Marion County News: US Senate candidate Mackler touches on why he’s running

By David Riley
Marion County News
April 16, 2020

South Pittsburg, TN – Adjusting to the current season of social distancing, James Mackler teleconferenced for an exclusive interview with Marion County News following one of his digital Town Halls. Mackler is vying to replace retiring Senator Lamar Alexander. The Army veteran and prosecutor has a focused number of issues that he feels warrants a change in the nation’s capital and holds a premium on ‘servant leadership.’

Mackler’s Town Hall addressed the current COVID-19 with Dr. Michael Ward, a practicing emergency physician who studies how to improve the quality and efficiency of healthcare delivery. The Town Hall’s substance echoed much of the current advice regarding the washing of hands and wearing of masks but also ventured into the question of why the response to COVID-19 was so dramatically enhanced when compared to the flu which has, conservatively, 53,000 deaths attributed to it in this past season. Ward said, “There are a lot of overlaps with the flu, but there are also a lot of distinctions. The first thing is we haven’t seen this before whereas, with the flu, we have so we can build immunity to it. We can also get a vaccine. Now the vaccine is not perfect but it can dramatically reduce the severity of the symptoms. We’ve made the flu such that we can live with the flu and one of the most important things I hope people get out of this entire experience is that we should be concerned about the flu. It kills hundreds of thousands of people each year and is a major concern. But with the coronavirus, we’ve never been exposed to it. We haven’t built up any antibodies to it.” Ward also spoke to the mortality rate comparison of the flu and the coronavirus. “This [coronavirus] has a much higher mortality rate than the flu. Even though the initial estimated were kind of high estimating between three and four percent, it’s probably somewhere around one percent of all patients that get it, but the flu’s [mortality rate] is still only point-one percent so the coronavirus is somewhere between five and ten times more deadly than the flu.” Ward emphasized that this was only comparing those that died as a result. He estimated another 20 percent of coronavirus patients were hospitalized as critically ill due to the virus than were for the flu.

Following the Town Hall, Mackler sat down for an exclusive interview about his candidacy for US Senate. Mackler didn’t hesitate to outline his main catalyst for running for the office. “Even before the pandemic, everywhere I’ve gone [voters’ concerns] have been about healthcare. [Tennessee] leads the nation in rural hospital closures per person,” Mackler stated. He went on to say, “The opioid epidemic isn’t being addressed and we have these really serious healthcare patient outcome disparities between urban and rural environments, rich and poor. I believe access to healthcare is a right so…it’s going to be doing everything I can to support a plan that gets us to the point where we all have access to high-quality healthcare; that’s number one.” In other statements, Mackler has supported the expansion of Medicaid in Tennessee.

Mackler also is a realist when it comes to another issue he’s passionate about. “The role of big money [in congressional campaigns], I would love to and intend to introduce legislation to create some transparency, some way for the American people to tell, frankly, who is buying and paying for our politicians,” Mackler said. When pressed on the aversion to using the phrase “campaign finance reform,” Mackler said, “I’m very much focused on just getting things done. Finding solutions and working across the aisle and getting things done. I’m never going to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. So that’s somewhere I think we can make real progress. We need to undo the Citizens’ United decision from the Supreme Court, but that’s going to take a constitutional amendment, so let’s start with what we can do. Let’s, at least, let the American people know who’s buying and paying for deceptive advertising on TV, for example in these attack ads…it’s a start.”

“Service has been important to me and has shaped who I am,” Mackler continued, “And we need to come up with much more robust programs to incentivize national service. And I don’t just mean military service. We should all have good, clear pathways that allow us to serve our communities in broader ways because it lets us get out of our bubbles and lets us meet people who we otherwise wouldn’t have met and learn from them and work with them and gain new skills, earn money for college, [gain access to] healthcare. I was thirty years old when I joined the Army and I can’t believe how much more the world opened up for me when I chose that path to service and overcame the stereotypes I had seen and the benefits that came with it. I think that will fix a lot of the problems we have.” Mackler said he felt the “tribalism” was contributing to many of the divisions in the country and that this service outlet would help bridge factions within the country.