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With the nation on the brink of total shutdown, the stock market wiping out years of accumulated wealth and millions of Americans worried about losing their jobs, I’ve lost all patience with the spitefulness of the political class.

Maybe it’s asking too much, but in times of crisis I expect leaders to lead, not fight. I’d like to know that guiding the nation through its gravest threat since 9/11 is a higher priority than toting the partisan flag. 

I want those who have been chosen to lead to realize their constituents are frightened and uncertain of the future, and getting them safely through this dark hour demands that they present a united front.

Mostly, I’m looking for them to tell America that together we can defeat this challenge, as we’ve defeated all others that have come before.

That’s not the course taken Tuesday by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and President Donald Trump, who were at each other’s throats as if it were still 2019.

Whitmer, in an appearance on MSNBC, called the president’s response to the COVID-19 virus “mind-boggling,” accusing the administration of ignoring the needs of the states and overall bungling the response to the pandemic. Her take differed wildly from that of her fellow Democrat, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who in a news conference stressed the importance of setting aside partisanship, and credited the administration for its cooperative efforts. 

A cynical view might conclude Whitmer was trying to bolster her position in the vice-presidential sweepstakes. 

The possibility that she’s been mentioned for the Democratic ticket is surely what prompted Trump to jump on Twitter and demand, “Failing Michigan governor must work harder and be much more proactive.” Even the gravity of this moment can’t curb his juvenile instincts. And for the record, Whitmer has been admirably proactive in protecting her constituents. 

This sort of tit-for-tat won’t calm the nerves of Michigan residents who more than anything crave confidence the right decisions are being made for the right reasons. 

But everything is still about gaining ground in the fall presidential election. Democrats and Republicans remain girded for battle, exploiting this crisis for political gain and still trying to stick shivs in each other.

Americans are fed up, worn out by the endless bickering. They’ve got bigger worries. 

At this point, I don’t give a hot damn who wins the presidency in November. I just hope the country makes it to November with its health and economy intact.

That’s going to take some work. Some hard work done together. This is the time to crawl out of the mire we’ve been wallowing in for three years and stand on higher ground.

If politicians like Trump and Whitmer choose to keep fighting, let them. But we don't have to follow leaders who want to take us to a destructive place.

Our choice here is to allow this virus to make worse the poisonous partisanship that has infected our nation, or to recognize how much damage it has done to our ability to face down this shared danger and change our hateful behavior.

nfinley@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @NolanFinleyDN

Sign up for the Nolan Out Loud morning report coming in March at detroitnews.com/newsletters.

Watch Finley on DPTV’s "One Detroit" at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays.

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