LOS ANGELES - Another week like no other.
On the coronavirus front, The United States surpassed 180,000 deaths.
On the political front, President Trump accepted the Republican nomination at a national convention unlike any seen in modern history.
And on the streets of many of America’s major cities, protests for racial justice intensified following the police shooting of 29-year-old Jacob Blake.
To break it all down, Elex Michaelson is joined on The Issue Is by columnist LZ Granderson, political strategist Bob Shrum, LA Times reporter Melanie Mason, and political analyst Gianno Caldwell.
The conversation kicked off with LZ Granderson, columnist at ESPN and The LA Times.
This, just days after Granderson’s latest column, "A tale of two viruses: COVID-19 has nothing on racism," was published.
"The important thing is to not think about racism as a different perspective, or a different opinion, or point of view, but actually more like a virus that’s been slowly killing us almost since the inception of this nation," Granderson said. "In fact, not almost, since the inception of this nation, if you take into consideration what happened to the Native Americans who were here prior to Christopher Columbus getting lost."
Comparing the two so-called viruses, Granderson said that whereas COVID19 has been front-of-mind for the past few months, racism has been more covert, which has made its impact more difficult to recognize, despite the fact that people have been wrestling with it for decades.
This week, though, that wrestling became less covert, especially as athletes, and teams, from the NBA, NHL, MLB, and other leagues went on strike, leading to the postponement of games, and even questions about whether certain seasons would continue.
But as those athletes acted, they were also met with criticism.
Granderson pushed back against the critics, citing other causes and efforts that athletes regularly take part in, from recognizing Breast Cancer Awareness month to using their platforms to raise funds for hurricane relief efforts.
"Clearly we don’t mind athletes doing those things," Granderson said. "So it’s not about athletes using their platforms to be activists, it’s about the people being uncomfortable with what the athletes are trying to point attention towards."
Thus far, most notably, the NBA strike has resulted in a number of stadiums being converted to polling stations for the upcoming November election.
But still, the message, needs, and wants, of many of those protesting has differed, as best exemplified by the fact that while some call for reform to police procedure, others seek to significantly defund those very same departments.
Granderson said that while there is no "silver bullet" to solve these racial issues, African Americans ultimately want the same thing that all Americans do: equality.
"All African Americans in this country want, is the exact same thing that everyone else wants, to be treated with humanity, and dignity, and to have our lives matter."
Granderson said that there are different approaches to equality, and that each vision deserves its own debate, however, when asked by Michaelson, Granderson said he was not interested in President Trump’s perspective on law and order, a key focus of his RNC acceptance speech.
"Honestly, I really don’t care," he said, citing alleged brushes with the law that the President has had, including impeachment and potential violations of the Hatch Act. "Him capitalizing on people’s fears, and the angst, and the anger, in order to get re-elected, is something that he does all the time."
Granderson’s criticism of the President’s messaging carried over to the RNC as a whole, where a significant number of speakers were Black, including Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson, Congressional candidates Kimberly Klacik and Burgess Owens, Senator Tim Scott, and pardoned federal prisoner Alice Marie Johnson.
Granderson alleged that the use of Black speakers was an effort, common in the media, to overcompensated for a lack of diversity behind the scenes.
"They made sure that in front of the camera there was a broad coalition, but we all know that behind the scenes, and it doesn’t take very much research to see, for the most part, this administration is homogeneous, it's heterosexual, cisgendered, White men," he said. "Don’t be deceived by what's in front of the camera, look behind the curtain to see who the wizard really is."
Next, after a week of nightly analysis on FOX 11’s special RNC coverage, The Issue Is is joined by Shrum, Mason, and Caldwell to provide the major takeaways from another week of unconventional convention happenings.
First, a discussion of what the RNC, and specifically President Trump’s 70-minute acceptance speech, accomplished.
"I think he did really well," Caldwell said, touting the President’s disciplined performance in a well-produced convention. "I think the RNC was well put-on, we’ve seen African Americans, Hispanics, Americans of all stripes at this particular convention, and I think it’s going to resonate with a lot of people, especially those who are concerned with the rioting and the looting."
Shrum, who has worked on the Presidential campaigns of Michael Dukakis, Al Gore, and John Kerry, among many others, had a different take.
"I thought the President’s acceptance speech was the worst delivered, and worst-written speech, of its kind, an acceptance speech, that I’ve ever heard," Shrum said, adding that the speech was so long, even the President seemed bored by the end.
Mason, a national political reporter for the LA Times, analyzed the RNC from an apolitical perspective.
Most notably, Mason pointed out that many of the themes that President Trump spoke of on Thursday were echoes of the themes he spoke of in his 2016 acceptance speech. The main difference now, is that he is running as an incumbent, not an outside challenger.
A key focus of that message on Thursday was law and order.
Michaelson asked Caldwell how effective that message might be, especially since he is the President as the unrest in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and elsewhere takes place.
"Donald Trump cannot send in the National Guard to states that don’t want Donald Trump’s National Guard there, he can’t send them into a city that rejects his help," Caldwell said, stressing that 'people are fed up' with what they’re seeing in their communities, and the President’s message of law and order may attract voters who are turned off by Democrats' inaction.
Shrum responded that it’s too early to know if the law and order messaging will pay off, but that it’s the President’s only message to stand on.
"It’s the only thing he has," he said. "Sometimes strategy is necessity, that’s why he’s doing an amped-up, race-tinged version of the Nixon law and order campaign."
With the RNC and DNC now in the history books, the conversation wrapped with a preview of what to expect over the final 66 days of campaigning.
"For the last couple months, we’ve had this kind of asymmetric campaign," Mason said. "We’ve had the President flying around and holding events, if not the gigantic campaign rallies we’re used to from him, and Biden has been, generally, sticking to Wilmington, Delaware, so we might be starting to see a change in that dynamic."
Mason did preface that prediction with a caveat, that while Biden has indicated he plans to hit the trail in a number of battleground states, those plans will depend on the "permission and cooperation of local governments."
Whatever form the next two months take, Shrum said he doesn’t believe the asymmetry of the campaign so far, and of convention venues, has actually helped the President. In fact, he said it may have hurt him.
"I think when they have people jammed together, not socially distanced, not wearing masks, he sends all the wrong messages," Shrum said. "So far, a lot of this election has been Trump versus COVID, and Trump is losing."
But while Shrum saw the sight of the President in front of hundreds of supporters on the White House lawn as a cautionary tale, Caldwell was struck by nostalgia for pre-coronavirus times.
"For a lot of Americans that tuned in, it probably reminded them of normalcy," Caldwell said. "They probably felt good about seeing something that was normal, and it made them think 'wow, maybe we can get something different with four more years of this guy.'"
The Issue Is: with Elex Michaelson is California's only statewide political show. For showtimes and more information, go to TheIssueIsShow.com.