Letters to the Editor

On Friday, President Trump was airlifted to Walter Reed Medical Hospital. Public response has been extremely varied, with some parties stating that they hope he dies, and others displaying sympathy. For his part, Joe Biden has extended his best wishes and condolences to the President and his family.

If anything is to have an effect on the upcoming election, I believe it would be the conclusion of Trump’s experience with COVID. Before all else commentary, I pray for his health and longevity—a president dying is a tragedy. Regardless of political affiliation, I would hope that we can all agree on that.

The problem is that we can’t. Looking through Twitter this past weekend, my feed was inundated with coverage on the President’s state of health. As mentioned before, former Vice President Biden shared kind words—unfortunately he did not speak for the entirety of his party. Although Twitter has made a rare move of bipartisan respect by taking down such tweets, the list of persons wishing death upon POTUS include previous members of the Obama/Biden White House administration, as well as Hillary Clinton’s spokeswoman. I find their statements, and those of thousands of others, both disgusting and telling of their values. I never thought we would see the day where death would be wished upon a sitting President— I pray that this deep seated division will not tear apart our country limb by limb.

Thus we are confronted with two opposite situations. If Trump combats the virus vigorously, and is back in time for the second debate, public optimism will soar, and the election will veer in his direction. Trump could transform his battle with the virus into an American story of triumph—one reminiscent of Reagan overcoming the bullet wound, or Roosevelt living his days in a wheelchair with his head held high. Past precedence has shown us history is kind to those who take setbacks in stride; I see no reason why Trump should be the exception.

If Trump suffers profusely and publicly until painfully clawing himself into a slow recovery, it would be fair to kiss his re-election chances goodbye. By contracting the virus, Trump has opened up the perfect angle of attack for Biden: who are we to trust you with our nation’s recovery when you couldn’t even protect yourself? Furthermore, Biden can use the anecdotal evidence of Trump’s own battle with COVID as a warrant for the virus’ severity.

Neither of these lines are particularly effective. There is a huge divide between what a President’s personal opinion about an issue is, and what the President’s actual policy accomplishes. Yes, Trump has been lackluster in his personal support for PPE (personal protective equipment). Yes, he has been known to not wear masks. And yes, he is horrendously bad at conveying the importance of certain CDC guidelines. But solely looking at personal actions undermines the actual policy created by that person. In terms of national policy, Trump has done an outstanding job—he shut down travel to and from China, distributed ventilators and PPE to governors that needed them, and implemented massive stimulus bills to aid our limping economy. Biden can say that Trump’s plan was terrible, but Biden’s plan is the exact same as his opponent’s with just one stipulation: Biden would implement a nationwide mask mandate and shutdown. This has an inherent vice—it is unconstitutional, and technically tyrannical under our nation’s framework.

Biden’s second line of attack, that of Trump’s personal experience with the virus, would be just as flawed. Anecdotes are excellent for winning over public support, but horrendous for policy. Anecdotes, or personal stories, make perfect use of former Soviet Union President Joseph Stalin’s quip, “a single death is a tragedy, a thousand deaths is a statistic.” Trump’s experience with the virus should by no means impact nationwide policy; the day that one man’s confrontation should completely dictate a nation’s story is the day that we live in abject tyranny.

As a person, Trump has failed. As policy maker he has succeeded. Anything past that is simply meant to sway statistics with stories.

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