There are many, many reasons Americans should vote Trump out of the White House, but perhaps the most urgent is his refusal — or perhaps his inability — to face the reality of covid-19. This election is literally a choice between life and death.
Why have we lost approximately 225,000 lives to covid-19, more than any other nation on Earth? Because the Trump administration never even considered taking the basic but difficult measures that could have strangled transmission of the virus during its infancy.
European nations such as Italy, France and Spain saw big initial spikes in infections and deaths but instituted comprehensive shutdowns that reduced transmission of the virus to levels low enough to allow reopening of businesses and schools. They are now responding to new infection spikes with targeted shutdowns. Germany, which has done much better than other Western countries, relied on tried-and-true public health strategies of testing, contact tracing and mask-wearing. I don't buy the argument that cultural differences would have made such measures impossible here. I don't believe most Americans are too stupid to understand the need to work together against a common threat.
Trump, however, is not most Americans.
One of the worst mistakes any leader can make during a crisis is to engage in magical thinking. But that is the only kind of thinking Trump has done about covid-19 — and the only kind he continues to do. From the beginning, he has looked for excuses not to believe what the nation's leading experts on infectious diseases have been telling him.
We know from Bob Woodward's book "Rage" that the president understood in early February that covid-19 was deadlier than even the most "strenuous" flu strains — yet he publicly cited yearly influenza death tolls to suggest the opposite. He touted hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug, as a miracle cure — even after studies proved it worthless and potentially harmful. He refused to regularly wear a mask, and he went out of his way to ridicule those, including Democratic candidate Joe Biden, who did.
Even worse, Trump sabotaged efforts by governors and mayors to control the virus with shutdowns and mask mandates. He made covid-19 denial an article of faith for his political base, encouraging the Republican governors of states such as Florida, Georgia and Texas to reopen their economies prematurely. The one thing Trump does brilliantly in politics is drive wedges, and he has hammered a massive one into the deadliest possible crack: between public health on one side and "freedom" on the other.
Trump's bombastically ignorant leadership on covid-19 has endangered the Americans his government ought to be protecting. Think about the big, reckless campaign rally he held last week at The Villages, a sprawling Florida retirement community, where most in the crowd did not wear masks. Given the high rate of infection in that state, it is flabbergasting that Trump would encourage his supporters to expose themselves in this way.
Many covid-19 survivors are chastened by the experience. Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, for example, is now an advocate for mask-wearing, social distancing and general prudence. Trump's experience with the disease, by contrast, seems to have made him even more detached, touting"therapeutics and, frankly, cures" as he looks ahead to the possibility of a humiliating defeat next week.
And such a defeat is what he must be made to suffer. Our health and welfare depend on it.
Doctors know more about how to treat covid-19 patients now, so the death rate has come down somewhat. But the current rise in cases is so steep, and so widespread, that medical systems in the Upper Midwest are already under severe strain. Vaccines will not arrive in time to prevent the "dark winter" that Biden — and public health experts — see coming.
If Biden wins, his policies will aim to ensure that more of our friends, neighbors and family members survive to see the spring. We need, and must elect, a president who is genuinely pro-life."