On May 28, 2019 - you know, about 479 years ago - I wrote the following: “So who will win in 2020? It’s still a long way away, so much can happen, but if I had to bet? I’d say Trump.”

As it turns out, “so much can happen” happened, and so here we are. The election is 62 days away, and it’s been decades since an incumbent faced worse odds.

As for me? I hope the odds get even worse. As far as I’m concerned, this country needs to move on from Donald Trump.

I never cared for him; he strikes me as a jerk and not terribly bright. I’ve never wavered from that opinion.

But back in May of 2019, things were different. The economy was humming. Unemployment at historic lows. Yes, there was some social unrest, but Americans gonna America, and when things are good in the wallet, that usually spells success for the sitting president.

And while I wasn’t happy with the prospect of four more years of Trump, looking at my bank account was enough to soothe my worries. I wasn’t going to vote for him, but I figured we made it this far without the world collapsing, we could make it another few years. I’m sure I wasn’t alone in this view.

Basically, Americans can, will, and do forgive jerks if it means money in their pockets. This isn’t a flaw in the system; it pretty much is the system.

Of course, a good economy is not necessarily the result of what a president does. And on the flip side, a bad economy is not necessarily the fault of what a president does.

Except in this case.

Our economy is in tatters. Unemployment claims are through the roof. The shock to the economy is the worst since the Great Depression. And it is Trump’s fault.

It’s not Trump’s fault the coronavirus exists, but It is his fault there has been a cruddy national response. It is his fault that he didn’t act immediately, in any way.

What did he do instead? On January 22, he said “We have it totally under control.” On February 4 - during the State of the Union - he said, “My administration will take all necessary steps to safeguard our citizens from this threat.” On February 10 he said, ““Looks like by April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away.” On February 24 he tweeted, “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA.” On March 10 he said, “This was unexpected. … And it hit the world. And we’re prepared, and we’re doing a great job with it. And it will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.” On April 3, about wearing masks, he said “It’s going to be, really, a voluntary thing. You can do it. You don’t have to do it. I’m choosing not to do it, but some people may want to do it, and that’s OK. It may be good. Probably will. They’re making a recommendation. It’s only a recommendation.”

Shall I go on?

If Trump instead acted like the leaders in New Zealand … or South Korea … or Japan … or practically any other first world country - we would be the ones today who aren’t letting travellers from other countries into America instead of the other way around.

If Trump encouraged governors to shut everything down for a few weeks back in early March - like the leaders of dozens of other countries did and like we should’ve done on a national scale - we would’ve beaten this disease back. Would there have been short-term economic pain with a few weeks of a nationwide shutdown? You bet. But it would’ve been short-term. A few weeks of shutdown in March, masks after that, and we’re New Zealand. We’re South Korea. We’re Japan. We’re Cambodia. We’re Latvia. We’re Malaysia. We’re Thailand. We’re Egypt. We’re Ireland. We’re Qatar.

Shall I go on?

Way I see it Trump’s response to the coronavirus was stupid, deadly, and costly.

But Americans are a forgiving bunch. We can forgive stupid and deadly.

What we can’t forgive is costly, in its most literal sense. We’re six months-plus into this thing, and we’re still massively struggling to get out of it. A nationwide response was needed, and Trump failed to do anything. As a result, we’re in dire financial straits as a nation. Someone cue up the James Carville “It’s the economy, stupid” clip.

For the record, I’m not trying to change minds here - I can’t imagine there’s a single person in the nation who is debating between Trump and Biden. Decisions have been made. I figured I’d just put my own thoughts down so I don’t have to do it again.

But you know what’s the craziest thing about all this is? If Trump acted accordingly in regards to the coronavirus - and really, as a germaphobe extraordinaire, it’s mind-boggling that he didn’t - he would be seen today as a hero, as the man who single-handedly saved the economy - not to mention untold lives.

And he would’ve deserved the “hero” designation, jerk or not. He might’ve even got my vote.

Jeff Edelstein is a columnist for The Trentonian. He can be reached at jedelstein@trentonian.com, facebook.com/jeffreyedelstein and @jeffedelstein on Twitter.

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