LOS ANGELES - This week, as the nation marked a year since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, and as the state’s metrics continued to improve, California took major steps towards reopening.
To discuss that effort, equitable vaccine distribution, an eventual return to pre-pandemic normalcy, and more, Elex Michaelson is joined on The Issue Is by Dee Dee Myers, the former White House Press Secretary who now serves as senior advisor to Governor Gavin Newsom as well as director of Newsom’s Office of Business and Economic Development.
Also, Ben, Brett, and Jordan Meiselas, the brothers behind MeidasTouch, the progressive political action committee, are here to discuss their viral political ads and the changing face of media.
THE ISSUE: THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA’S ECONOMY
BACKGROUND: March 19, 2021, Governor Gavin Newsom announced California’s "stay at home order." A year later, and the state has experienced a total of 3.62 million positive COVID cases, resulting in more than 55,000 deaths. Ongoing business closures have also led California to record an unemployment rate of 9.3%, the second highest in the nation. Still, as the state continues to distribute vaccines, and to ease restrictions, this week, at his State of the State address, Newsom spoke of "brighter days ahead."
MYERS’ CENTRAL TAKE: "I think this is a really encouraging moment. It’s been such a difficult year for everybody, we’ve been through a tremendous amount, the economy’s been through a tremendous amount, but we’re really poised for recovery… There’s a lot of good news out there. California has gone from reporting something like 53,000 COVID cases per day… to under 4,000 this week. The positivity rate’s gone from 14% to 2.2%, hospitalizations are down more than 80%, ICU’s are down 75%, vaccine distribution, which is a game changer, is really ramping up, and that’s very encouraging… Just this weekend we’re seeing 13 counties move into less restrictive tiers… That is really exciting, and means that our businesses can start to reopen, safely, and with health in mind, in top of mind…"
THE ISSUE: A POTENTIAL "GREEN" TIER
BACKGROUND: This weekend, as coronavirus metrics improve, California will see 13 counties ease restrictions. The newly modified reopening system includes four tiers. The "purple" tier signifies a widespread risk, with 10+ new daily cases per 100,000 residents. Restrictions ease in the "red" (substantial risk), "orange" (moderate risk), and "yellow" (minimal risk) tiers. Currently, the state does not have a "green" tier in which industries can operate at pre-pandemic levels, but the Governor indicated this week the idea is being developed.
MYERS’ CENTRAL TAKE: "[The current tier system] is a planned obsolescence, we want this tier system to go away, but in the meantime, there are some flashing caution signs out there with these variants, and we want to make sure that we open carefully, that we open safely, and that we never have to go backwards, we don’t want to ever have to see LA County go from red back into purple, or another county move from orange into red, so we have to move forward cautiously. But at some point the economy will be able to fully reopen, we’re not ready to say yet when that is, but we’re starting to provide guidance for additional sectors for how they can safely reopen…"
THE ISSUE: THE VIRAL SUCCESS OF "MEIDAS TOUCH"
BACKGROUND: A SuperPAC formed during the early days of the coronavirus lockdown, MeidasTouch set out with the mission of preventing the re-election of then President Donald Trump. In just a year, the SuperPAC, led by brothers Ben, Brett, and Jordan Meiselas, has amassed 1.5 million followers, with their viral videos, targeting the likes of Trump, former Georgia Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, and the GOP at large, garnering more than a billion total views.
BEN’S CENTRAL TAKE: "I think we’re relentless with the content, we trust our instincts, and we speak from the heart. I think sometimes you see politicians being very disingenuous, politicians doing double-speak, we try to "keep it simple stupid," we try to deliver messages that people understand, and we try to speak for the people, not for millionaires, not for billionaires…"
BRETT’S CENTRAL TAKE: "The fight is not over, the fight is just beginning. So, the fact is, we do have a foil, because, in my opinion, we have two parties in this country, one party that is a pro-democracy party, in the Democratic party, and then we have an authoritarian party that’s trying to fill the void that is Trump and Trumpism… we want to highlight the real threat of the GOP and these anti-democratic views, and we think that we can still engage people along that platform, saying ‘hey, it doesn’t matter if you’re left, right, center, whatever, do you believe in Democracy? If so, join us on our mission, because this is an existential crisis for our country, and we need you now…"
THE ISSUE: THE CHANGING FACE OF POLITICAL MEDIA
BACKGROUND: This week, Axios reported that since President Trump left office, online news publishers have seen traffic decline drastically, with political news consumption down 28%. With engagement, and, in turn, political awareness, down, the Meiselas brothers discussed how to keep voters, especially younger ones, engaged and motivated, and how political media should evolve to meet the moment.
BRETT’S CENTRAL TAKE: "I think media is going to continue to be fragmented the way we’ve seen it happening, and what I think needs to be out there, is there’s no really unapologetic, pro-democracy voice out there… too often, the media out there gives credence to both perspectives, they say ‘well he says it’s raining, he says it’s sunny,’ and oftentimes there is an answer, and so I think the media needs to be loud and vocal in calling out the truth…"
BEN’S CENTRAL TAKE: "We are speaking to issues, and we know that the issues that we’re speaking to have bipartisan support amongst the people, we’re speaking to issues like raising the minimum wage, and protecting workers, and giving more people healthcare… We need to make clear that we are the voice of those issues, and when we speak, sometimes you may preach to a choir, but if your choir sings louder than the other choir, you win elections… We’re bringing this new aggressive style, unapologetically pro-democracy, and pro issues that matter…"
The Issue Is: with Elex Michaelson is California's only statewide political show. For showtimes and more information, go to TheIssueIsShow.com.