LOS ANGELES - Under a cloud of anxiety and partisanship, this week saw both the federal government start to phase-out their "stop the spread" guidelines as well as a number of major cities and states make their first steps towards reopening.
This, as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the US surpassed 1 million, and the number of newly unemployed ballooned to 30 million Americans.
This week, as “The Issue Is” celebrates its 2nd anniversary, complete with a surprise appearance by friend-of-the-show Gloria Allred, Elex Michaelson continues to explore the coronavirus fight, delving into the political, psychological, and financial aspects of the virus, the lockdowns, and the recovery.
An entrepreneur whose campaign focused on automation and math, Andrew Yang surprised everyone during the Democratic primary when he outlasted and out-raised a host of Representatives, Senators, and lifelong political operatives.
The conversation kicks off with a discussion on the issue of unemployment, and what Yang would do if he were President.
“The first thing we need to do is put money in people’s hands so we can weather this crisis,” Yang said.
Yang added that the $1,200 stimulus payment provided by the CARES Act was a sigh of relief, but really only helped people pay last month’s bills. With more bills coming this month, Yang called for $2,000 to be given to every American monthly throughout the end of the pandemic.
Universal Basic Income was a cornerstone of Yang’s Presidential run, and although the plan did not garner much Congressional support then, it has been gaining steam with the passage of each relief bill.
So what does Yang make of the newfound support for UBI, evidenced by proposals from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA)?
“What I said [during the campaign] is that we should make this move because of the rate of change. Unfortunately, the crisis has accelerated the rate of change, where we’re experiencing 10 years of automation and displacement in 10 weeks,” Yang said.
“I’m thrilled that my campaign helped advance Universal Basic Income right before this crisis, because we need it now more than ever.”
But the fiscal support doesn’t end there, Yang also discussed the need for job creation, as he predicted that “millions of these jobs that have been lost, will not return.”
“We should be super-charging non-profits, small businesses, state governments, schools, hospitals, anyone that needs a hand.”
Beyond helping Americans overcome the economic problems associated with coronavirus, Yang also spoke about his efforts to stomp out discrimination against the Asian American community, especially in light of the pandemic.
“Racism is the last thing we need right now in this time of crisis,” Yang said of his recent PSA, which brought together a litany of high-profile figures to remind everyone that “We are All Americans.”
“We’re in this together, there is no particular group that’s somehow more responsible for this virus, particularly Asian Americans who are a world away from the origin, and a world away from the Chines Government’s decision that unfortunately helped make this crisis worse.”
From the current pandemic, the conversation switched gears to Yang’s campaigns, both past and, possibly, future.
Reflecting on his 2020 Presidential run, Yang expressed gratitude to his “rockstar” wife, Evelyn, for showing him he was a “fortunate husband,” and to his #YangGang for advancing solutions that were previously ignored, but are now considered necessary.
So, where does Yang go from here?
Yang said he is continuing to present his vision for the country, launching a podcast, working through his organization to distribute money directly to families around the nation, and working with Vice President Biden’s campaign to defeat President Trump in November.
Also on the agenda could be a rumored run for Mayor of New York City. While not committing to a run, Yang said that “we just want to try and solve problems, certainly there are enough problems, unfortunately, to go around, but it’s very flattering to be thought of in that way.”
Before potentially seeking office in New York City though, Yang is first embroiled in litigation with Empire State, suing the NY Board of Elections over their decision to cancel the June 23 Democratic Presidential Primary. All other state and local primary races will still be on the ballot, but voters will only see Joe Biden’s name as an option for President.
“We need to let people vote,” Yang said. “There are ways to make sure people can vote by mail remotely, other states have done it, that’s what New York should do… this is a terrible precedent.”
Before things wrapped up, Elex asked Yang about his experience in quarantine.
Yang admitted that, like so many others, he has watched “Tiger King,” but he also wanted to give his thanks to teachers, day care workers, educators, and others who are making the nation’s kids stronger everyday.
Next, Elex was joined by California Assemblywoman Christy Smith (D-CA 38). Smith is also currently running for CA's 25th Congressional District, vacated last year following the resignation of Congresswoman Katie Hill.
Smith is running against Mike Garcia, a former Navy fighter pilot, in a close race that, because of coronavirus, will take place almost completely by mail-in ballots.
Smith began by laying out her case for California's 25th Congressional seat, describing the “stark” and “important” differences between herself and Garcia.
“First of all, I’m the person running with the most actual government experience,” Smith said. “I think if ever there was a time that proved that we need our government institutions to be standing up and working on behalf of the American people and on behalf of Californians, that moment is now, and I’ve been doing that work for nine years.”
Among other differences, Smith said she has been a life-long advocate for greater access to health care, including coverage for everyone, and that she has even approached the campaign differently, leaning into issues with the community.
If Smith wins the May 12 race, she’ll be heading to Congress in the midst of the coronavirus fight, so after four relief packages, what does Smith think Congress should do next?
“We know Congress is going to continue to need to pass economic support, for the business community, for individuals,” Smith said, “but the other thing I want to see Congress do next is also focused on what more we can do from a legislative perspective about getting a national testing regime and public health system in place in order for us to do the kind of healthcare infrastructure we’re going to need to get our economy back on track.”
Smith said that until we have antibody testing, a vaccine, and national testing, all other conversations, such as beach closures and safe workplaces, will be moot.
Elex wrapped things up this week with the return of Dr. Michael Gervais, high performance psychologist, co-founder of Compete to Create, and host of the "Finding Mastery" podcast.
As most Americans have now spent months sheltering in place, removed from normal life, Elex started by asking Gervais to take stock of the current national psyche.
“We’re ready,” Gervais said. “We are flat out ready to be able to hug people, to be able to spend time with people, we are recalibrating the importance of humanity and relationships, and we are also recalibrating and reimagining autonomy and what it means to be able govern one’s self, and to do so in a way that takes care of others.”
“This is a massive moment for us, and I don’t want to lose the gravity of how important this moment is for humanity.”
In this moment, during a time of uncertainty, Gervais spoke of two key components for managing stress, self-discovery, and finding a sense of calm through exhaling.
“Long exhales give an ancient signal to our brain that says ‘hey, we can relax right now, in this moment we are safe.’”
Gervais also touched on an issue of great importance to many Californians, the closure of beaches, specifically in Orange County, where protesters took to the streets Friday against Governor Newsom’s directive to shut down specific beaches that were not respecting social distancing guidelines.
“[The beach] is an emblem for freedom, and space, and autonomy,” Gervais said. “To have a constriction on that has been challenging, but, you know what, challenges are okay, because we’re trying to re-tool, re-imagine, recalibrate how to have freedom, and what that really means. And it’s not going somewhere, it’s being you in any environment, that’s the ultimate freedom.”
Gervais brought things to a close by dispensing some words of wisdom for those struggling to find a light at the end of the tunnel, stressed about what will come next, especially when it comes to finding work once the pandemic is over.
“Find, and commit to, a path that engagement is something that you’ll relish in. And what does engagement mean? It means your mind and your body are in the same place with the activity you’re doing. And if we can do that, life will feel more fulfilled, it will feel more valued.”
The Issue Is: with Elex Michaelson is California's only statewide political show. For showtimes and more information, go to TheIssueIsShow.com.