The BDN Opinion section operates independently and does not set newsroom policies or contribute to reporting or editing articles elsewhere in the newspaper or on bangordailynews.com.
Amy Fried is chair of the Department of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views are her own and do not represent those of any group with which she is affiliated.
We all have our own stories about how the pandemic has affected our lives.
Yes, my day-to-day life has changed, but what hurts me the most is that it’s been about eight months since I’ve been able to see my elderly mother in person. Who knows how many days she has left in her life, good days when she’ll be able to recognize me and have a conversation?
I also think about a friend who has spent three weeks in the hospital with COVID so far, mostly in intensive care. Another friend had to cut back her business, layoff employees and spend more money to ensure safety.
Yet President Donald Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows announced this weekend that the administration has essentially given up, saying the country was “not going to control” the pandemic.
Meadow’s remark fell into the category of shocking but not surprising. It wasn’t surprising, given the many times Trump has said the virus would just go away on its own. But it was shocking because not trying to control COVID-19 could mean more than a million preventable deaths, continued health damage, and more people with lifelong preexisting conditions.
At Gettysburg in November 1863, President Abraham Lincoln identified “the great task,” that “we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.” It is our great task as well.
As Election Day approaches, Americans can pick another path. Joe Biden and his top staffer Ron Klain not only dealt with two communicable diseases — Ebola and H1N1 — when he was vice president, but he believes in science and in using government to take actions for the common good.
And Biden, who has suffered so much personally, is a man of great empathy. He has an extensive plan to combat COVID-19 on his website, which is well worth reading. Biden is highly prepared for the job responsibilities as president and will bring in competent staff, not political hacks who are incompetent and self-serving.
Beyond combating the health issues involved with COVID-19 and understanding that taking care of the pandemic is needed for the economy to thrive, Biden has a very different approach to jobs and education, and it flows from his experiences growing up.
Biden, unlike Trump, didn’t grow up in a wealthy family with servants. Biden’s dad lost his job and his family had to move in with grandparents and then relocate from Pennsylvania to Delaware. Trump and many, many other presidents graduated from an Ivy League school. Biden graduated from Delaware’s state university. He knows first hand what it’s like to struggle to pay the bills and to try to help our children live better lives.
So Biden’s economic plans segue with his emphasis on education, health care and labor rights as critical to building a vibrant middle class. He also talks about his climate plan as critical in itself and as a jobs plan.
Biden sees economic inequality as “a moral issue.” The tax bill Trump signed and Sen. Susan Collins voted for allowed the 400 richest people in America to pay a lower tax rate than the working class. In contrast, Biden pledges to raise taxes only on people making more than $400,000 a year.
And, this by the way, illuminates a difference between what is promised by Collins versus her Democratic opponent, Sara Gideon. Collins runs ads saying she worked the system, helping a town or industry here or there to get more resources. (It’s worth noting though that the Senate has banned earmarks, which used to allocate funds for specific projects in an appropriation bill.) Gideon, with Biden, would make the system work better for everyone. It’s like the difference between holding a fundraiser for a community member who has cancer versus making sure that cancer screening, cancer treatment and cancer research is well funded and available.
This is our time in history to take on the great task before us — controlling the pandemic and thus being able to bring back our normal lives — and to go beyond it by making the system work for everyday people.