Keep us going. Donate!


Show more

"Are you better off now than you were four years ago?"

Ah, elections.

The more they change, the more they stay the same.

While I am still just a greenhorn in terms of when I had my first political awakening, I still have been able to see just how remarkably consistent the narrative for each presidential election has been. While the faces and names have changed since 2004, what hasn't changed has been the overall story arch. George W. Bush. Barack Obama. Donald Trump. Now Joe Biden. Four very different presidents running for re-election. Four very different times. But one, singular question that got to the heart of each re-election campaign. It was a question first raised by Ronald Reagan in 1980 against incumbent President Jimmy Carter. That question, the title of this piece, has now come front and center and is making the rounds in the 2024 election. In response to the question being raised, I have one simple, prevailing thought: 

Bring. It. On. 

Because while Donald Trump, Barack Obama, and George W. Bush tried to demonstrate how their policies had made a difference over the previous four years, none of them had a general election opponent who also had his own track record in the Oval Office. Joe Biden, Mitt Romney, and John Kerry all challenged an incumbent president and in doing so offered a contrasting vision for how they would govern. Biden campaigned on a more hopeful vision as to what had unfolded during the Trump years. Romney returned to tried and true GOP talking points about wanting small government, making his opposition to the Affordable Care Act a central tenet of his campaign. John Kerry was running on a platform against George W. Bush's foreign policy decisions, trying to capitalize on the growing opposition to the Iraq War. This has long been the standard way that presidential campaigns have unfolded in this country. In fact, the last time two former presidents faced off against each other in a general election was in 1892 when former President Grover Cleveland was successfully able to win back the office from incumbent President Benjamin Harrison. What's happening this year hasn't happened in exactly 132 years.

Fortunately, Joe Biden is not Benjamin Harrison. Uncle Joe's economy is booming. Nearly 15 million jobs have been created. Black unemployment at record lows. Historic investment in HBCUs. The most significant anti-gun violence legislation in 30 years. The CHIPS and Science Act. The Inflation Reduction Act. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. A federal judiciary that finally looks like America with a record number of qualified people of color being seated for lifetime appointments. Despite being painted as a "moderate" on the 2020 campaign trail, Joe Biden has proven to be the most progressive president in a half-century. There's a reason why Republicans are attacking his character and his family rather than his record. Because the Biden-Harris record is pretty damn impressive. 

But while President Biden's accomplishments could easily stand on their own, Biden has the added bonus of being able to answer that magical four years ago question. Because throughout 2020, the United States, under Donald Trump, was in complete chaos. It was an absolute shitshow. The pandemic had reached our shores and Donald Trump was like a deer in headlights. He never took it seriously. He tried to play it off. Meanwhile, thousands of Americans were dying each week, eventually reaching a point where we were losing an equivalent of 9/11 every single day. Medical professionals were wearing garbage bags as PPE. Mass graves were being dug on Hart Island to bury New York City's dead. Thousands of cars were lining up to get food in Dallas. Which states received ventilators depended on which Republican governor willingly kissed Trump's ring while the rest were told to "get it themselves." World-renowned immunologist Anthony Fauci was sidelined for a sycophant in a scarf. Trump himself got COVID and then broke protocol by going for a public joyride, something he needed to boost his fragile ego. To the surprise of no one, Donald Trump simply ignored the pandemic playbook left to him by his predecessor, Barack Obama. Anyone paying attention could see that he was in way over his head. 

The American people knew this. We knew we were on our own. We knew that Donald Trump wasn't serving in the role to maintain our health and well-being. He was in it for himself. And so, we had to then be in it for ourselves. We were the ones who had to adjust to all of Donald Trump's failings. We had to figure out how to work remotely. We had to figure out how to have our children learn from home. Teachers had to create entire curricula from scratch to teach remotely to their students. Alcohol distilleries pivoted to making hand sanitizer. Countless companies transitioned from making clothing to surgical masks and gowns. In-person stores and restaurants delineated space to keep customers six feet apart to avoid the spread of germs. Contactless delivery was born. Mutual aid networks emerged and made sure that immunocompromised individuals were being taken care of. With an epic failure at the federal level, it was the American people, and not the president, that kept the country afloat during the first major global health pandemic of the 21st century. 

But keep asking that question, Republicans.

Keep going on networks and giving campaign speeches where you ask us if we are better off than we were four years ago. Because we all remember what was actually happening in March of 2020. It was the beginning of the shutdown. The panicked rush we all experienced at the grocery store. The empty shelves of convenience stories. Crowdsourcing for toilet paper. The entire hospitality industry wondering if it would go under. Those of us at nonprofits furiously crunching numbers to see if we could keep the lights on (literally) if we didn't have our usual in-person fundraising events. Families trying to figure out how to accommodate their children at home during the day rather than having them at school. Children themselves pulled away from their peers. High school seniors not knowing if they would still be having a graduation celebration. College seniors being sent home, wondering if they would ever set foot on their campus again. Senior citizens, realizing they were most susceptible to the virus, thinking to themselves that this might be it. All of us hoping and praying for a miracle vaccine, that would somehow become available after Donald Trump left office.

This was the world four years ago. It is a world Republicans will try to gaslight. But we were there. All of us. We lived it. We remember it. We remember the emotions: fear, uncertainty, anxiety, nervousness. All of these emotions would have been different if someone, anyone, other than Donald Trump had been president. This was his moment. This was his time to shine. All he had to do was listen. Listen to the experts. Listen to those out in the field. Listen to those who had a plan in place. He couldn't even do that. A president's primary job is to protect the American people and Donald Trump couldn't put his ego aside for one minute, one single minute, to do that. It was the ultimate dereliction of duty. Over the next 10 months, Donald Trump would continuously put himself first over the American people. That is his legacy and that is why he ultimately lost the 2020 election. Four years ago today, Donald Trump's compassionless incompetence was failing the American people. 

Kudos to Republicans for continuously reminding us of this fact. 


Like what you're reading? Never miss another post! Get notified via email here.

Donate at the link below to keep us going.