COVID-19, and the varied response by our nation’s leaders, lays bare the stark reality that competence and empathy should and must supersede partisanship in our darkest hours. Though partisans will dither and posture to gain some meaningless soundbite in the name of liberty or free speech, despite the untold risk to American lives, ultimately Americans have been reminded that effective leadership through the stewardship of the tools of our government, listening to scientific experts, and compassion are the hallmarks of an appropriate response to a crisis.
I was struck recently by a statement, simple and profound, spoken by a national public health expert being interviewed by CNN. She said, “crises like pandemics split society along known fault lines.” Her characterization so aptly frames how we must go about the work of the recovery, not only from the virus itself and its impact on our struggling health care system, but also how we must conceive of the economic recovery and systemic rebuild of our public safety net that surely must follow.
I’ve been proud beyond measure to be a Californian throughout this struggle as my legislative colleagues and I have worked in concert supporting Governor Gavin Newsom and his team’s deliberate, measured and thoughtful response. This includes everything from early and effective StaySafe at Home Orders, to quick work meeting demand for hospital surge capacity and state-wide PPE procurement, to addressing election security and voting access issues and the digital divide facing our state’s students, to providing support for frontline essential workers, childcare for the essential workforce, accessible, free COVID-19 testing, access to all possible economic support, from unemployment insurance to extended access to enroll in Covered California, and so much more. California leadership has leaned into the moment, relying on science and expert guidance from our state government’s top officials to make critical decisions to keep communities safe.
No less important to this moment is leading with empathy. This requires understanding that the greatest impacts of this crisis are widely spread among the many Californians who struggled to get by paycheck to paycheck even before this pandemic, particularly those who operate a truly small business and have wiped out personal savings to keep employees paid, and those who are on our frontlines day in day out taking care of patients, stocking shelves, harvesting our food, keeping our non-profits open to meet the needs of our communities, and keeping the public safe. As we make critical decisions to support these folks in their work and families in their everyday lives, it's essential that we put ourselves in their shoes, to anticipate the needs, the pain, and the challenges facing the most vulnerable and respond with thoughtful, meaningful support.
Finding myself in the midst of a Congressional special election, fraught with hyper-partisan mud-slinging from my opponent and the opposition party, while working as a state legislator during this time has been trying. Yet, through every heartbreaking call from a constituent, who is desperate for their unemployment to be approved or lost a loved one to the virus, to a few hours distributing meals to seniors, to Zoom calls, phone conferences and action plans implemented with colleagues too numerous to detail, my faith is renewed. I am grateful in this moment to have the job of a state assemblymember and its responsibility. I am heartened by the belief that on the other side of this mountain of crisis, we will all once again embrace competence, and empathy as the hallmarks of good leadership.