Josh Mandelbaum (40), a Democrat from Des Moines, IA, comes from a long line of Iowans and attends Temple B’nai Jeshurun, the congregation his great-great-grandfather helped found in 1873. He works for the nonprofit Environmental Law Policy Center on clean energy and clean water issues. He has volunteered for political campaigns for more than 20 years and currently serves on the greater Des Moines Jewish Federation Board.
We are providing the unfiltered opinions of voters interviewed for this project. Those views are based on their understanding and perception of facts and information from a range of sources. In some cases, that information may be misleading or incorrect.
Has Donald Trump’s presidency turned out the way you thought it would back in 2016 when he was first elected president? Is it better or worse than you expected?
I think Donald Trump’s poor performance is consistent with what I expected in 2016. But I think it has been worse for the country than I expected. His temperament, incompetence, and instinct to lie and divide are bad for governance generally, but they are particularly harmful in responding to a pandemic and civil unrest triggered by racial injustice.
Do you believe that Donald Trump has fulfilled his campaign promises and is this a good thing or a bad thing for the country?
I think there is very little that Trump actually follows through on.
Has Joe Biden turned out to be the type of candidate you expected at the start of the primary elections? Please explain.
Joe Biden has done a better job of unifying the Democratic party and folks in the country looking for an alternative to the President than I expected at the start of the primary.
What does Donald Trump need to do to win the election in November? Do you think he has a chance?
He needs to get serious about controlling the coronavirus. Our economy and our way of life cannot return to a semblance of normalcy without effectively controlling the coronavirus. This can be done but so far the President has shown a lack of willingness to lead on even the most basic parts of a response.
What does Joe Biden need to do to win the election in November? Do you think he has a chance?
He needs to continue to present his governing vision and demonstrate how he is prepared to address the challenges the country currently faces. He also needs to stay healthy. If he does these things, I think he is likely to win.
If elected, what should Donald Trump do to bring the country together?
I’m not convinced he’s capable of bringing the country together. I would be happy if simply stopped trying to stoke further division.
If elected, what do you think Joe Biden should focus on for his first 100 days in office?
I think that there is a good chance that we will still need to address the pandemic at that time. It will be important to provide leadership from the federal level to get the pandemic under control. I think the economic recovery will be a critical need for the next president, and it will be important to ensure that everyone in the country is part of that recovery.
Do you have any concerns about the general election in November, and if yes, what are your concerns?
I am concerned that Donald Trump won’t accept the results of the election.
Should in-person voting be required in November? Why or why not?
No. We have not required in-person voting in this country for quite some time. The circumstances of this election make alternatives to in-person voting more important. A healthy democracy relies on citizen participation, and we should reduce barriers to that participation.
Do you think Donald Trump’s handling of the pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests will affect voter choice? Please explain.
These have been moments that require real leadership, and I think Donald Trump’s failure to lead and inability to lead has been particularly evident and consequential in the face of the pandemic and protests.
Do you think COVID-19 will affect voter turnout? If yes, how?
I think it will depend on how states respond. In Iowa, in response to the pandemic, our Republican Secretary of State mailed every registered voter an absentee ballot request form for the primary. As a result, our primary had a record turnout. If we see states work to help all of their citizens vote safely, turnout will be high. If states limit polling places or do not have workers to properly staff polling places, it could lower turnout.
Do you think the closure of voting locations across the country due to COVID-19 will affect elections in your state in November? Please explain.
I think we will see steps taken in Iowa that will allow voters to vote by mail, and turnout will not be harmed.
At this point, what is your preferred method of voting in November? Why?
I always vote early. I typically do so at the county auditors. This year, I will have my ballot sent to me so I can vote from home.
What are your thoughts on the current state of the pandemic in your state and across the country?
We are not doing the things that are necessary to effectively control the pandemic. In Iowa, our governor has thus far refused to require face coverings. She also allowed bars and restaurants to open without the virus being properly controlled. As a consequence, we are currently seeing increases in cases and hospitalizations. We could get the virus under control with better leadership from the state and federal government.
What are your thoughts on the reopening of schools across the country?
I understand the importance of getting schools open as our family has two young kids. However, I am concerned that pushing for schools to reopen without properly controlling the virus or providing schools with the resources needed to keep students and teachers safe is inviting disaster. Our family will be using the virtual option that our school district is providing.