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GOP’s Rejection of Science Comes Home with COVID in White House

After months of ridiculing scientific guidance on the use of masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus – and even demanding that his own employees inside the White House not take precautions around him – President Trump was hospitalized with COVID-19.

But it was not just Trump infected. It was much of the leadership of the Republican Party that has mocked and belittled public health protections in the midst of a pandemic. 

After spending time with the super-spreader in chief, Trump Campaign Manager Bill Stepien was diagnosed with COVID-19. So was Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, presidential advisors Kellyanne Conway and Stephen Miller, as well as the White House press secretary and three Republican Senators.

Ed Rollins, a veteran Republican political strategist and co-chairman of a pro-Trump super PAC, told the Washington Post: “Now we’re sort of the stupid party.”

Yes, the Republican party’s rejection of science has come home to roost in the White House. This is not just an issue with Covid.  President Trump and the Republican establishment have been equally skeptical and dismissive of the scientific consensus about climate change, which Trump has called a hoax.  


Meanwhile, as President Trump and his followers are in denial, California is burning. It’s had a record four million acres of wildfires this year –twice the previous record – along with 31 fire fatalities and more than 8,400 homes and businesses burned to the ground.

Scientists have concluded that the fires have been exacerbated the dry conditions and heat caused by global warming.

But President Trump and many in his party are in denial about this, too. They claim the science is uncertain (much like they say about Covid) and that shifting to clean energy would be no more helpful than putting on a mask.

On the Gulf Coast, Hurricane Laura slammed into Louisiana with 150 mile an hour winds on August 29th, causing at least $10 billion in damage and 77 deaths. Of 25 named storms so this year, nine have made landfall in the United States, tying a record that dates back more than a century.

The Union of Concerned Scientists reports that the intensity of the storms, and the damage caused by storm surges, is becoming worse because of climate change and rising sea levels.

Yet many Republicans mock and ridicule any connection between flooding and climate change.  To them, driving an electric car to address the problem is as much over-reaction as social-distancing to protect your health.

Soon their homes may be underwater – or perhaps up in flames – just as Trump suddenly found himself burning with a fever in a hospital bed.

This denial of reality by one of America’s main political parties extends far beyond the realms of public health and the environment, and into the economy.

The Republicans claim that they are the party of fiscal constraint and strong economies.  And yet, even before the coronavirus hit, the Trump Administration had worked up a federal deficit of more than a trillion dollars, a record since World War II, largely through tax breaks for the rich. The allegedly conservative George W. Bush also generated massive deficits before his economy crashed. The economy also crashed under Trump.

According to Forbes Magazine, by far the worst stock market returns of the last half century have come under Republican Presidents – such as George W. Bush and Richard Nixon -- and the best under Democrats, such as Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. “From 1952 through June 2020, annualized real stock market returns under Democrats have been 10.6 percent compared with 4.8 percent for Republicans,” Forbes reported.

That’s another inconvenient truth with which the GOP refuses to grapple: that conservative, anti-regulatory ideology is not necessarily good for the economy, or even for Wall Street, in the long run.

Someday, all this reality will intrude into the brains of voters, just as the coronavirus suddenly intruded into Donald Trump’s lungs and re-election campaign.


Photo of Trump removing mask by Erin Scott/ Reuters

Tom Pelton, a national award-winning environmental journalist, has hosted "The Environment in Focus" since 2007. He also works as director of communications for the Environmental Integrity Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to holding polluters and governments accountable to protect public health. From 1997 until 2008, he was a journalist for The Baltimore Sun, where he was twice named one of the best environmental reporters in America by the Society of Environmental Journalists.