The president’s response to the pandemic should not have been a surprise. In December 2016, a month before Donald Trump was inaugurated, I asked how a pandemic would play out during his term. The question was not idly put: Every recent president before Trump had been challenged by epidemics, and Trump’s actions as both a citizen during the 2014 Ebola outbreak and a candidate on the campaign trail had been troubling. His record suggested that come a pandemic, he would lie, spread misinformation, opt for travel bans in lieu of more effective measures, and heed his own counsel over that of experts.
In the 2020 election, on top of every routine test of character and capability, the candidates must answer the challenge the coronavirus has brought to this country. Trump’s response has been so lax as to effectively cede the country to a virus whose spread is controllable. He has, by his own admission, repeatedly downplayed the threat after he became aware of how dangerous the new coronavirus could be. He caught the virus himself and seems to have learned nothing from the encounter.
Experience usually molds understanding, but Trump is still downplaying the pandemic, urging Americans not to “let it dominate your life” even after 210,000 had already lost theirs. One week ago, when asked if “there was anything that you think you could have done differently,” he said, “Not much.”
As November nears, the coronavirus is surging again, with cases rising to record-breaking heights for the third time. To control the pandemic, changes are necessary, but Trump has proved that he does not learn from his mistakes—perhaps the most costly of his failings. If he is reelected, he will continue on the same path, and so will the coronavirus. More Americans will be sickened, disabled, and killed. Donald Trump is unchanging; the election offers an opportunity for the country to change instead.