In a sliver less than a month - or sooner, in the case of those who are using the mail, drop boxes or early in-person voting - Americans will fill out their ballots and elect a president.

As was the case four years ago, it will be a painful choice for many.

While watching Tuesday's debate, I thought, not for the first time: Is this really the best we can do?  Having to choose between a rude, undisciplined bully who turned what historically has been a generally respectful exchange of conflicting ideas into an embarrassing, combative spectacle, and an affable, aging career politician whose major accomplishment, to the relief of his supporters, was that he could put his thoughts together in a coherent way?

That's where we are, unfortunately. And while each of the candidates has his fer vent supporters, I'd wager that, for most of us, the ballots cast for president this year will be the most unenthusiastic of our lives.  I know that will be the case for me - which, in the wake of the 2016 election, is saying something.

But the thing to remember about this election, and the saving grace for me, personally, is that our choice should not be simply the man we like best - or, as the case might more accurately be, the man we loathe least.  It should not be about the debate performances of Donald Trump and Joe Biden, or which one we'd rather have living next door.

It should be about what each has done, or is expected to do.

What we decide Nov. 3 will, to an almost unprecedented extent, determine what kind of country we will live in for the foreseeable future. It would be a massive mistake for Americans to base their choice on anything other than that.

So take all the preceding out of the equation, and my choice, God help me, is easy: Donald Trump.

Even the news Friday that Trump tested positive for the COVID-19 virus doesn't change that, because the record over the last four years under Trump and Vice President Mike Pence is clear:  Prior to the pandemic shutdown, the economy was in great shape, with the stock market booming as businesses responded to the lowering of the corporate tax rate and selective deregulation.  Hiring expanded and salaries improved.  And as we come out of the shutdown, the economy is recovering faster than most experts predicted.

The above, plus Trump's income tax cuts, has resulted in a better financial picture for the citizenry, particularly in low-income and minority households.  As The Wall Street Journal editorial board noted Wednesday, under the headline ''The Wealth Gap Shrinks,'' the ''Survey on Consumer Finances'' over the last three years that was released Monday by the Federal Reserve showed dramatically reduced unemployment, increased wages and rising net worth for people historically in the lower financial strata — particularly including Hispanics, Blacks, younger people and lower-educated Americans.

Biden has pledged to roll back the Trump tax cuts and has proposed a number of other tax increases.

On the international scene, Trump immediately withdrew from the ill-advised nuclear agreement with Iran, pursued and eliminated terrorist leaders in Iraq and Syria, brokered a peace agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, formally recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and took on China as a formidable economic cold war opponent with strength and fortitude.

If he is elected, Biden has pledged to seek to reinstitute terms of the original Iran nuclear deal.

Trump has endeavored to enforce our borders and resist illegal immigration, nominated federal judges and justices from the Supreme Court on down who will follow the Constitution rather than make their own laws, installed a Secretary of Education who has tried to defang the powerful teachers unions and make it easier for poor families to exercise school choice, and has stood firm against the lawless rioters who this summer have destroyed and burned businesses from Philadelphia to Portland.

And he has done this under the unrelenting attacks from the country's liberal media, a politicized impeachment, and against his opponents' predictable tactic of immediately finding a liberal federal judge to at least temporarily derail every executive order.

Biden has taken the opposite tack on all those issues.

After Tuesday's debate, Trump's enemies have been making a major issue of his regrettable refusal to repeat after them, ''I condemn white supremacy.'' I can't explain or defend that stubborn reluctance, especially since he has said similar things in the past — and since. But in real life, what policies of his have supported white supremacists or advanced their philosophy in any way?  Contrast that with Biden's own refusal to say whether he would support some Democratic senators' vow to expand the Supreme Court in order to create a liberal majority, which has drawn not a peep of media dismay.

That unprincipled move is something we could expect from the combination of a Biden presidency and Democratic Senate, along with statehood for Democrat-heavy Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, and a concerted effort to eliminate the Electoral College. Those three threats, if successful, would be catastrophic to the democracy and virtually ensure unbroken Democratic rule going forward.

In 2016, I allowed my loathing for Donald Trump the man and my distrust that he would do what he said he was going to do to influence me in voting against him. I won't make the same mistake again.

Trump's bombast aside, the country is in far better shape today than it would have been if Hillary Clinton had been elected president.

And, whether I like his style or not, it will be in far better shape four years from now under President Trump than it will be under President Biden and a Democrat- controlled Senate.

Ted Diadiun is a member of the editorial board of cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer. To reach Ted Diadiun: tdiadiun@cleveland.com