What will it take to bring America back?

This nation has been in free-fall since the man who lost the popular vote in 2016 by more than 3 million votes still became president, thanks to a politically-drawn electoral college map.

As a one-time political operative for the GOP and then five years as the vice president for political programs for the association who had what was then the largest political action committee in the country, I sill have a lot of contacts in Washington who fill my email inbox with thoughts, rants, and concerns.

Those from the Republican side lament the fall of their party under the scandal-ridden presidency of Donald John Trump. It seems misery loves company.

So it wasn’t surprising Friday to read this analysis from several on the staff of The New York Times:

Even those who have grown used to Mr. Trump’s conduct in office may have found themselves newly alarmed by the grim spectacle of a sitting president deliberately stoking the country’s divisions and pursuing personal vendettas in the midst of a crisis that has Americans fearing for their lives and livelihoods.

Since well before he became president, Mr. Trump’s appetite for conflict has defined him as a public figure. But in recent days he has practiced that approach with new intensity, signaling both the depths of his election-year distress and his determination to blast open a path to a second term, even at the cost of further riling a country in deep anguish.

His electoral path has narrowed rapidly since the onset of the pandemic, as the growth-and-prosperity theme of his campaign disintegrated. In private, Mr. Trump has been plainly aggrieved at the loss of his central argument for re-election. “They wiped out my economy!” he has said to aides, according to people briefed on the remarks.

“If this election is about Trump, he probably loses,” says Ken Goldstein, professor of politics at the University of San Francisco.

Mike Donilon, a strategic campaign advisor to Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, talked with reporters via conference call Friday, said Trump is pulling “an all-out effort to take people away from what they are living through” during the Coronavirus pandemic that has turned life upside down in the past months.

He adds:

I think that’s going to be real hard to do, because the country has really been rocked. And where the president has succeeded in the past, in terms of throwing up lots of distractions and smoke screens and trying to move the debate to other questions, I don’t think he’s going to succeed here.

Republican pollsters I knew during my days working for the GOP say their surveys show Trump falling further and further behind Biden in key states and those facts are feeding Trump’s terror and paranoia.

In times of crisis, most Americans want a president who shows calm and determination to unite the nation. Trump is nothing like that. To make matters worse, Trump is often his own worse enemy, undermining his actions with spastic Twitter tweets and disjointed off-the-cuff comments.

“That where his national state is,” says Republican strategist Terry Nelson. “He’s not in a position to rally the country in a way a president traditionally would in a situation like this.”

Democratic strategists say Biden makes points with voters by being the calm, resolute leader who can deal with severe threats like a pandemic.

“There are more coronavirus cases in the United States than anywhere in the world, while job losses skyrocket, and Joe Biden will hold Donald Trump accountable for his malfeasance,” says Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates. “He will also offer a powerful contrast, giving the American people a reminder of what competent, dependable, and compassionate leadership in the White House looks like.”

Can compassion, responsibility, and competence bring America back from the brink?

We shall see.

 

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