Scientific American is endorsing a presidential candidate for the first time in 175 years
Scientific American was first published in New York on Aug. 28, 1845. Articles included one on the properties of zinc, another on improving railroad cars to make them both safer and more comfortable, and one was on a horse that navigated to the city to find its own way to a blacksmith. That was in the early days of the James Polk administration. Since then, the publishers of Scientific American have not felt compelled to make an endorsement in any election, including those involving a candidate named “Lincoln.” But after 175 years, the oldest continuously published monthly magazine in the United States has decided that there’s an existential threat to both parts of its title; a threat to “America” and “science” great enough to take a step into politics.
For the just released October issue, Scientific American has endorsed Joe Biden for president of the United States, and they don’t hold back on explaining why.
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.
Trump’s handling of the pandemic is spectacularly bad. How bad? If Trump had achieved the same rate of infections and deaths as Justin Trudeau in Canada, the death toll in the United States would be 80,000 instead of 200,000. Had Trump tackled things as well as Angela Merkel did, with overrun France and Italy on her borders, the U.S. toll would have been 37,000. And had Trump genuinely taken to heart the lessons that South Korea learned when fighting COVID-19 weeks earlier and done things as well as Moon Jae-in, the number of dead would have been just 2,300. Nothing was going to stop COVID-19 from entering the United States, but Trump really could have prevented it from being a national disaster. He didn’t. On purpose.
Scientific American points out just some of Trump’s lies and shortfalls during the pandemic, including his repeated downplaying of the threat, his failure to develop a national strategy, and his repeated lies and distortions concerning masks. But the major thrust of their outrage against Trump’s failure comes back to the enormous mistakes around testing. Trump didn’t just fail to come up with a federal system of testing and case tracing, he refused to do it even when a plan was presented to him because Trump believed more people would die in states with Democratic governors, and that would be good politics for him. The editors at Scientific American skip over that part, focusing on how testing is absolutely vital to controlling the disease and how Trump opposed both funding and implementation of testing.
These lapses accelerated the spread of disease through the country—particularly in highly vulnerable communities that include people of color, where deaths climbed disproportionately to those in the rest of the population.
It’s not just Trump’s lies and purposeful mismanagement of COVID-19 that caused the magazine to break with their own extremely longstanding tradition. They provide a catalog of other areas in which Trump has harmed the nation, including on environmental protections and medical care. Perhaps most importantly, they caution that Trump has attacked both researchers and science in ways that prevent America from being prepared to face the challenges that are already here, and the new challenges that are right around the corner.
As the magazine notes, Trump has tried to end the Affordable Care Act while providing no alternative and lying to the public about the outcome. He has proposed a billion-dollar cut to the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—all of which makes it likely that the nation will face another pandemic while being even less prepared.
In comparison, the editors note that Biden has taken an approach that weds science and compassion, with an understanding about how both health care and environmental regulations are necessary to the well-being of the nation. They give a favorable review to Biden’s plan on COVID-19, his support for a Public Health Care Jobs Corps, and his plan to reduce greenhouse gases while boosting the nation with investments in renewable energy.
It’s not hard to see why Scientific American has decided to step into the fray this year. Trump’s constant lies and disdain for science are not just costing lives, they’re threatening the whole system by which America—and the world—has made progress in health care and every other field. On Monday, Trump told officials concerned about the way climate change is causing more wildfires in the west: “It'll start getting cooler, you just watch.” And when California’s secretary of natural resources responded that this wasn’t what the science indicated, Trump had a comeback: “Well, I don't think the science knows actually."
Trump’s mishandling of COVID-19 has cost hundreds of thousands of lives, but Trump’s constant scoffing at facts and dismissal of science threatens billions. So this isn’t really all that shocking:
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.