A Tale of Two Crises: Political Polarization and COVID-19 with Dr. Michael Osterholm and Andy Slavitt

Published on September 30, 2020

On Wednesday, September 30th, more than 300 people from around the country logged in to join FairVote Minnesota’s event, A Tale of Two Crises: Political Polarization and Covid-19

Full Length Video; September 30, 2020

The conversation made clear that political polarization and leadership failures have made consistent, collaborative action on the virus difficult, if not impossible, and Ranked Choice Voting is among the most promising reforms to address that polarization given its viability and track record. 

The panel of experts included Dr. Michael Osterholm, Andy Slavitt, and Dr. Kelly Morrison as facilitator. Dr. Michael Osterholm, Director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, has been a trusted, thoughtful voice throughout 2020 as our country has grappled with Covid-19. 

Andy Slavitt, whose titles include Senior Advisor to the Bipartisan Policy Center, Founder of United States of Care, Host of the podcast In The Bubble, and Former Acting Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, has made it his mission to give Americans critical information about the pandemic in real-time and also hope for a path forward. 

Dr. Kelly Morrison, a practicing physician who serves as the Representative for Minnesota House District 33B, guided the conversation with an understanding of on-the-ground realities both in healthcare and at the Minnesota Capitol.

Minutes into the event, Slavitt drew the connection between our country’s challenges in healthcare policy to political reform: “The most frequent question I get asked is ‘what’s the one thing we can do to fix our healthcare policies?’ And my instant response is: That’s easy, fix our democracy. The next day our healthcare policy will improve.”

Dr. Osterholm pointed to polarizing leadership and a divided citizenry in hindering our pandemic response and causing the United States to be such an outlier as compared to other developed countries who were able to respond more effectively. Dr. Osterholm emphasized: “This is why I think Ranked Choice Voting is really so important, because it does bring the best of our leaders to the table… If we are going to be successful in dealing with public health problems, they have to be dealt with by the public, which has to come together. That will never happen when you have such divided partisan politics.” 

“We need reform to heal our democracy so that we elect people who represent true majorities of the electorate” Rep. Morrison emphasized, “which is one of the many reasons that I am a big supporter of Ranked Choice Voting.” 

In his closing remarks, Slavitt gave an inspiring anecdote. He shared that when he left government, former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle gave him some parting advice: “Tom said, ‘Do some things around what is ideal and do some things around what is possible. Split your time to do a little bit of both.’ To me, Ranked Choice Voting is actually one of those things that is both. It both brings our country closer to its ideal and it is something we can achieve. So it is the best investment that you can make of your time or your money or your energy. We can make a difference now and we can focus on our ideals.”

In his closing remarks, Dr. Osterholm surprised the audience with the depth of his passion. He declared, “If there was a legacy that we can leave our kids and grandkids, it is enacting Ranked Choice Voting and bringing about a more civil, more effective and more trusting form of government. That by itself would be a legacy that far surpasses anything else that I could ever do.”

In the days that followed A Tale of Two Crises, the nation’s chaotic response to the pandemic reached new levels. Our work in fundamental reform is more urgent than ever. Please join the call of Dr. Osterholm and Slavitt to create a legacy and invest in change to ensure a government that is reflective and responsible to all us by making a donation to our 2020 Reinventing Democracy Fund today

Thank you to our tremendous panelists, to all the frontline workers and healthcare professionals, and to our supporters and volunteers who are helping to strengthen our democracy so we are better prepared for the future!

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