No president in US history has demeaned science and scientists as much as Donald Trump. His antediluvian attitudes about science and climate change infect policymaking at all levels of government. Not only is he personally a dunce when it comes to higher order thinking, he has surrounded himself with cabinet secretaries like Scott Pruitt, Rick Perry, and Ryan Zinke, who slavishly follow the gospel according to Charles and David Koch.
Perry told those attending the CERAWeek energy conference in Houston this week that is was “immoral” to suggest poor people in Africa shouldn’t have access to electricity made from burning fossil fuels. Pruitt has been busy scrubbing all mention of climate science from the EPA website and replacing scientists on its staff with political hacks while Zinke wants to pillage federal lands for their oil, gas, and coal resources.
All the anti-science rhetoric has resulted in a backlash from the scientific community. A political action group calling itself 314 Action, which was founded in 2016 to support candidates who have scientific or technical backgrounds, is recruiting scientists to run for office in 2018 and the response has been strong. Many scientists disdain the soul-wrenching wretchedness of politics, with its emphasis on grubbing for money from wealthy backers who expect a return on their investment. Then there is the character assassination that inevitably flows from the opposition to consider.
Scientists Are Getting Into The Game
But the vehemence of the Trump-led anti-science agenda has convinced many scientists they can no longer stand on the sidelines. 314 Action takes its name from the first three digits of pi and says it has attracted a network of 400,000 donors. The group says nearly 7,000 scientists and technical people have expressed an interest in becoming a candidate for public office.
The group is actively supporting 30 congressional candidates, including in the 21st Congressional District in Texas, currently held by Lamar Smith. As a congressman, Smith has distinguished himself, if that is the right word, by issuing subpoenas for e-mails of climate scientists as part of a coordinated attack on their credibility. Smith is retiring at the end of his present term, and not a moment too soon.
One of those seeking to fill Smith’s seat is Joseph Kosper. A Democrat who is a graduate of West Point, Kosper is a trained aerospace engineer. He tells the press, “I absolutely feel that science is under attack. It’s the opposite of when John F. Kennedy said he wanted to get us to the moon in less than 10 years. The way Trump is going, in 10 years he’ll have us back in caves.” Kosper promises on his website he will value only two things when he is elected — input from his constituents and “verified scientific data.”
Millennials Get It
When it comes to getting elected, candidates such as Kosper can expect significant support from millennial voters. A new study from Pew Research finds that people born between 1981 and 1996 are considerably more liberal in their political views than older Americans and identify more closely with the Democratic party. If that is true, they could have a significant impact on future elections, beginning with the midterm contests later this year. Among millennials, Pew reports 81% say they believe global warming is real and 65% believe it is caused by human activity. More millennials who identify themselves as Republicans believe that climate change is real than older Republicans, although their numbers are much lower than those who identify themselves as Democrats.
A Pew poll in January found 62% of millennials say they prefer a Democratic candidate for Congress in their district this November. Only 29% said they would prefer a Republican according to a report in Scientific American. Nationally, a new CNN poll released last week showed 54% of voters prefer Democrats, with 38% favoring Republicans. The prior month, 49% said they prefer a Democratic while 44% said they would choose a Republican.
The issue, of course, will be how many of those who responded to the polls will actually go to the polls and vote. It is widely known in political circles that negative ads tend to suppress overall voter turn out. Who can blame people for not wanting to have anything to do with a process that focuses on hatred, bigotry, and corruption? But the rabid, one-issue voters are energized by all the muckraking and turn out in high numbers. It’s the flaw in American politics that makes it possible for the worst possible candidates to flourish most of the time.
There is an antidote, however — voting. Don’t let the bastards steal your vote by convincing you to stay home on election day. Go to your local voting station and cast your ballot. Nobody is coming for your guns, people, they are coming for your vote. If you fail to vote, you will have a government that fails you.