OPINION: The election is 6 months away. Are you better off than you were four years ago?

A sign on the entrance to a pharmacy reads "Covid-19 Vaccine Not Yet Available" on November 23, 2020 in Burbank, California. (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

A sign on the entrance to a pharmacy reads "Covid-19 Vaccine Not Yet Available" on November 23, 2020 in Burbank, California. (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)

Buckle up, America. We’ve reached the six-month mark. Sunday is exactly six months from Election Day 2024. It’s the rematch between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump that nobody wanted, but it’s the one we’re getting anyway.

The question for voters now is the same one Ronald Reagan asked when he was running against Jimmy Carter in 1980: Are you better off today than you were four years ago?

But unlike the end of the Carter years, the answer for nearly all of us today is yes, we are better off than we were four years ago.

Do you remember where you were on May 5, 2020? I was trying to figure out how to log my 7-year-old twins into simultaneous Zoom meetings with their first-grade teachers. It was two months into the COVID-19 pandemic, and schools everywhere were still closed. Supply chains were so broken that scarce paper towels and toilet paper practically became their own currency. The country was a mess and would stay that way for a while.

The pandemic wasn’t Trump’s fault, of course. But Americans seem to be remembering the Trump years with a sort of gauzy nostalgia that doesn’t take reality into account. Vote however you want, but don’t let it be because you’re forgetting what really happened.

Four years ago today, the unemployment rate was 13.3%, heading toward a high of 14.7%, with more than 30 million people out of work, including me. Like many, I was laid off from my reporting job the day COVID-19 shut down the U.S. economy. The unemployment rate today is 3.9%.

The stock market was also reeling four years ago, trading at 23,664 in May 2020 and 38,239 today.

Four years ago today, the national deficit had just ballooned after Congress and Trump appropriated nearly $3 trillion for emergency federal spending in just six weeks. Even more emergency spending followed under Biden. The spending likely averted an even worse outcome at the time, but economists now acknowledge it is also partially the root of today’s 3.5% inflation rate and high interest rates for borrowers.

More than 350,000 Americans died from COVID-19 that year. Trump was nearly one of them that October, when he was hospitalized at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Despite being seriously ill, he Tweeted upon his release a day later, “I feel better than I did 20 years ago!”

What few knew at the time was that the president had tested positive for COVID-19 days before he hosted a large White House reception for his Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, and days before he debated Biden in person, exposing him to the virus, too.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was so livid with Trump for knowingly exposing him that he has not worked with him since. Christie became so ill with the virus that he was also hospitalized and later said he nearly died.

The pandemic wasn’t the only terrible feature of Trump’s last year in office. In 2020, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Rayshard Brooks were all killed by police in separate incidents, which sparked racial justice protests, punctuated by occasional riots, across the country. Trump battled with the secretary of defense at the time, who told the president he could not send active-duty troops into American cities to stop the unrest.

As the 2020 elections approached, the country under Trump was grieving, reeling and battling its own demons. Trump’s campaign ads pumped up anger and fear. One showed a scared grandma with an intruder at her door, while Biden’s message for Americans was “decency over division.”

“There is so much we can do, if we choose to take on problems and not each other,” one Biden ad said.

One week before Election Day, Barrett was sworn in as Trump’s third nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, giving conservatives a 6-3 edge. Democrats and liberals were despondent. Biden promised to appoint new judges to reverse the trend.

At the time, the choice between Trump and Biden could not have been more stark. And that’s a problem for Biden now.

Today the economy is better, but not by all measures. Interest rates, which are not set by Biden, remain stubbornly high and are making homes, cars and credit card payments painful for borrowers.

The war in the Middle East is leading to ugly clashes between students and police in the U.S. Jewish families say their students feel unsafe but are ignored. Black voters aren’t enthusiastic about Biden, and the president’s age, not surprisingly, remains an issue.

All of this is happening while Trump is bogged down in a New York court, limited by judicial fiat in what he can say. His court schedule has him hamstrung from campaigning, when he typically makes his most outrageous statements. The truly Trump-obsessed seem to be watching his New York hush-money trial closely, but that’s not most people.

So while most Americans may be better off today than four years ago, the comparison between Biden and Trump is more mixed. And with many seeming to give Trump a pass for the very worst of what happened in his tenure, and even some Republicans excusing the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, the result of this year’s election is less clear, too.

We’re six months out, and despite all odds, the election looks like it could go either way.