She told me that leaders need to “lay down the science of how we could lose another two hundred thousand people, just like that.” As a public-health figure, Acton, a registered Democrat, strove to be apolitical. She and DeWine worked well together despite their party affiliations. Acton strongly believes that, should Biden win, he must not leave “a quiet space” between now and the Inauguration. “We cannot wait two and a half months to start leading and messaging” about unity, she said.
She said, “The real battle is that people are suffering. We’re seeing the diseases of despair, like depression. Overdoses are up. There’s not a person I meet, from any walk of life, who’s not struggling right now, to make sense of it all, to tolerate ambiguity. Add the election; add the racial unrest.”
After leaving the government, Acton heard Mike Trivisonno, a conservative talk-radio host in Ohio, say that if his key adviser quit during a crisis, he’d want to punch him in the face. Acton told me, “I’m from Youngstown, and I’m kind of scrappy, and a part of me wanted to say, ‘All right, mister, you’re so tough—let’s go.’ But what echoed in my mind was the work that I did in Rwanda, post-genocide. The genocide started with these radio talk shows that built up this ‘othering’ of people. It dialled up and dialled up and dialled up. It’s not that one day the President gets taken out and everyone grabs a machete and literally goes after their neighbor; it happened over time.”
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