For those who have so far escaped the worst of the coronavirus pandemic, the main difficulty has been managing an unholy level of stress. It’s hard to think of any activity that doesn’t induce some level of worry. The disruption of routines is by itself quite stressful. Everywhere we look, there is something to be concerned about. It’s so prevalent that we’re even freaking out that some people aren’t freaking out, because they’re not acting appropriately and therefore putting others at risk.
There are no quick and easy solutions, so no politician can magically return things to normal. What we need is someone who will tell us the important things to keep in mind. We need to know what we can do to help get things back to normal and to prevent things from getting worse. But we also need a leader who will do what they can to reduce the society-wide level of crippling stress we’re experiencing.
Some of this can be done through policy. Helping people avoid losing their homes and their access to health care would be a good start. Providing resources to schools so that they can do the best possible job of reopening, if possible, or teaching remotely, if necessary, is extremely important.
Giving the people consistent good information so that they are clear on the facts will reduce their stress level. Confusion is the enemy, and providing a sense that the government has a grip on the situation is reassuring. Following a blueprint that has worked in many other countries to get the viral spread under control will make it possible to reopen more of the economy, which will save businesses and recreate and reactivate jobs. That would be a great stress reducer.
What we most definitely don’t need is a leader who adds unnecessary things to worry about. We shouldn’t be thinking about the “threat” of antifa. Federal officers shouldn’t be snatching peaceful protestors off the streets and throwing them in unmarked vans. We shouldn’t have to question our president’s motives for brashly pulling our troops out of Germany. We don’t need warnings that our idyllic suburban lifestyles are under threat.
President Trump began his campaign for the presidency by asking us to look at every Mexican immigrant as a potential rapist. His inaugural address talked about impending “carnage.” His political success depends on people obsessing over exaggerated or non-existent threats. What people should have been focused on was the threat that Trump presented to our nation and the world.
That’s pretty clear now, but he’s still the president and he’s still doing everything he can to make people feel uncomfortable. Now he’s hyping a new exaggerated threat by attacking vote-by-mail. More than that, he’s even suggesting that he might try to delay the election.
The country can’t handle more stress, but Trump is unrelenting. Under his leadership, literally nothing works anymore. The Department of Justice is hopelessly corrupted. The Department of Homeland Security is acting like the Gestapo. Cabinet officials are no longer confirmed by the Senate, but work in an acting or interim capacity. Our alliances are in tatters. Science takes a backseat to partisanship and ideology.
The promise of Joe Biden is not so much what he will do, but that what he won’t do. He won’t stress us out unnecessarily. He won’t deliberately corrupt and break our institutions. He won’t thoughtlessly alienate our friends and do the bidding of our enemies.
The people are so thirsty for this because they are exhausted by Trump. This is also why Trump has no easy way back into contention. The things that work for him put people under stress, which is exactly what they do not want. We’d toss George Washington out of office if we thought we could wake up tomorrow and put our kids on a school bus without worrying about COVID-19.
Joe Biden isn’t that kind of magician, but he can ease our anxiety simply by being himself and not being Trump, and that’s his biggest advantage in this election.