As part of our Speaker Series on California’s Future, PPIC invites elected leaders from across the political spectrum to participate in public conversations. The purpose is to give Californians a better understanding of how our leaders are addressing the challenges facing our state.
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In a time of unparalleled challenges for California and the nation, PPIC president Mark Baldassare spoke with House minority leader Kevin McCarthy last week about wildfires, the coronavirus pandemic, the economic recovery, police reform, the upcoming election, and more.
As the state confronts a particularly destructive fire season, McCarthy cited the current wildfires as an example of federal-state partnership on important issues. “Governor Newsom and I both worked together to get the president to sign major disaster relief. We did that in record time.” McCarthy added that COVID-19 is another area where the state and federal governments are working together; for example, officials set up a federal testing facility in the Central Valley amid the recent spike in coronavirus cases.
McCarthy emphasized that in the long term vaccines and treatments will be key to defeating the pandemic. To this end, he mentioned Operation Warp Speed, a federal project that aims to accelerate the development of vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics for COVID-19. He predicted that by next January “we’re going to have a vaccine that’s working, at least one, maybe three . . . [and] a number of therapeutics.”
When asked about economic recovery, he talked about the need to reopen safely. He acknowledged, “As we open up, we’re going to have to accept that there are going to be some people who contract COVID. But are we able to trace? Are we able to test? We can do that [much better] now.” In addition, he said guidelines for reopening should take into account local factors. “You can’t simply say everything is going to be outside because [in Bakersfield] we have 110-degree temperatures.”
A recent PPIC survey shows 64% of Californians believe the criminal justice system in the US is biased against African Americans, and 68% support Black Lives Matter. On issues of police reform and racial injustice, McCarthy said, “I believe everybody in this nation knows we need an improvement.” He noted that police officers also want to see change, and he identified no-knock warrants as one area where there could be potential agreement.
Looking forward to the November election, McCarthy predicted that voter turnout would “be high on both sides.” In particular, he forecast that the presidential race will be closer than current polls suggest.
Despite the many challenges facing the state and nation, McCarthy ended on an optimistic note, stressing that the country has overcome obstacles in the past. “For all the negatives that happen, I will promise you because of who we are as a nation, we will be better . . . tomorrow will be better than today.”