As much as people may absolutely hate the idea, it’s an inescapable fact of our reality: Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States come January. Yes, the same man who talked about how vaccines gave a child autism and who claimed that climate change is a hoax created by the Chinese (The New Yorker, “Trump’s Anti-Science Campaign,” 08.21.2016). Naturally, I imagine the world’s scientists feeling more than a bit upset after news of Trump’s victory was announced after Election Day. What will happen to the development of science and technology in Trump’s America during the next four years?
Nothing pretty, that’s for sure. While the future is now more unpredictable than ever, I’m willing to bet that scientific progress is not at the forefront of Trump’s plans as president. He once called the National Health Institute “terrible” on public radio and thought it would be a great idea to have conservative talk radio host Michael Savage bring “common sense” to the institution (STAT, “What does Donald Trump’s win mean for science and medicine?,” 11.09.2016).
It’s important to note that Savage is infamous for saying that autism is just “a brat who hasn’t been told to cut the act out,” as well as “a racket” designed to let poorer families find new ways to be parasites of the government (New York Daily News, “Protests sparked by Savage autism comments,” 07.21.2008).
However, it remains unclear exactly how Trump will influence funding for the sciences as president. While he did state that Americans “must make the commitment to invest in science, engineering, healthcare and other areas that will make the lives of Americans better, safer and more prosperous,” he has yet to release any sort of plan on how he would accomplish that goal (STAT).
It is difficult to believe, however, that Trump will ever follow up on that promise to invest in science to improve the lives of others when he practically labeled himself as an anti-environmentalist throughout his campaign.
In fact, Trump made a rather hefty list of things he wanted to get rid of once he takes over the Oval Office. Items of the list include the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, the “Waters of the U.S.” rule that’s designed to protect America’s waterways and wetlands, and the entirety of the Environmental Protection Agency (The New York Times, “20 Things Donald Trump Said He Wanted to Get Rid of as President,” 11.14.2016). In addition, Trump vowed to pull the U.S. out of the historic Paris climate agreement, which had more than 190 countries agree to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to lessen the impact of global warming.
That last part about the Paris climate agreement is among the scientific community’s top concerns. Last September, more than 375 scientists from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, including 30 Nobel Prize winners, wrote an open letter to Trump warning him that withdrawing from the Paris Accord would prove to be disastrous (Reuters, “More than 300 scientists warn over Trump’s climate change stance,” 09.20.2016). Now that he’s president-elect, Trump will likely work towards fulfilling his promise to promote oil drilling and coal mining in an effort to restore jobs in those fossil fuel industries.
“Regulations that shut down hundreds of coal-fired power plants and block the construction of new ones — how stupid is that? We’re going to bring back the coal industry, save the coal industry,” Trump said to an arena full of cheering people (The New York Times, “Donald Trump’s Energy Plan: More Fossil Fuels and Fewer Rules,” 05.26.2016). Just to keep things in check, the World Health Organization estimated that 7 million people died due to indoor and outdoor air pollution in 2012 and more than 600,000 children will die each year from breathing in toxic air (STAT).
But it’s not just Trump. The entire U.S. government will be controlled by several people with less-than-stellar track records on following science. Trump’s running mate, former Indiana governor Mike Pence, has resisted answering whether he believes that evolution is real and once published an essay piece in 2001 that claimed, “Despite the hysteria from the political class and the media, smoking doesn’t kill” (Popular Science, Trump VP Choice Mike Pence Doesn’t Agree With Science,” 07.15.2016). The head of Trump’s EPA transition team, Myron Ebell, is known as “an oil industry mouthpiece” and has asserted that greenhouse gas pollution could be beneficial (The New York Times, “Donald Trump Could Put Climate Change on Course for ‘Danger Zone’,” 11.10.2016). It is also very possible that creationists Ben Carson and Sarah Palin may hold positions in Trump’s cabinet.
Based on what we’ve seen so far, it appears science will take a backseat in Trump’s America, and the entire nation will feel the rippling effects.
Can anything be done about this when the Senate, the House of Representatives and the Supreme Court are all under his command?
There actually is. Place Donald Trump and his government under constant scrutiny and keep the protests alive. Of course, I wouldn’t be surprised if some people accused me of keeping the country divided and polarized, but that’s not what I’m asking for, either. I don’t see the benefit of shunning those who voted for the other party and refusing to communicate with them under any circumstances. As divided as we may be, we are all part of the same country, and thus the same boat.
On the other hand, protesting against politicians is very different from yelling at fellow voters. We should absolutely not be complacent with whatever Trump does, because it’s his job as president to listen to public outrage. Trump himself stated that the government should serve the people. If that’s the case, then he has no right to complain about angry protesters. It’s the president’s duty to change in accordance to the will of the people, not the other way around.
The protesters may never be satisfied with whatever compromise he makes, but that’s part of democracy, just like how many people refused to acknowledge President Obama. What is important is that we always remind Trump that he will be held accountable for his rhetoric and actions. He must be subjected to a barrage of criticisms and opposition to let him know that people are upset at his presidency and that his entire reputation is at stake.
If that sounds arduous and stressful, that’s because being president is not supposed to be an easy job. It is vital to create that stressor so that Trump never gets the feeling that he can get away with anything he wants. Set the bar really, really high so that Trump has no choice but to either try to reach our expectations or go down in history as a pathetic, miserable failure. If he’s going to be America’s 45th president, then that is the burden he must carry.