“I always wanted to play it down.”
Those words uttered by Donald Trump to Bob Woodward in February of this year echo a clear disregard to human life as the death toll from COVID-19 has surpassed 200,000 in the U.S. Understanding the clear and present danger that Americans faced, this president has publicly denounced the severity of the virus and needlessly put hundreds of thousands of people in peril.
Ahead of tonight’s first presidential debate, this president will attempt to fabricate his own truths and make outlandish claims about former Vice President Joe Biden. But as this president engages in his empty rhetoric, my mind will always come back to how he could have worked to have a real plan and addressed the threat of COVID-19 seriously and save lives, rather than manipulate his own narrative to play political games.
Several members of my extended family contracted COVID-19, and that has made me put a stronger emphasis on protecting my two young kids, Evan and Emma, from contracting it. Thankfully they haven’t, but they ask me when they’re going to get to go back to school and see their friends and teachers. “When it’s safe,” I tell them, as my wife and I prepare them daily for their virtual classrooms since I have chosen for them to attend school through social distance learning. But this fortune has escaped a few of my friends who laid in ICU for weeks because of COVID-19 and one of my friends from high school’s stepfather who died due to complications from it.
My wife and I are both immigrants looking for the opportunity that our parents wanted for us as we engage in the American experiment. To me, the beauty of the United States is not only the land of opportunity and freedom, but the principle that our government works by and for the people. Yet this president has endangered the wellbeing and opportunity of every Asian in this country with his xenophobic and racist slander. By continuing to blame the “Chinese” virus and calling it “Kung Flu” and using derogatory language, the president has fueled the flames of hate against Asians to the point of 100 attacks a day against the AAPI community during the height of the pandemic.
Tonight, I imagine that we’ll hear a lot of revisionist history from the president with claims that the virus is “contained” and that he’s responsible for a vaccine. But his record only shows an unwillingness to believe in science in medicine. As the number of deaths surge past 200,000 Americans more than 2,000 of those deaths are in Colorado. And with a third wave coming on, the number of people infected with COVID-19 nationally has skyrocketed to 7.18 million. Yet, even during this global pandemic, this president is in court right now to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, which could rip health coverage away from over 400,000 Coloradans if he succeeds.
It’s likely we’ll also hear a lot about pre-existing conditions tonight. Let’s be clear: this president will not protect people with pre-existing conditions. He talks a big game, but not only is his administration in court to dismantle the one law on the books that ensures people with pre-existing conditions can get health coverage, but he has no plan to replace the ACA if his lawsuit succeeds. To make matters worse, complications from COVID-19 could become the next deniable pre-existing condition without the ACA. This president will point to the series of executive orders he unveiled last week, but nonpartisan industry experts agree that this “health care plan” isn’t much of a plan at all, and would be like skydiving with no parachute.
Along with the human loss, we as a state are dealing with the greatest economic consequences of this administration’s failures. Because of this president’s lack of a response to COVID-19, Colorado went from a historic low unemployment rate of 2.6% to 6.7%, hundreds of thousands of Coloradans remain out of work, and countless small businesses have had to shutter their doors forever. Many are in fear of losing it all and can barely put enough together to buy groceries. Yet this president is a man who paid a mere $750 in taxes, who passed a huge tax scam for his rich friends, whose party has refused to pass critical COVID relief in the form of the Heroes Act — is the guy who is going to get the economy going again for hardworking people on Main Street?
I’ll be watching tonight’s debate closely, and I encourage all of you to keep Trump’s record in mind as he continues to assault the truth and mislead the American public. And keep this in mind as well: he is only in it for himself and anyone loyal to him and his personal agenda. An agenda where we see a divided and combative attitude in this country. And attitude reflects leadership (or lack thereof). Why would we expect any different if we give him four more years? That’s why I’m voting for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris and telling everyone else to join me in doing so.
Howard Chou is an immigrant, a father, a husband, and the 1st Vice Chair of the Colorado Democrats.