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Scientific American Makes First Presidential Endorsement In 175 Years

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

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.

‘Scientific American’, ‘WIRED’ Break Precedent To Come Out Against Trump

Two publications have broken with their respective histories to wade into the presidential election: WIRED, which released a ringing endorsement of Hillary Clinton Thursday, and Scientific American, which did not endorse a candidate, but came out strongly in an article for the September 1 issue condemning Donald Trump’s anti-science views.

Scientific American editors traced the history of Trumpism through decades of anti-science and anti-fact sentiment in American politics:

It won’t come as a surprise to anyone who pays even superficial attention to politics that over the past few decades facts have become an undervalued commodity. Many politicians are hostile to science, on both sides of the political aisle. The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology has a routine practice of meddling in petty science-funding matters to score political points.

But Trump, they wrote, is not only the result of a consistent politicization of science as an instrument of control or influence, rather than an objective standard for testing hypotheses — he makes things significantly worse:

The current presidential race, however, is something special. It takes antiscience to previously unexplored terrain. When the major Republican candidate for president has tweeted that global warming is a Chinese plot, threatens to dismantle a climate agreement 20 years in the making and to eliminate an agency that enforces clean air and water regulations, and speaks passionately about a link between vaccines and autism that was utterly discredited years ago, we can only hope that there is nowhere to go but up.

WIRED‘s endorsement of Clinton, written by editor in chief Scott Dadich, also mentioned Trump’s knack for baseless assertions (“Does he really think that wind power kills ‘all your birds’? Who knows.)

But the bulk of the article praised Clinton’s mastery, according to Dadich, of the sorts of policy discussions that Silicon Valley’s utopian libertarians value:

“[H]aving met Clinton and talked about all these issues with her, I can tell you that her mastery of issues and detail is unlike that of any politician I’ve met. She comes to every policy conversation steeped in its history and implications, and with opinions from a diverse set of viewpoints. She is a technician, and we like technicians.”

Of course, the Clinton campaign has also done a lot to reach out to the tech community, holding town halls with “content creators” and promising to cancel the student debt of young entrepreneurs — a move some progressives said showed too much favoritism to a specific sector of the economy.

“This is a pragmatic plan that could help leverage what happens in Silicon Valley so that there’s innovation and job growth throughout the country,” Karen Kornbluh, a Clinton advisor, told the New York Times about the Democratic nominee’s plans for tech-related business incentives.

To the good people at WIRED, that promise alone could have been enough to endorse. Regardless, their and Scientific American‘s steps against the Trump campaign are unusual forays into the political for two prominent science and technology publications. Guns and Ammo and National Geographic have 81 days to let the public know where they stand.

Photo: U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton tours John Marshall High School before holding a rally in Cleveland, Ohio August 17, 2016.  REUTERS/Mark Makela