take the precautions that you've been taking.

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And, of course, we need people to keep wearing masks. But our media, I think some of the coverage is still really focused on kind of crisis and we certainly are in crisis. But if a bunch of 80 something year old ladies in Florida who are all fully vaccinated and want to get together to play bridge, that's fine. That's fine now. And we have to also show that getting vaccinated means that you can get back to your life.

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You can get back to the behavior that you want to be doing. You can see your loved ones. You can do the things that you love. And Andy Slavitt, who is now an adviser to Biden on covid response, has a has a podcast called In the Bubble. It's had really excellent coverage of of covid throughout. It's been taken over by some other folks who are all, you know, epidemiologists, the medical practitioners. And this is not something I'm saying out of wishful thinking.

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People on that podcast who are experts have said, yes, if you have been fully vaccinated, yes, it's safe to get together with vaccinated people. It's safe to go to the gym. It's safe. You get to change your behavior. So I think that as we move toward making that clear, that we get off of a kind of way of talking that I think has some people thinking, well, what's the point of being vaccinated if I still can't even see my grandkids, that we could start to see some movement in some of those groups, some white Republicans.

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OK, so, Lucy, I just briefly want to take that coin and look at the other side of it, because there's also a debate going on and we can talk about the merits, but there's a debate going on about whether or not the differences in vaccine distribution and the recommended change in behavior or no change in behavior, having the potential to exacerbate existing inequities in society and having a different impact on class.

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Well, I think that's part of why it's so important for us to continue to take an egalitarian approach to vaccine rollout. We want to make sure that people from all walks of life have the same access to vaccines. And I think large it's actually a great example of the government doing something right and these sort of large scale vaccination sites and community groups mobilizing to drive people who need to be vaccinated to be vaccinated are great. I think that a lot of this does come down to something that, of course, I'm not an epidemiologist, so I can't speak to other than as a layperson who reads a lot of coverage, which is this question of vaccine transmission, whether or not people have been vaccinated could still carry covid.

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That's a good idea. But I think that and I think that it's a really tough thing because we normally have a lot longer periods of clinical trials and research to to know these things. And we are still dealing we're dealing with this live environment, but an environment where, you know, these vaccines are still only being dispensed under an emergency use authorization. Right. This is all happening so fast and it's a scientific miracle. But I think certainly for people who have been really, really isolated, you know, I helped so many people make second appointments or their vaccines in the last couple of weekends where they would tell me that they haven't seen their grandchildren in a year, you know, I mean, in tears, talking about seeing their grandchildren.

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And so I think that at some point, we we do have to leave it up to people to make the best choices for themselves. Everyone should continue to wear a mask. We should continue to be careful. But I think that especially for older Americans who have really, I think, felt uniquely isolated during this time, being able to get together with your friends and you're awfully vaccinated and there's no risk whatsoever. I just think we should absolutely not stand in.

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His way of getting back to their normal lives and that's good for business is true. That's good for economic recovery is as Susan as Susan said, that is good for local hair, beauty shops and restaurants. If people who are fully vaccinated can get back to doing the things they were doing before, it serves all of us.

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Susan. Yeah, just to follow up on that part. There is also something else to consider is there's a lot of workplaces that are considering having a requirement that people be vaccinated. That's actually going to be another very big issue. And as Lucy just mentioned, there's an emergency authorization, which means you cannot require businesses right now, cannot require. But there will be that divide and there is issues of personal health involved. I mean, there's a whole lot of things that I think we'll see a whole explosion of of other issues to come up.

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But there's also one other thing that's so important and I think could help drive the vaccination effort is. There are over 500000 Americans dead, more than World War one, two and Vietnam combined. It's such a staggering number that it's almost impossible for four people to get their head around at the same time, since we are seeing positive things happen, like lower rates, et cetera, in the states, people are maybe not as aware and cautious, is aware as they should be about these things.

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Maybe they're numb, which is why I think the President Biden did this this week with the with the lights and and in recognizing and calling kind of for the nation to mourn together, we do have to you know, that will help, I think, in recognizing that this still is a really big problem and that you have to go out there and get vaccinated because you can still die from it if you don't. And 500000 people have already died. And even though this has been going on for close to a year now, it is still there.

[00:30:54]

And we are only is as strong as our weakest link as we like to say. If we don't see herd immunity, we will be struggling. And that has the health crisis to it and the economic one. If the sooner we get herd immunity, we have to find a way to get those people vaccinated.

[00:31:14]

Although I also agree with Lucy when she said I want those who want it to happen first before we leave this topic.

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I just we Susan, we should also note that at least Lindsey Graham, Joni Ernst, Mitch McConnell, Mike Pence and Marco Rubio have all been vaccinated. And we were talking about how there's a lack of sort of signaling by leadership for Republican white Republicans. Right. I don't know if I want to open up this can of worms, but did those senators not count? And I think the answer is yes, because Donald Trump still has such he's he's still like the figurehead for the party, that it really doesn't matter what these senators do or what they say.

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Right. For their own constituents. They still look to Donald Trump for for for that kind of signaling. Is that fair? Yeah, it's fair.

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It's it's he is still running the show. And when you have Republican senators who are also looking to run for president and want to follow in his footsteps, if you will, that's also another problem because they are not necessarily speaking out for what's the best of their constituency, but again, focusing on what's best for their presidential career.

[00:32:27]

I mean, when you think about it, how many high profile Trump officials or the president himself, we never saw him get a shot. That's that's unthinkable considering the influence that he has. You know, even Melania's parents, did they get shots, I mean, I don't know, I mean, I may not be aware of the reality show exactly.

[00:32:54]

And still not. And if they want you know, it's ironic because as this covid bill is going making its way through now, Republicans are four by 60 percent, the covid relief bill. You know why? Because they want the money into their economies and they want the vaccinations. So, I mean, at least in conceptual ways, they want that. So they really should be out there. I expect nothing from former President Trump, absolutely nothing at this point.

[00:33:24]

I don't know what he could do that would really make a difference in that whatever he was else he would do on top of it would hurt us more as a country. Whenever he speaks, it hurts us. So even if he wanted to try and do something positive, you couldn't do that in a bubble. And so I don't know how much harm he would also do, which is really frightening.

[00:33:46]

I mean, and if you think about, you know, former President Barack Obama, he was willing to roll up his sleeve. Yeah, president former President Bush was I mean, this is this is what it means for service. And maybe if we start thinking about and holding our elected officials saying this is public service.

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Yeah. Maybe in a good photo op. All right, I'll just give you that it's a good photo op for you unless you don't like the way your arms look.

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I mean, and I can understand that, but, you know, at least you did. So it's a perfect segue way.

[00:34:18]

Speaking of opening your mouth and doing more damage, to change gears a little bit to the Big Lie, because I want to talk about the latest ways some Republicans are keeping this big lie that Biden's victory is a legitimate alive, because despite the general lack of evidence, the dozens of lost court cases, Bill Barr and more dispelling Trump's false claims about election fraud, a literal insurrection attempt, and the fact that Joe Biden has been president for well over a month.

[00:34:50]

Some Republicans are still focused on lying to their constituents about the election. Axios reported earlier this week that Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz, one of Donald Trump's most ardent loyalists in the House, joined a group of conservatives at a so-called activist training aimed at combating the use of the same voting technology that is central to much of the Trump team's election theft conspiracies. And now, you know, we covered recently with Joyce Vance on the podcast. The proponents of these lies are now finding themselves in deep legal trouble as Dominion and Smartmatic to recover from their wrongfully tarnished reputations at the hands of the likes of Fox News.

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So, Lucy, why is Matt Gates and so many others in the Trump camp? Why are they so fixated on these voting machine technologies specifically as a way of upholding their election fraud claims? I think it goes to their perverse sense of what American exceptionalism means and what kind of mandate they have. I think that the kind of there's a sense, I think on on that side and that sort of well, on that side, I mean, in that dumpster fire, that is the prevailing powers that be on the right right now, that the ends justify the means.

[00:36:13]

That's something that we've talked about on this podcast before. We've talked about people like Senator Mike Lee saying that democracy is not the goal. Right. Like ranked democracy thwarts human flourishing.

[00:36:26]

I mean, stuff that just sounds I remember how stunned I was when I first heard that last year, just like that, that an American politician could say those words and still have a job. I just. Sorry to interrupt you.

[00:36:39]

Yeah, but that's like the quintessential ends justify the means. Right. And so and Trump is part of how they all justify their support and not just support enablement of Trump is the ends justify the means. Yeah, I don't like his tweets, but it's who he is and the economy and my 401k and your 401k and things are great. So at the point when you have a repudiation of that, you're not achieving your ends. Right. So it means that you can no longer justify your means.

[00:37:10]

And so I think that the cult of Trump is so strong that they feel like if they cannot say no, no, no, this was stolen from you just like stick with it, then they're kind of up a creek. What I think is really interesting about that Matt Gates training and peace is that he he did that at the Leadership Institute, which is a group that every young conservative knew coming up. And and I at one point was teaching courses at the Leadership Institute.

[00:37:40]

It was this massive recruitment tool. Right, to get to Mark Blackwell, the head of it really pioneered what we all now know is clogging up our mailboxes in inboxes. But he was sort of the godfather of direct mail and they had such massive, massive infrastructure. And part of how they did that was that they were not like super far right and clearly associated with a particular slant. It was tactical. They would get lobbyists who were local lobbyists and state houses to teach courses and recruit members.

[00:38:15]

They were training mass numbers of candidates and the idea was build infrastructure. It was not to push a particular ideology. So the fact that the Leadership Institute now is the venue for this kind of stuff, like just spewing disinformation about the election and our voting system is really remarkable for four folks who've, you know, that insiders and following this stuff for a long time.

[00:38:40]

Yeah, Susan, go ahead. In particular, these voting machines is what they're focused on. And it's almost like they're using them as as a you know, as a as a as an avatar for everything that's wrong with the election. Because they can't. Because there is no other evidence. Right.

[00:38:56]

Well, right. And the machines can't be challenged anymore because they've been taken out of operation.

[00:39:02]

It's a great foil to to say the machines were rigged because also they counted all the paper ballots that they had the hard copies.

[00:39:14]

So even from the machine ballot. So it's just a foil to say, like, the machines are bad. I mean, it's like a sci fi movie, like the machines did it and they're coming out to get all Americans it. No, it's not the case, but it's it's like dominion. Like, I think they just trying to brand something because, again, this is not about policy or truth or seeking justice.

[00:39:43]

This is about creating a narrative. Yes. And that's all it is.

[00:39:48]

This is part of a story that's being told that can continue that they hope will continue. So, for example, the watch them to flip the Dominion story about the lawsuits.

[00:40:02]

Oh, the bad voting company Voting Machine Company is suing our great television host, Fox News.

[00:40:12]

Like, how can they do it? They're an enemy. And it's another that's all the Republicans have right now is to create these enemies. Whether or not they exist is irrelevant because they have nowhere else to go. You know, there's a reason why and it's going to sound weird to tie it in, that they are going after some of Biden's cabinet picks, especially people of color.

[00:40:35]

Yeah, it's the us versus them. It's the machines and the Democrats who pick those machines and they're bad. They need as many little fights as they can have because they're looking for relevance. And so. I will ship because they're losing the bigger picture. They're losing the fight on the covid bill, they're even losing the fight right now in the polling on immigration right now, 60 percent of the people want to see a pathway.

[00:41:03]

It may not be what the Bush administration proposed, but there's no issue for them. So they keep creating all these little stories that pop up that it's us versus them.

[00:41:13]

That bad company, that bad people like that. It's it's the only thing they can hold onto. And no one really cares about dominion. So, I mean, people you know, the voters don't care for this country, don't care so much about it. So why not spin it up? Yeah, because that's all they got.

[00:41:34]

Because we know what we know that a month after the election, like 70 percent of Republicans thought that Biden's win was illegitimate. And now it seems what they're trying to do is delegitimize Democrats in general, right? Correct.

[00:41:49]

Yeah, that's where I mean and again, that's you know, look, even with Dominion, I was, you know, hardly used like it. It doesn't matter because it's a way of of saying there was something that I can't prove and never will be able to prove. But if you believe me, in my words, because I'm Donald Trump, I'm just going to say they they screwed me and you're going to believe it.

[00:42:16]

So on Tuesday, at a joint Senate hearing between the rules and Homeland Security Committees, which was supposed to be focused on the security failures that precipitated the attack on the Capitol, Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin, floated conspiracy theories about fake Trump protesters and provocateurs that he alleges infiltrated the otherwise positive and peaceful crowd, presumably to sow doubt as to who actually stormed the Capitol and, of course, who is to blame for inciting it. So I want to get both of your takes on this.

[00:42:50]

But, Susan, let's start with you. Why are some Republicans going out of their way with another gaslighting attempt about what happened on January 6th? And how is it connected to their overall dishonesty about the election in general? Because this to me seems like it's all of a piece. For a long time, I just kept saying Ron Johnson must have been dropped on his head.

[00:43:13]

Now, I think he's just a really bad person and just has an agenda that is it's it goes beyond just being in it for himself. He is now trying to spread an agenda to undermine basic things of our fundamental society. And it started with these crazy covid concoctions that he supported that have been disproven in the high court, Cuarón, other.

[00:43:40]

Right. He I mean, he had a hearing, remember, on on on what what there could be different treatments and what would be good. All of them disproven, which goes to undermine our health care system, right?

[00:43:55]

That's right. That was horrible.

[00:43:57]

Now add that you want to try and undermine our democracy and saying it doesn't work, that things are.

[00:44:03]

That's evil. Yeah. That's pure evil to pollute our system that way. And why is he doing it? He's probably not going to run for a third term. Maybe he wants something wrong with Trump and figure out a way to make money in that regard. I can't explain it, but I think it goes deeper. Like I think he hates this country at this point. I don't know what's spun him to that, but how could you spew these things?

[00:44:29]

And yeah. Has such great damage to our country. It's beyond irresponsible.

[00:44:38]

Yeah. And it doesn't it also doesn't make sense because like Lucy, what does he have to gain from this?

[00:44:44]

Yeah, there's something very odd about Ron Johnson. And I think that if we go back and kind of look at how he wound up in the position he's in, it's it's kind of interesting. So, Ron, Ron Johnson was first elected to the Senate in 2010 and he defeated then longtime Democratic Senator Russ Feingold. People probably remember that name because he was the other half of McCain-Feingold, which was the landmark campaign finance reform bill of the early 2000s.

[00:45:12]

At any rate, Ron Johnson unseated Feingold in 2010 amidst the kind of Tea Party wave moment and leading up to the 2016 election, Feingold ran again. I think most people thought Ron Johnson is not is not going to hang on to this seat. And I remember talking to some of Johnson's consultants at the time and this feeling that he was not going to eke it out. Well, he did get out and he eked it out on the coattails of Donald Trump and was part of this big sea change in Wisconsin.

[00:45:44]

And and I think was sort of amazed himself that he held on to his seat. So whether or not he runs in twenty, twenty two or not, he's another one of these folks, even though they may come from a purple state or a state where it could go blue or red either way, any time, you know, a state where they have, you know, half of their constituency are people who don't feel the way they do, are Democrats.

[00:46:12]

I mean, this is not like, you know, Marjorie Taylor Green situation, that they're so distorted by the kind of tone and culture of the Republican Party at this point that they themselves have just sort of are out to sea and have fallen away from any kind of core that made them responsive to their voters. So I think he is a person who is perhaps more than other people, not just craven and perpetuating. Trump is again, Suzanne, we still have to find a new phrase for that for the sake of political political convenience.

[00:46:52]

But I think he is someone who is personally infected by the cult of Trump.

[00:46:58]

By the way, I'm going with neo fascism for right now.

[00:47:01]

I think he's personally infected, as useful them as a placeholder. I like that. It's good. OK, so let's talk about this Republican rebrand or the attempt tempted rebrand more and more, we're hearing Republican officials make the claim that the GOP is now a Worker's Party. Yes. In fact, we've heard Ted Cruz, Josh Haley and others make the claim a few times now that the Republican Party is the party of the working class. So it's accurate to say that white blue collar workers are now, at least in the Trump era, a major Republican constituency.

[00:47:42]

And according to an NBC News poll, in the last decade, the percentage of blue collar voters who call themselves Republicans has grown by 12 points. At the same time, the number in that group identifying as Democrats has declined by eight points. But taking how we've traditionally thought about working class politics, which is usually associated with robust labor protections. It's a long stretch to make the case that today's GOP is in any way, you know, actually representing workers in a meaningful way.

[00:48:17]

So, Susan, why don't you take this first, who are Republican officials speaking to when they say the GOP is now a workers party?

[00:48:24]

Well, I think they're speaking to Trump supporters. I think they're trying to channel them into saying, you know, you were with Donald Trump, but you should also state this is us as a party. We hear you. Now, it doesn't I don't think it'll work long term. But I think, again, when you think about class working class people, they they tend to have the jobs that may have been disappearing over time, which again, plays into that us versus them and whether or not they were hurt by the China terror or, you know, it doesn't matter.

[00:49:05]

They still felt like Donald Trump was fighting for them.

[00:49:08]

Yeah, so. There is I see the appeal. The other thing is this I don't think necessarily it's an appeal that the Republicans can make. It's more that the Democrats no longer represent them. And I think we need to look at that. They don't. I mean, I know we have Joe Biden, who is Mr. Moderate, but when you see AOC and some of the other folks who are do have strong voices in the in the Democratic Party, that's where those workers, those blue collar workers are saying, look, I got nothing with them and it's in it's an us versus them.

[00:49:44]

It's also like in a city versus suburban, it's it's that it's class, its culture, its color.

[00:49:53]

It's all of those things playing at one time.

[00:49:56]

But I do think that a lot of those those voters really are scared of the Democratic Party.

[00:50:03]

And that's in part why they're moving because they're not in sync with where they are. They just don't realize that when they come over to the Republican side, they're going to find that they're not where they want to be either. So it will it will take time. I mean, Donald Trump was able to do that. And there's no doubt he is crazy. It is a billionaire New Yorker was able to reach out and seem like a man of the people, but that's mostly because he just simply figured out what they wanted to hear, not that he ever had a policy that met what their needs.

[00:50:38]

Speaking of policy, Lucy, how should we be thinking about the difference then between Republican officials rhetoric on this when it comes to workers and their policy record? Yeah, I think that there's another piece here, and I think that it is I think Josh Holley is a really telling example of this. So in the fall where actually in January when Josh Holley was blamed for being part of the the kind of group that was spurring insurrection and claiming that the election was not legitimate, a Wal-Mart employee, a social media Wal-Mart team member, accidentally tweeted about Josh Holly being a sore loser from the Wal-Mart Twitter account.

[00:51:27]

And when they announced this episode, just like, wow, OK, so he tweeted he tweeted that that Josh Holly was a sore loser. And of course, Wal-Mart then immediately took it out and apologized. But then Holly said, back to Wal-Mart, maybe you'd like to apologize for the pathetic wages you pay your workers as you drive mom and pop stores out of business. And that's so striking. That is so different than the kinds of talking points that we expect to hear from Republicans.

[00:52:01]

Right. And and I think that there are several factors and some of them are things we've talked about a lot. One is like just how the economy is changing and how many people who find the GOP's approach rhetoric appealing are people who come from areas where the economy is changing in a way that does not result in growth and prosperity. Right. Yeah.

[00:52:30]

You know, industries like coal mining, other types of manufacturing that are being replaced by tech companies and automation. And it's a new economy and it's a it's a more fair economy. And there's a big commitment among companies to empower women, empower minorities. And so I think that's something that a lot of people have talked about it. I think that's an element. I think that there's something else, though. That is something I spend a lot of time thinking about, which is how companies are changing their approaches to consumers and their audiences.

[00:53:07]

So we used to talk about with companies that are corporate social responsibility, which is sort of like, oh, we go out and we build a Habitat for Humanity house once a year and we give a million dollars to Susan G.

[00:53:19]

Komen increasing when we hire a big PR firm to tell the world about. Right, exactly. Increasingly. Exactly. Increasingly, you see companies moving to what in corporate speak they would say a shared value, which is because of the fact that consumers are now saying, we want to know that the companies we're supporting are decent, treat their employees fairly, you know, like use responsible materials, are good stewards of the stewards of the environment. And consumers have more ability to be flexible and change their buying habits than ever.

[00:53:54]

And they have more access to information about their companies and the brands they patronize than ever. This is why a company suddenly can find itself being boycotted over something like a pink tax, right? Like girls toys cost 50 percent more than the boys toys, stuff like because it's a pink razor scooter instead of a blue one with stuff that is just so clearly wrong. Right. That companies really, really have had to be responsive. And because of the just insanity of Republicans in power, companies are now also being responsive in how they spend their corporate resources in terms of supporting those folks.

[00:54:35]

And so there was a lot of coverage after January six of huge, huge Fortune 100 companies saying we will not spend money through our PAC to help the Josh Holli's of the world, the Ted Cruz's of the world. And that's really, really striking. And this is kind of campaign finance inside baseball. But most of these companies, they're prevailing attitude and always said, you know, OK, you give this guy twenty five hundred dollars and you give this guy twenty five hundred dollars.

[00:55:01]

So that then next year when there's a bill up that has big regulatory implications for your industry, they remember I wrote you a check and now companies are forgoing that kind of leverage because these Republicans are so toxic. And so I think that part of how that winds up trickling down, it's not that like the GOP is suddenly is suddenly like the workers party or that they're doing anything to help workers. But there is now this increasing visible fight between large corporate interests, both traditional Fortune 100 companies and then newer players like a Google or Facebook and Republicans.

[00:55:42]

And so the way that someone like Holly or Cruz is going to direct their ammo is by claiming that. They represent the workers, I don't think it's going to work and I don't think there really will be any policy implications. But certainly hearing a Republican senator say that he wants to see Wal-Mart pay higher wages as a new look.

[00:56:05]

So good.

[00:56:09]

So it sounds like you both agree that this is likely not to work. But, Susan, I want to get your take on what you know. What extent do you think this rebrand is based on electoral calculus and to what extent it's actually based on a shift in policy positions?

[00:56:27]

Well, the Republican Party doesn't have any policy positions anymore, so I can not. That's right. OK, so it is all about electoral politics, but it's also about one other thing I was thinking about as Lucy was speaking, and that is they need to raise money.

[00:56:46]

They really need to figure out a way to raise money again, because we saw a lot of corporate corporations say after January six, they are not giving off. They are. And so what do they need to do? They have to find new venues. They can do it online in small dollar donations. They can try and get Donald Trump to help them, but they also need to look like they are. I think that it's part of the rebranding is that I represent the working class.

[00:57:14]

So you can give to me, too, because that's who I am.

[00:57:18]

I'm sure it works.

[00:57:20]

I don't it's a it's an interesting try. I don't think it necessarily will end up the way they want it to in the end, because if like, again, what Lucy said about consumers being able to to use their dollars in areas that they want and vote to get support companies that are doing the right thing and not others, which which I think is a good thing.

[00:57:43]

I mean, in general, that is a good trend. It means people are paying more attention to the impact of where they spend their dollars.

[00:57:50]

You know, overall, I agree with that. But we are going to see the case where something happens. Maybe it's not fully understood. Some company gets blown out of the water as a result of it.

[00:58:03]

Oh, you mean corporate council culture is next? Well, I don't I hate I hate the expression culture.

[00:58:09]

I'm not into it right now because it's it's used everywhere. Like, I think everyone's been canceled or in some way by another side, like everything's canceled. Yeah.

[00:58:20]

So I think that there is there is a danger in that sometimes depending on how information moves and how it's validated and supported, et cetera. But yeah, I think it's a good thing. But also, again, just does it matter if a company is conservative or liberal, if they're making shoelaces? I mean, to me, no, I just want what I you know, the shoelace isn't working my sneakers and I'm good.

[00:58:52]

I don't want to support a company because it depends on who's making the shoelaces and underwear. And I don't want to do anything. I wouldn't want to support a company that's doing something proactively bad. But if the founder happens to support Republicans and I'm a Democrat, I don't think that's enough is what I'm saying. And I think that we can potentially get to get to that point when they're called out for something that they're doing in the negative. Absolutely all for that.

[00:59:20]

But it does it will get to that. It's happened in New York when big box stores, depending on who it was, wanted to come in. And they were like, oh, no, they're from that Republican family. Who cares? It's it's an economic development. Like, that's fine. It doesn't have to be the political, which I think sometimes we do. But as far as that that idea that that the Republican Party is going to represent anyone but their own interests and getting reelected, I think they're pretty transparent.

[00:59:52]

OK, now that we're up to speed on the biggest stories of the week, I have one more question to close this out with.

[00:59:58]

What stories are you following that may have flown under the radar or that our listeners might have missed, but also that will influence politics in a way we might not expect Susan.

[01:00:10]

OK, well, I typically follow the Washington stories, but I do think that what's happening again, get some New York focus this week with Andrew Cuomo and the nursing home investigations is going to have some real long term consequences because we looked to him to give us the facts and that's what he was doing, especially in contrast to Donald Trump.

[01:00:38]

But now that he's been called out on maybe not giving us the facts, it's it it what concerns me about is our trust in government and people need to do it. And now more than ever. So when. Andrew Cuomo says we need to get more people vaccinated. Are people likely to trust his numbers? It does have a bigger impact and sometimes we forget that it seems like one one part of a scandal, which for him has grown into many.

[01:01:03]

But that's the thing that really concerns me, especially here in New York. And considering we still look like leaders when it comes to fighting covid and our response is, does this scandal hurt him so much that we can't trust or New Yorkers don't trust his guidance? Yeah.

[01:01:22]

Or that it's having that the distrust is emanating out from just him and into the government as well, right? Yeah. Yeah.

[01:01:30]

Lucy. Yeah, I'm thinking a lot lately about what the future of our health care system looks like in ways that are small and large and in ways that relate to what we expect as consumers of health care from government as it relates to how we interact with our own prescriptions, our own course of care. And I'll tell you one small one, and then I'll tell you the larger one that I'm thinking about. So since covid happened, obviously there have been there's been a big boom in telehealth for obvious reasons, because people want to be careful and we actually don't need to go into the doctor all the time.

[01:02:11]

We can really get the care we need. And that happened in part during covid because a lot of states, well, well, regulators reduce the previous kind of requirements that you had to be a preexisting patient of that provider. In many places, it made it much easier for people to begin their relationships with providers online. And we're seeing this in other ways to a whole lot of states finally are getting their act together on making it easier for women to acquire birth control prescriptions from their pharmacists rather than having to go to a doctor and get a prescription for the pill each year, even though women aren't even having, well, women visits once a year anymore.

[01:02:53]

So those kinds of innovations are really awesome and I think hugely popular and something that everyone can agree is good. The really much larger one that is really popping up now around the vaccine is, as we all know, both types of vaccines that are being used right now are quite new and innovative technology. You know, the Johnson and Johnson vaccine is an adenovirus vaccine, which is very recent. The first adenovirus vaccine was approved just last summer for Ebola.

[01:03:24]

So it's very, very new technology. And then the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are Amarone technology. And both of these vaccine compositions seem to lend themselves more to being able to sequence viruses quickly, get vaccines deployed faster. And that's going to be hugely important going forward with covid because of new variants. Right. But these vaccines can be quickly adjusted. And so, you know, right now these are all operating under emergency use authorizations. But I'm very interested in whether or not we will see over the long term more widespread adoption of policies like right to try the idea that it becomes normal to be able to use your own head and sense about what you need in your health care to be able to access treatments for all kinds of things, or whether or not we're going to slow the typical FDA approval process for things down from like they get much faster from the 10 year billion dollar providers to help people have much better care.

[01:04:26]

So those are the things that I think are really developing a lot right now that will have very big implications for all of us going forward. And I'm really excited about it.

[01:04:35]

Those are both really good. I can't follow those. So before I let you go, where can people find you on the Internet?

[01:04:42]

See, I'm at Lucy Caldwell on Twitter, Susan Dell Perciasepe on Twitter.

[01:04:49]

Susan and Lucy, as always, thank you so much for taking time to have this conversation. And I want to thank everyone at home or on the go for listening. If you have questions or advice for us or if there's a topic you'd like to see covered in a future episode of the round up, you can reach us at a podcast at Politico Dotcom. And if you've learned something in today's episode, it would help tremendously if you could rate and reviews wherever you get your podcasts.

[01:05:15]

Also, I have another request for you today. As I've mentioned, political is entirely independent from the Lincoln Project, which is to say, we're also not funded by the Lincoln Project. Not our entire team is ridiculously energized by the prospect of changing and expanding and evolving how we think about politics. But we need your support to keep it going. Many of you have been with us for such a long time. We owe you a tremendous thanks for sticking with us through growth and change and renewal.

[01:05:49]

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[01:06:21]

What you can just visit our website, Politico, Dotcom, and click contribute on behalf of the entire political team. You have our sincere thanks and. We're all thrilled that you're with us on this journey. I'm Ron Suslow and I'll see you in the next episode.