Monday, September 21, 2020

Scientific American Endorses a Presidential Candidate for the First Time in its 175 Year History

For the first time in its 175 year history Scientific American announced that it issuing a political endorsement.  They are not only backing Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden they are actively opposing a second term for U.S. President Donald Trump. In 2016 Scientific American warned about Trump's contempt for science and in 2020 they are taking their concerns to the next level by urging voters to vote against him. Founded in 1845 Scientific American is one of the oldest continuously published magazines in the United States. The fact that they feel the need to break with almost two centuries of tradition speaks to the dangers they see in another four years of Trump. As the editors explain in their announcement:

"This year we are compelled to do so. We do not do this lightly. The evidence and the science show that Donald Trump has badly damaged the U.S. and its people—because he rejects evidence and science. The most devastating example is his dishonest and inept response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which cost more than 190,000 Americans their lives by the middle of September. He has also attacked environmental protections, medical care, and the researchers and public science agencies that help this country prepare for its greatest challenges. That is why we urge you to vote for Joe Biden, who is offering fact-based plans to protect our health, our economy and the environment. These and other proposals he has put forth can set the country back on course for a safer, more prosperous and more equitable future."

Their concerns about Trump have been amplified by his mishandling of COVID-19.  Despite repeated early warnings Trump has did not implement a  national strategy (PPE and testing) and he has refused to advocate approaches that minimize transmission including masks and social distancing. He has even mocked those who wear masks.

The result is that 200,000 Americans have died from the pandemic and more than twice that number are expected to die before the end of the year. What makes these deaths even more tragic is the fact that many of these deaths could have been prevented. A May report out of Columbia University said the president was responsible for around 36,000 deaths. According to more recent projections from the University of Washington School of Medicine another 200,000 will succumb to the virus by the end of the year but 115,000 people could be saved this year if we act now. 

The United States has the highest death toll of any nation on Earth and this is due to the president's refusal to respond effectively. Rather than advocate the wearing of masks Trump has repeatedly supported fake cures like hydroxychloriquine and drinking disinfectant (yes he really did). In July Trump opposed a pandemic relief bill that would provide $25 billion for increased testing and tracing.

The president's disinformation has increased the spread of the virus and the death toll.  Rather than work with governors across the country he has doubled down on his divisive partisanship supporting Republicans and attacking Democrats.

He repeatedly pretends that the virus is over or soon will be even though there are over 6 million infected Americans and an average of 40,000 new cases each day. These facts have prompted  Scientific American to call Trump's rejection of public health measures "catastrophic". 

Trump's failure to manage the virus has not only taken a toll on human lives it is needlessly undermining the economy. As explained by Scientific American:  "At every stage, Trump has rejected the unmistakable lesson that controlling the disease, not downplaying it, is the path to economic reopening and recovery," the magazine's editors wrote, adding, "His lies encouraged people to engage in risky behavior, spreading the virus further, and have driven wedges between Americans who take the threat seriously and those who believe Trump's falsehoods." As we now know from the Woodward tapes, Trump knew the virus was deadly, but he lied to advance a political agenda.

As of the start of 2020 the Trump administration had already rolled back almost 100 environmental rules. The assaults on environmental protections exacerbate a wide array of health conditions from respiratory disorders to cardiovascular disease. They are particularly injurious to the health of Americans in the era of COVID-19 which disproportionately impacts people of color and adds to the systemic racism in Trump's America.

Trump blames everyone but himself yet all the evidence points to the inescapable conclusion that he has made everything worse. His presidency will be defined by its repeated attacks against the health of Americans. He is currently asking the courts to repeal protections for preexisting conditions and the Affordable Care Act. He has sought to cut the budgets of the country's health focused institutions and government science in general. 

He has withdrawn the country from the World Health Organization and the Paris Climate Agreement. He is the world's most powerful fossil fuel advocate who has declared war on wildlife and gutted the ESA. Of all the egregious things that Trump has done to harm the interests of Americans none is more deadly than his denial of climate change. His actions and his failure to act makes storms and wildfires worse.

In contrast to Trump the Democratic presidential nominee has a science based policy agenda. In fact Biden has the most progressive climate platform of any major party ever to run for president.  Biden's build it back better program is focused on dealing with the virus responsibly as a prerequisite to economic recovery.

Biden has vowed to spend $2 trillion on an emissions-free power sector by 2035, build energy-efficient structures and vehicles, push renewables, and establish research agencies to develop carbon capture technologies. The investment will produce two million jobs and  be paid for by eliminating Trump's corporate tax cuts. Historically disadvantaged communities in the U.S. will receive 40 percent of these energy and infrastructure investments. In a recent speech Biden called Trump a "climate arsonist".  Last week Scientific American's editor in chief Laura Helmuth told CNN that the editorial board felt a responsibility to make an endorsement in this election.

"[T]to help people understand that this is the most important election of our lifetimes."Helmuth said, adding, "Trump has been so dismal for the scientific enterprise that the things we all care about are just so directly under threat by his administration, and have been harmed by his administration, that we think it fits our mission to say clearly that people who are interested in and care about research, and knowledge, and expertise and making good decisions about policy. We hope that they understand that's a large part of our mission and Donald Trump is in direct conflict with our mission."

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