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October is known for election year surprises.

In 1980, there was the Ronald Reagan deal when Iran announced over 50 American hostages in Tehran would not be released until after the U.S. election, thereby sinking incumbent Jimmy Carter’s hopes for a second term. In 1986, there was the October surprise when a CIA chartered C-123 supply plane involving Oliver North was shot down by the Sandinista government in northern Nicaragua while attempting to drop a weapons cargo to the Contras.

Now, we have the October surprise when President Donald Trump tested positive for COVID-19.

Of course, the positive test was really no surprise. The president and his fellow travelers have been taking significant risks for some time, the latest being a stop at a private residence in Minnesota, a fundraiser at his private golf club in New Jersey and an event that introduced U.S. Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett at the White House.

There also was the presidential debate in Cleveland, with the president’s family in the audience, refusing to wear face coverings, in violation of the debate rules and despite the pleading of professional medical personnel from the highly regarded Cleveland Clinic.

During the debate, there were more surprises. A key surprise was the president touting a remarkable turnaround in the economy. This was a startling assertion since, at the same time, the news reported the exact opposite happening, namely:

  • Walt Disney laid off 28,000 employees
  • U.S. retail bankruptcies, liquidations and store closings hit record highs, according to The Wall Street Journal.
  • Electric and gas delinquencies by families are reaching $24.3 billion, with 112,000 households already behind four months on power bills in Indiana alone, a rate four times greater than a year prior, according to The Washington Post.
  • “A drop in household income and persistently high layoffs are threatening to further slow the U.S. economic recovery, which appears to be losing momentum.” (Wall Street Journal again)
  • Nearly 12 million workers are still receiving unemployment compensation
  • Deaths from COVID-19 continue to mount toward a quarter-million people just in the United States, and new studies report that lingering effects might later affect other body organs, including the heart, in those who test positive.
  • American Airlines and United Airlines announced more than 32,000 pending job cuts.
  • Most shuttered local small businesses will never re-open
  • 865,000 women left the workforce in August alone.

It is a tradition that, during a key political time, politicians try to paint a positive picture. However, the current facts are so overwhelming that a reality check is now necessary. Those at the top, who made billions during the pandemic with their political friends by taking advantage of stimulus subsidies, redirected consumer spending and paying few or no taxes, are not feeling any pain and do not perceive that there is anything to be surprised about.

In fact, the situation feeds their perception that they are invincible, “special,” immune and privileged. This attitude also prevails among politicians, including the president, who downplay the effect and make public statements that the virus will soon disappear and fade into the sunset. It is a “wish it away” rationalization for an opportunistic agenda.

West Virginia , like all other states, is overwhelmed by obituaries of hardworking, dedicated and honest, tax-paying family members who died from COVID-19. The country has lost many people who did not need to die. Their deaths were preventable in various ways, including earlier and more strategically deployed national actions.

A new beginning, with new leadership at all levels in all sectors, both political and economic, which respects the equality, worth and dignity of everybody, must take over for the country to survive. Otherwise, more will die, and that will be an unnecessary tragedy.

We can’t afford to continue to be misled by promises any longer. We can’t wait.

John David is a Gazette-Mail contributing columnist.