Scientists on Trump Defeat: Joy Tempered by Resolve

November 7, 2020

Video. above includes interviews from the 2016 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, right after the 2016 election.


For scientists who have watched in horror as President Donald Trump relentlessly insulted, undermined, and ignored science, while more than 236,000 Americans died during a historic pandemic, Joe Biden’s victory on Saturday was a long-awaited cause for celebration.

“It feels very much like the four-year war on science has come to an end,” Jacquelyn Gill, an ecologist at the University of Maine, told BuzzFeed News.

“I feel a huge sense of relief,” said Jennifer Glass, associate professor of astrobiology at the Georgia Institute of Technology. “I finally feel hope again after four years of attacks on science and facts.”

“I am ecstatic,” said Bob Wachter, chair of the University of California at San Francisco’s department of medicine. “It’s a victory for science and it gives us some hope that we will right things, not only for COVID specifically, but for the general approach that our government is taking towards science, truth, and competence.”

And yet, even though Biden received a historic number of votes to clinch the presidency, scientists said that the widespread show of support for Trump shows how much work remains to be done.

In a number of hotly contested battleground states, the former vice-president narrowly edged out an opponent who won more than 70 million votes overall. Trump’s stronger-than-predicted showing saddened — though not necessarily surprised — doctors and scientists who have been watching as the coronavirus infected millions of Americans, and as record-breaking wildfires burned the West, under Trump’s watch.

Trump’s values, including his disregard of science, are not disappearing anytime soon, and Biden’s administration has an enormous gap to close, researchers and physicians said.

“People have decided that Trumpian values — nationalism, white supremacy — are more important than anything else including a generational pandemic, including their own families in some cases,” said Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University.

“Every election cycle, we say health care is on the ballot,” said Esther Choo, an emergency physician and professor at Oregon Health and Science University. This year, “a health issue was the most dominant topic for the entire world and the United States. It has never so much been on the ballot. I think that still did not make this election cycle obvious.”

Wachter said Biden’s presidency is at least an opportunity for a fresh start.

“I see the mishandling of COVID as being tragic in its own right, but also being emblematic of a broader set of policies and attitudes that are only going to get us into more trouble,” he said. “We just can’t get this right if we don’t agree on facts and respect expertise and competence and apply those things to attacking really hard problems. I’m confident we’ll begin doing that now.”

The coronavirus is surging at out-of-control rates in much of the country, which this week reported a record-breaking 100,000 new cases in a day. For months, health and medical experts have implored the Trump administration to deploy strategies taken by other countries — from scaling up testing, contact tracing, and personal protective equipment, to enforcing mask use and social distancing measures to suppress transmission.

To their great frustration, their pleas have mostly fallen on deaf ears.

There is still not enough testing or PPE, and cases are now so ubiquitous that identifying the source of outbreaks is becoming impossible. Trump himself shunned masks and physical distancing and staged large rallies with little mask-wearing. He told the world not to fear the virus, even when he was infected with it, and falsely claimed that “it will disappear.” He staked the country’s recovery on the promise of vaccines and treatments, including drugs with little evidence, while seemingly all but giving up on controlling or preventing cases. He made the dangerous suggestion that bleach could be a cure. He sidelined Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, and elevated neuroradiologist Scott Atlas, who favors the controversial strategy of letting the virus spread unchecked among healthy people in a fully reopened society.

And at a time when scientists warn that the world is rapidly warming and climate disasters are getting more frequent and intense, Trump refused to even acknowledge the reality of it all. As the West battled one of its most destructive wildfire seasons ever, Trump baselessly told California officials: “It will start getting cooler, you just watch.” His administration filled agencies with climate deniers, unraveled and watered down numerous environmental regulationspulled the US out of the Paris climate accordburied climate studies, and opened up swaths of public land for oil and gas drilling.

One Response to “Scientists on Trump Defeat: Joy Tempered by Resolve”

  1. J4Zonian Says:

    Science denial is not endemic to one party. Gray Democrats—the near far right half of the imperial storm ignorer party—continue to deny the direness of the climate crisis, and thus haven’t even discussed the necessary solutions. With nearly half the country refusing to face the existence of climate catastrophe, COVID, trauma from the slavery and genocide the country is founded on, addictions to alcohol, drugs, oil and gas, screens, war… and 3/4 of the rest thinking they know, but being almost as out of touch with reality, more able to accept the end of civilization and nature than the end of capitalism and its opportunities to dominate and destroy, the greatest addiction of all for those Trump is a mirror for.

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