"Trump's briefings are actively endangering the public's health. Please don't drink disinfectant"- Dr. Robert Reich, UC Berkeley
Clearly, the 2020 Presidential election is especially important for us as a nation, more so than the usual Presidential contest. It’s a clear choice between reason/science and emotion/superstition.
A recent poll showed that the public is increasingly supportive of scientists and medical personnel (Pew, 5-23-20). But that is not true for Republicans. Over half of Democrats expressed strong confidence in medical scientists… but for Republicans, the figure was only 31%. And, that has caused and could increasingly cause major problems, both politically and in regard to personal health.
For example, Trump was advocating taking, a dangerous drug (hydroxychloroquine) which is not cleared for Covid-19 use. A recent Lancet article (5-22-20) indicates that this drug leads to a higher incidence of deaths in COVID-19 patients. Will Trump supporters, many of whom are seniors already in bad health, take this dangerous medication simply based on his ill-informed recommendation?
Climate science is another example of how politics has entered into the sphere of science in a negative, non-factual manner. Per Pew Research (4-16-20), Republicans believe that Trump’s correct; climate change isn’t a big problem. Therefore, only 31% believe it’s a major threat (versus 88% of Democrats).
Per NASA, our climate is rapidly changing. However, it’s less stressful to deceive ourselves and believe it isn’t. If we can’t affect the rate of climate change, then we can go on with our everyday lives unchanged…rather than worrying about grandchildren inheriting an environmental catastrophe caused by our failure to address an imminent issue.
Scientists believe that our failure to address man-made climate change is a disaster for humanity that will only worsen over time unless strong measures are immediately enacted. Human behavior has been proven by scientific studies to be the major reason why the earth is getting more polluted as time goes on (see skepticalscience.com). It should be obvious to us all, though apparently, it’s not.
However, deceiving the public on health matters is nothing new; it precedes Trump’s anti-science administration. It’s a well-established, but unethical and disgusting, tradition in America, promoted by self-interested parties wanting to enrich themselves, regardless of how many Americans die.
The best example is the tobacco industry’s historically successful efforts to deny the negative effects of smoking. For many decades, their CEOs appeared before Congress, testifying there was no reason to believe smoking was related to lung cancer (WHO, 11-8-17). Per their sworn testimony (NYT, 4-15-93), it wasn’t even addicting.
At the same time, their internal studies were showing a direct relationship between smoking and lung cancer, as WHO points out. It wasn’t until November 2012, when Federal Judge Gladys Kessler issued a ruling mandating that cigarette manufacturers place advertisements and package warnings, that they were finally forced to admit their deceit (CNN, 11-28-12).
Simply put, they placed profits before public health…similar to what Trump advocates when he demands that Governors ignore healthcare experts and open their states/schools immediately to stimulate their economies. So what if some people die, as long as the economy is back before November.
Per Trump’s fantasy world, we have done a superb job of fighting the pandemic and have too much testing. In reality the Trump administration’s efforts were a disaster, per a Columbia University study (https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.05.15.20103655v1.full.pdf.) Although we are only 4% of the world’s population, we have 21% of the world’s COVID-19 deaths and 23% of its cases (https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html). Clearly, other nations are handling the pandemic much more effectively than the US.
And, Trump’s strategy is working with his base, only 52% of whom believed in April that COVID-19 was a major threat to public health, versus 78% of Democrats, even as the virus spread rapidly across the nation (4-2-20, PEW).
Almost everyone now accepts the long-proven fact that smoking is bad for you. Contrary to what Trump advocates, someday virtually everyone will accept that climate change is man-made and that COVID-19 will not just suddenly, magically disappear or that we should ignore it for the sake of the economy and just wait for a vaccine (which he is pressuring the CDC/FDA to approve before the 11-3 election, without it being fully tested).
In 2020, Trump is cynically running for reelection on an anti-science platform. If he wins, his constant attacks on science, facts and reason will only get worse. And our health, and the health of our children and grandchildren, will suffer.
Jack Bernard was formerly SVP of a national healthcare corporation and the first Director of Health Planning for GA. He was Chairman of the Jasper County GA GOP. He's now Vice Chairman of a Board of Health in Fayette County, a suburb of Atlanta.