Coronavirus pandemic is no time for partisan politics in Washington

By Brynne Kennedy, Special to CalMatters

If there was ever a time for reasoned and clear-eyed leadership, it’s now.

The coronavirus pandemic is a public health crisis that’s spawned a global economic crisis. Schools and businesses are closed. Jobs are being lost.  Retirement savings have been decimated. Citizens are being told to shelter in place. Our health care system is being stressed and providers are sounding alarms about equipment and facilities shortages.  Dysfunction in Washington only makes things worse.

There will be a time to ask how we got here, and what we need to do better. 

But the immediate question all leaders must answer is:  “What now?” 

To arrest the chaos that’s brought our health care system and economy to the brink, the first step is to stop the lethal virus that’s causing it.  And it’s not just the virus, but the mixed messages about it, that are creating equal parts false hope and panic.   

We need to put more doctors on TV, and fewer politicians.  We need to listen to experts calling for social distancing to flatten the curve of potential cases.  We need centralized procurement and distribution of medical supplies, and no BS commitments on when they will arrive to the communities that need them, and in what quantities.  We must ensure that every community has the testing capabilities to identify hotspots, trace and contain spread, and ensure folks who are medically vulnerable know exactly where, when and how to get one.

I’m convinced Americans can do this because we’ve overcome bigger challenges before.

It’s time for Congress to get help to the American people. 

 Just as no serious person believes a payroll tax cut, raising the retirement age, or a blank check for cruise lines that refuse to fly our flag is going to help the millions of American workers who are no longer on a payroll, neither does a laundry list of partisan liberal demands.

 There’s consensus around supporting the many businesses that have been forcibly closed through no fault of their own and employees who can no longer pay bills for the same reason.  There’s a clear need to expand the capacity of our hospitals and health clinics, supply our caregivers and ensure those who are sick can access care.  And there is bipartisan support for protecting workers — not CEO bonuses or stock buybacks.   

So let’s get it done.

From World War II to 9/11, American leaders have famously avoided leveraging times of national crisis as a zero sum political game.  Yet today, too many have been quick to question motives, pursue pet projects or personal enrichment, accuse hard working people who need help of “gaming the system,” or traffic in ideological fantasy and arbitrary timelines in pursuit of one news cycle’s worth of political gain.

This is a time that calls for urgency, truth and constructive engagement.  Corny as it may sound, we must put petty differences aside and find comfort in the fact that whether we are Republicans, Democrats or independents, we are all in this together.   

That’s also how we can choose to emerge from it.

The lessons for our leaders are everywhere.  Millions of parents are doing their full-time jobs at home while also trying to provide classroom instruction for their children.   Grocery store clerks, postal workers and delivery drivers are working through the night to ensure our hardest hit communities can access food and basic supplies.  Police officers, firefighters and other first responders are on the beat. Utility workers are keeping us powered and connected to loved ones. Health care providers are putting themselves at ever-increasing risk to stand vigil at bedsides.  And researchers and innovators are working day and night to develop the treatment and supply-chain solutions America needs. 

These everyday heroes aren’t refusing to take action because things aren’t perfect or politically convenient.  They aren’t demanding special favors for themselves or their friends.   

To win the war on COVID-19, our politicians shouldn’t either.

____

Brynne Kennedy of Roseville is a businesswoman and candidate for Congress in California’s 4th District, [email protected]

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