This Doctor Wants to Diagnose and Fix America’s Political Problems
“It’s like an infection that the political immune system hasn’t been able to throw yet.”
Around the world, fewer than one-quarter of lawmakers are women — an imbalance in representation that affects how laws are crafted and passed and how equality is created in societies. Global Citizen’s series, “Who Run The Gov? Girls!” chronicles the massive uptick in women running for office, regardless of political party, in the US and around the world, highlighting the candidates and the groups helping them to run, the challenges they face, advice & tips for running, and the results.
In some ways, politicians are doctors of civic affairs — they’re supposed to diagnose problems at the national, state, or local level and try to fix them.
Kathie Allen, who is an actual doctor, has some ideas for what problems face the US and so she’s running in a special congressional election in Utah’s 3rd district Nov. 7 to replace former Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz who left office earlier in the year.
Allen thinks her medical background is a unique asset in a political landscape that she sees as dysfunctional.
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“Doctors have a skill set that’s really applicable to politics,” she told Global Citizen. “We’re trained in astute listening skills because we can’t make the right diagnosis if we haven’t listened to the patient’s history, we have analytical skills, we can reengineer really complex data into simple language, and most good physicians inspire trust in our patients.”
In fact, medical providers account for four of the top five most trusted professions in the US, according to Gallup.
Despite this possible credibility boost, Allen faces some uphill challenges. Most immediately, she’s a Democratic running in a district where Republicans outnumber Democrats six to one.
As of September, she trailed by more than 30% in a poll to her main rival, John Curtis, the Republican mayor of Provo, Utah.
After three decades as a practicing doctor, Allen is 64 and her political experience is limited. She was an aide to Rep. Shirley Pettis, a Republican in California, in the 1970s, according to USA Today.
Like scores of women across the US, Allen only decided to run after Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Presidential election because of the jarring nature of the contest.
“All the faux news and the propaganda that was loosened, all the Google stuff, all the social media stuff,” she said. “We need to have data driven solutions, anyone from a science background knows you shouldn’t make policy decisions based on faulty science.”
She was also inspired by former Congressman Chaffetz’s positions on healthcare. Chaffetz has been a part of dozens of efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and back in March he said that people should stop buying iPhones if they want to be able to afford health insurance, a comment that sparked outrage.
In a savvy response, Allen took to Twitter to tell voters that they did, in fact, have a choice to make. But it wasn’t a choice between phones and flu shots — it was a choice between her and Chaffetz representing them in Washington.
Cell phone vs. health ins. People have to make a choice. Yes they do, Jason! https://t.co/9iuL6an4og— Dr. Kathie Allen (@kathieallenmd) March 7, 2017
After TV personality Rosie O’Donnell retweeted her, Allen’s campaign took off. Her crowdfunding page raised $350,000 in a week, far exceeding her previous overall fundraising efforts of $15,000, she said.
To date, Allen has raised well over $500,000, putting her ahead of the other candidates competing for office.
Allen is the only woman among six remaining candidates who are vying for the seat and her gender has both helped and hurt her, she said.
“In some ways, being a woman running for office is a benefit because I’m so obviously different from the other people running,” she said.
The farther Allen has gone in her campaign, however, the more bruising the campaign has become.
And she thinks her gender is a big part of all of the nasty comments she receives, she told Global Citizen.
“You’re held to a different standard [as a woman],” she said. “My appearance gets picked on probably more than a man’s would, and just about every detail of how I present myself is subjected to criticism.”
“I’ve had to grow some new layers because people are nasty, nasty, nasty,” she added. “I’ve been called so many horrible things, you just learn to think of them as distractions because I need to focus on what I have to do.”
That means communicating to the public how she would work on their behalf. Before building her campaign, Allen received training from 314 Action, an organization that helps people from STEM backgrounds enter politics. Allen said her mentors helped her hone her campaign message.
“We need to bring reality back,” she said. “Reality means you can’t cut taxes and expect to improve the federal deficit, it doesn’t go hand in hand.”
Allen pointed to several of Trump’s administration officials — Scott Pruitt of the environmental protection agency and former secretary of health and human services Tom Price — who have seemingly built careers off opposing the very agencies they’re now running.
Allen has built a career helping people who are sick and injured and she wants to use that expertise to make healthcare more affordable and work for more people.
She’s lucky that healthcare happens to be the number one issue in her district, she said.
“We’ve tried to make the point that it doesn’t matter what political party you belong to, death is equal opportunity stalker,” she said. “Sooner or later someone we will all succumb to old age, injuries, illness, or something.”
Somehow, she said, this universal issue has become hugely divisive and she wants to bring a dose of common sense reasoning to the conversation.
“All this highly inflammatory stuff,” she said. “It’s like an infection that the political immune system hasn’t been able to throw yet.”
“As a physician I have to say, ‘no, this is a totally wrong judgement call.’”