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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Our vote for president is the most “personal” vote we Americans get to cast. We’re far more likely to base our choice for the U.S. House or the Senate on issues — such as health care costs, immigration or the environment — than we are our presidential choice. In a presidential campaign, we voters are beneficiaries or victims of an information overload. We learn about each White House nominee — often from her or his siblings — whether Mom liked her best or whether the other kids in the family agreed he was a “teacher’s pet” and, even worse, a sneaky “goody two-shoes.” We form opinions on whether the nominee is capable of laughing at himself, someone we would personally like and, more importantly, trust in a personal crisis.

But Democrats looking to 2020 appear unaware of this “personal” determinant in our presidential decisions. Many of them are instead, it seems, in search of some Democratic version of Donald Trump — a candidate who can go toe-to-toe, insult-to-insult with the bellicose Republican incumbent. Nothing could be more disastrous for Democrats’ victory prospects than to find and nominate their own practitioner of scorched-earth, take-no-prisoners politics.

That is exactly what American voters are not looking for in the White House. Think about it: Here is an incumbent president running for reelection at a time of historic American economic prosperity. The U.S. unemployment rate is the lowest in 50 years (since the nation’s economy was fueled by the Vietnam War). The unemployment rate for Asian Americans just reached a new historic low. The unemployment rate for adult men and adult women is an identically low 3.3 percent. Average hourly wages have grown 3.1 percent over the last year. Yet, in spite of those politically positive numbers, Trump has never once — in any day of his presidency — been rated favorably by a majority of his fellow Americans.

It turns out that it’s not just the economy, stupid. Americans’ vote for president remains deeply personal. When the respected Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll asked voters how they would “rate Donald Trump on the following qualities,” the results were enough to make every Republican precinct captain terminally nervous. By better than 2-to-1 (58 percent to 28 percent), 2019 voters do not see the Republican president as “being honest and trustworthy, or “having high personal and ethical standards” (58 percent negative, 24 percent positive). In the Gallup poll, barely 1 out of 3 Americans (35 percent) saw Trump “as someone they admire.” In the trusted Pew poll, only 13 percent found that President Trump’s comments often leave them “inspired,” and 45 percent reported they were never “inspired.” Are you “proud” when you hear Trump speak? Sixteen percent say they often are, but 47 percent answer “never.”

The ancient Greek historian Herodotus gave Americans and Democrats the wisest political advice some 25 centuries ago when he told us that “character is destiny.” Americans are living in boom times.

They give the man in the White House high marks for his economic stewardship. But what American voters are desperately seeking in 2020 is a national leader who can earn and keep our trust, whose word we can believe, whom we can admire, whom we can look to — especially for our children and grandchildren — as an example of decency and integrity, someone we can occasionally even be inspired by and whom we can actually like. Forget the 13-point federal program for free nasal hair removal and instead let us see your character.

Trump speaking at Londonderry, NH rally

Screenshot from YouTube

Donald Trump once again baselessly claimed on Sunday that the COVID-19 pandemic was "going to be over" soon, just hours after his chief of staff suggested the administration was unable to get it under control.

"Now we have the best tests, and we are coming around, we're rounding the turn," Trump said at a campaign rally in Manchester, New Hampshire. "We have the vaccines, we have everything. We're rounding the turn. Even without the vaccines, we're rounding the turn, it's going to be over."

Trump has made similar claims on repeated occasions in the past, stating early on in the pandemic that the coronavirus would go away on its own, then with the return of warmer weather.

That has not happened: Over the past several weeks, multiple states have seen a surge in cases of COVID-19, with some places, including Utah, Texas, and Wisconsin, setting up overflow hospital units to accommodate the rapidly growing number of patients.

Hours earlier on Sunday, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows appeared to contradict Trump, telling CNN that there was no point in trying to curb the spread of the coronavirus because it was, for all intents and purposes, out of their control.

"We are not going to control the pandemic. We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigation areas," he said. "Because it is a contagious virus, just like the flu."

Meadows doubled own on Monday, telling reporters, "We're going to defeat the virus; we're not going to control it."

"We will try to contain it as best we can, but if you look at the full context of what I was talking about, we need to make sure that we have therapeutics and vaccines, we may need to make sure that when people get sick, that, that they have the kind of therapies that the president of the United States had," he added.Public health experts, including those in Trump's own administration, have made it clear that there are two major things that could curb the pandemic's spread: mask wearing and social distancing.

But Trump has repeatedly undermined both, expressing doubt about the efficacy of masks and repeatedly ignoring social distancing and other safety rules — even when doing so violated local and state laws.

Trump, who recently recovered from COVID-19 himself, openly mocked a reporter on Friday for wearing a mask at the White House — which continues to be a hotspot for the virus and which was the location of a superspreader event late last month that led to dozens of cases. "He's got a mask on that's the largest mask I think I've ever seen. So I don't know if you can hear him," Trump said as his maskless staff laughed alongside him.

At the Manchester rally on Sunday, Trump also bragged of "unbelievable" crowd sizes at his mass campaign events. "There are thousands of people there," he claimed, before bashing former Vice President Joe Biden for holding socially distant campaign events that followed COVID safety protocols.

"They had 42 people," he said of a recent Biden campaign event featuring former President Barack Obama. "He drew flies, did you ever hear the expression?"

Last Monday, Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL) endorsed Biden's approach to the pandemic as better than Trump's, without "any doubt."

"The more we go down the road resisting masks and distance and tracing and the things that the scientists are telling us, I think the more concerned I get about our management of the COVID situation," he told CNN.

In his final debate against Biden last Thursday, Trump was asked what his plan was to end the pandemic. His answer made it clear that, aside from waiting for a vaccine, he does not have one.

"There is a spike, there was a spike in Florida and it's now gone. There was a very big spike in Texas — it's now gone. There was a spike in Arizona, it is now gone. There are spikes and surges in other places — they will soon be gone," he boasted. "We have a vaccine that is ready and it will be announced within weeks and it's going to be delivered. We have Operation Warp Speed, which is the military is going to distribute the vaccine."

Experts have said a safe vaccine will likely not be ready until the end of the year at the earliest, and that most people will not be able to be vaccinated until next year.

Trump also bragged Sunday that he had been "congratulated by the heads of many countries on what we have been able to do," without laying out any other strategy for going forward.

Nationally, new cases set a single-day record this weekend, with roughly 84,000 people testing positive each day. More than 8.5 million Americans have now contracted the virus and about 225,000 have died.

Trump, by contrast, tweeted on Monday that he has "made tremendous progress" with the virus, while suggesting that it should be illegal for the media to report on it before the election.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.