Scientific American, the venerable magazine, never endorsed a presidential candidate for 175 years, but 2020 is no time to sit on the sidelines when so much hangs in the balance. So yesterday, they broke with their own tradition and endorsed Joe Biden.
That’s not entirely surprising. When one political party actively rejects science that conflicts with their agenda, to the point where nearly 200,000 Americans are dead because of a virus that other nations got under control, you have to go with the alternative. In theory, science shouldn’t belong to one political party, but that’s the reality we face since Republicans actively ignore or oppose scientific findings.
Their endorsement comes in two predicable parts. The first is why Donald Trump is just downright awful and the second is why Biden is really really good on their issues.
… Trump’s refusal to look at the evidence and act accordingly extends beyond the virus. He has repeatedly tried to get rid of the Affordable Care Act while offering no alternative; comprehensive medical insurance is essential to reduce illness. Trump has proposed billion-dollar cuts to the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, agencies that increase our scientific knowledge and strengthen us for future challenges. Congress has countermanded his reductions. Yet he keeps trying, slashing programs that would ready us for future pandemics and withdrawing from the World Health Organization. These and other actions increase the risk that new diseases will surprise and devastate us again.
Joe Biden, in contrast, comes prepared with plans to control COVID-19, improve health care, reduce carbon emissions and restore the role of legitimate science in policy making. He solicits expertise and has turned that knowledge into solid policy proposals.
All that said, will any of this matter? Scientific American isn’t the kind of publication you read unless you already have a respect for science. I have a hard time imagining that people with MAGA hats are canceling their subscriptions over this. In that sense, the endorsement isn’t exactly courageous. It’s expected.
But for a publication that has historically tried to avoid wading into politics — since science works independently of who’s running the country — the editors deserve credit for publishing it. Not because the endorsement was a surprise, or because it will sway people, but because people who thought they were above the fray now recognize that they need to take sides in this election.
Science works. But science can only work effectively if politicians are committed to funding it and acting on what we discover. Science isn’t inherently Democratic. But only Democrats seem to give a damn what scientists have to say. There’s nothing wrong with admitting what we all know to be true.
Now, more than ever, we need leaders who will respect and listen to what scientists are saying. Democrats aren’t always great on that when it comes to policy — they rarely go far enough on environmental issues, for example — but Biden isn’t an enemy of science. Republicans are. Scientific American is basically admitting that. So let’s get Biden elected, then figure out how to push Democrats in a more progressive direction. There’s no other decent option here.
Alright, Journal of the American Mathematical Society. Your turn.
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