We’ve never backed a presidential candidate in our 175-year history—until now
Scientific American has never endorsed a presidential candidate in its 175-year history. 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.
It wasn’t just a testing problem: if almost everyone in the U.S. wore masks in public, it could save about 66,000 lives by the beginning of December, according to projections from the University of Washington School of Medicine. Such a strategy would hurt no one. It would close no business. It would cost next to nothing. But Trump and his vice president flouted local mask rules, making it a point not to wear masks themselves in public appearances. Trump has openly supported people who ignored governors in Michigan and California and elsewhere as they tried to impose social distancing and restrict public activities to control the virus. He encouraged governors in Florida, Arizona and Texas who resisted these public health measures, saying in April—again, falsely—that “the worst days of the pandemic are behind us” and ignoring infectious disease experts who warned at the time of a dangerous rebound if safety measures were loosened.
Trump’s reaction to America’s worst public health crisis in a century has been to say “I don’t take responsibility at all.” Instead he blamed other countries and his White House predecessor, who left office three years before the pandemic began.
Trump also keeps pushing to eliminate health rules from the Environmental Protection Agency, putting people at more risk for heart and lung disease caused by pollution. He has replaced scientists on agency advisory boards with industry representatives. In his ongoing denial of reality, Trump has hobbled U.S. preparations for climate change, falsely claiming that it does not exist and pulling out of international agreements to mitigate it. The changing climate is already causing a rise in heat-related deaths and an increase in severe storms, wildfires and extreme flooding.
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.
On COVID-19, he states correctly that “it is wrong to talk about ‘choosing’ between our public health and our economy…. If we don’t beat the virus, we will never get back to full economic strength.” Biden plans to ramp up a national testing board, a body that would have the authority to command both public and private resources to supply more tests and get them to all communities. He also wants to establish a Public Health Job Corps of 100,000 people, many of whom have been laid off during the pandemic crisis, to serve as contact tracers and in other health jobs. He will direct the Occupational Health and Safety Administration to enforce workplace safety standards to avoid the kind of deadly outbreaks that have occurred at meat-processing plants and nursing homes. While Trump threatened to withhold money from school districts that did not reopen, regardless of the danger from the virus, Biden wants to spend $34 billion to help schools conduct safe in-person instruction as well as remote learning.
Biden is getting advice on these public health issues from a group that includes David Kessler, epidemiologist, pediatrician and former U.S. Food and Drug Administration chief; Rebecca Katz, immunologist and global health security specialist at Georgetown University; and Ezekiel Emanuel, bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania. It does not include physicians who believe in aliens and debunked virus therapies, one of whom Trump has called “very respected” and “spectacular.”
Biden has a family and caregiving initiative, recognizing this as key to a sustained public health and economic recovery. His plans include increased salaries for child care workers and construction of new facilities for children because the inability to afford quality care keeps workers out of the economy and places enormous strains on families.
On the environment and climate change, Biden wants to spend $2 trillion on an emissions-free power sector by 2035, build energy-efficient structures and vehicles, push solar and wind power, establish research agencies to develop safe nuclear power and carbon capture technologies, and more. The investment will produce two million jobs for U.S. workers, his campaign claims, and the climate plan will be partly paid by eliminating Trump’s corporate tax cuts. Historically disadvantaged communities in the U.S. will receive 40 percent of these energy and infrastructure benefits.
It is not certain how many of these and his other ambitions Biden will be able to accomplish; much depends on laws to be written and passed by Congress. But he is acutely aware that we must heed the abundant research showing ways to recover from our present crises and successfully cope with future challenges.
Mr. Boot begins by reminding us of the nutjob who famously wrote, “’2016 is the Flight 93 election: charge the cockpit or you die,’ … arguing that if Hillary Clinton won, ‘death is certain.’”
Said nutjob’s thesis was that, what with all the demographic changes, white folks had to take back the country by electing Trump, or their civilization would crash and burn.
Boot ends this way:
I do not want to be a mirror image of the right-wing alarmists by claiming that America won’t survive a second Trump term. As Adam Smith said, “There is a great deal of ruin in a nation.” But even a cursory examination of the candidates’ records makes clear that our future is far more endangered if Trump wins than if he loses. Only Biden has any hoping of rebuilding the airplane that Trump crashed.
Well, if Trump wins in 2020, we will all get to learn exactly how much ruin there is in America.
With that thought in mind, let me ask this question. The demographics, they are still a-changin’. Right now, Georgia is purple. By 2024, Texas will probably be blue. That is, if you actually let everybody vote.
So, for the Flight 93 crowd, what’s the game plan? Presumably, their plan is to enlist Trump to make sure lots of people won’t be able to vote in 2022 and going forward. Their plan will be to destroy democracy in order to save it. If that isn’t what they mean by the “Flight 93” metaphor, then what the hell do they mean?
And so, let me close with this slightly dated but still highly relevant performance:
As you’ve probably noticed by now, Donald Trump has spent the entirety of his presidency saying certifiably insane, 100% made-up stuff, including but not limited to suggesting he invented the word “caravan”; claiming you need an I.D. to buy cereal; insisting a hurricane was going to hit Alabama when it definitely wasn’t; telling people that wind turbines give you cancer; dubbing himself the greatest environmentalist president in more than 100 years; and repeatedly talking about a nonexistent commercial flight filled with “thugs” who apparently used their frequent-flier miles to get a deal on a red-eye to Washington. With fewer than two months until the election, these statements have only gotten more absurd and have focused nearly completely on his opponent, Joe Biden. In the last few weeks, the president has claimed his opponent is controlled by “people that are in the dark shadows,” that he’s fine with children being “slaughtered,” and that if he’s elected, you’ll have to flee your home in the middle of the night. On Thursday it was shown that Trump took his Biden commentary to its next “logical” conclusion, claiming in an interview that the Democratic nominee has gained an edge in the polls by using…performance-enhancing drugs.
“I think there’s probably—possibly—drugs involved,” Trump told Fox News host Jeanine Pirro in an interview that will air on Saturday night. “That’s what I hear. I mean, there’s possibly drugs. I don’t know how you can go from being so bad where you can’t even get out a sentence.”
Notice that even in the fog of his pathological lies and dementia, a teeny-tiny part of Trump knows that he’s full of shit, hence the hedging that the Democratic nominee for president of the United States is “probably,” “possibly” on drugs. Still, that doesn’t stop him from floating the idea that there’s no other explanation for Biden performing well on the campaign trail than perhaps that he’s juicing. This, as a reminder, is coming from a guy who struggles with simple words in the English language, whose demeanor makes people think he might have had a stroke, and who, just this week, pronounced the words “from among” like [“frug amon.”]
But Here’s the Thing
When I listen to the Woodward taped conversation about the virus, I get the strong impression that Trump is engaging in a fairly normal conversation—fairly normal, that is, given the distressing topic of the discussion. He’s not especially articulate, and he shows awkward word choice, but he doesn’t sound like your crazy uncle or the nutjob at the end of the bar. He appears to be in touch with reality.
And then, a short time later, he starts raving before a crowd about how the virus is a Democratic hoax.
Based on the evidence taken as a whole, when he’s raving about Democatic hoaxes, he doesn’t in fact believe his own bullshit. He is a moron, but not in that sense.
His stupidity consists in miscounting the number of really stupid people in the United States. And, yes, ladies and germs, there are a godawful lot of stupid people in the United States. Just not as many a Orange Man thinks there are.
Accordingly, as discussed in the Brooks/Borowitz post, his imbecility lies in failing to link cause and effect—in failing to understand that his appeal to the stupidity of his stupidest followers will likely do him more political harm than good.
Inspired, apparently, by my attraction to Scandinavian country music, my European correspondent has served up, for our listening pleasure, this version of a song we used to sign back in my freshman year of college. Back then, we called it I Want to Hold Your Gland.
To be followed by French and German answers to Merle Travis’s Sixteen Tons.
Goldberg says Trump told people that he sees the war dead as “suckers” and “losers.” Trump can’t seem to fathom the emotional experience of their lives — their love for those they fought for, the fears they faced down, the resolve to risk their lives nonetheless.
If he can’t see that, he can’t understand the men and women in uniform serving around him. He can’t understand the inner devotion that drives people to public service, which is supposed to be the core of his job.
The same sort of blindness is on display in the Woodward quotes. It was stupid of Trump to think he could downplay Covid-19 when he already knew it had the power of a pandemic. It was stupid to think the American people would panic if told the truth. It was stupid to talk to Woodward in the first place.
This is not an intellectual stupidity. I imagine Trump’s I.Q. is fine. It is a moral and emotional stupidity. He blunders so often and so badly because he has a narcissist’s inability to get inside the hearts and minds of other people. It’s a stupidity that in almost pure clinical form, flows out of his inability to feel, a stupidity of the heart.
But stupidity of the heart does not necessarily imply a stupid inability to grasp the link between cause and effect. John Doe may be morally blind—but still understand that if he sticks the dinner fork into an electrical outlet, he is going to get a bad shock. Andy Borowitz writes,
WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—In a decision that surprised many political insiders, Donald J. Trump has agreed to be interviewed for a new book by Joe Biden.
According to Biden, the book will be “an in-depth examination of the Trump Presidency, with special emphasis on his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and his comments about the military.”
Trump said that, when Biden approached him about the book project, “I moved on it very strongly.”
“This is a fantastic opportunity for me, quite frankly,” Trump said. “It’s going to be a major book, and I think Joe is going to make me look really good in it.”
Asked about the logistics of the interview, Trump said, “Joe told me to call him up late at night and just start rambling. This is the kind of thing I’m really, really good at, because I’m very smart.”
Biden’s book, titled “Don’t Vote for Donald Trump,” is set to go on sale a week before the election.
Democrats are amassing an enormous lead in early voting, alarming Republicans who worry they’ll need to orchestrate a huge Election Day turnout during a deadly coronavirus outbreak to answer the surge.
The Democratic dominance spreads across an array of battleground states, according to absentee ballot request data compiled by state election authorities and analyzed by Democratic and Republican data experts. In North Carolina and Pennsylvania, Democrats have a roughly three-to-one advantage over Republicans in absentee ballot requests. In Florida — a must-win for President Donald Trump — the Democratic lead stands at more than 700,000 ballot requests, while the party also leads in New Hampshire, Ohio and Iowa.
Even more concerning for Republicans, Democrats who didn’t vote in 2016 are requesting 2020 ballots at higher rates than their GOP counterparts. The most striking example is Pennsylvania, where nearly 175,000 Democrats who sat out the last race have requested ballots, more than double the number of Republicans, according to an analysis of voter rolls by the Democratic firm TargetSmart
Though the figures are preliminary, they provide a window into Democratic enthusiasm ahead of the election and offer a warning for Republicans. While Democrats stockpile votes and bring in new supporters, Trump’s campaign is relying on a smooth Election Day turnout operation at a time when it’s confronting an out-of-control pandemic and a mounting cash crunch.
Jonathan Chait addresses Trump’s explanation that he deliberately “downplayed” the virus because he wanted to “forestall panic”:
Trump in general is extremely bad at gauging risk. He gins up panic at threats that are minor or nonexistent, while ignoring or denying altogether threats that are extremely serious. One reason is that he, like most political conservatives, filters news through an ideological bubble that eschews science and empiricism, so that Obama’s stimulus is going to generate hyperinflation but climate change is a hoax. Another reason is that Trump is personally myopic and corrupt to a degree that he is unable to follow even his own long-term political advantage, which is why he focused on preventing a stock market drop, and instead allowed an economic collapse. Additionally, he is completely reactive to whatever is on television, leaving him unable to plan for long-term threats.
Trump’s supporters, in turn, have so deeply internalized this model of presidential functioning that, when confronted with evidence that Joe Biden was warning last October that the government was unprepared for a pandemic, actor and right-wing activist James Woods suggested Biden must have been tipped off to the coming pandemic in advance:
Planning to avert future catastrophes through long-sighted management? What is this witchcraft?
Yes, in theory, every potential threat presents the risk of either overreaction or underreaction. But the context here is month after month of disastrous underreaction. Trump’s claim to have prevented overreaction is like the visual joke created by the morbidly obese guy wearing an “I BEAT ANOREXIA” T-shirt. Except he is saying it with a straight face!