Top medical, scientific journals break non-partisan traditions to call for Trump’s ouster
The New England Journal of Medicine and Scientific American Magazine have broken hundreds of years of non-partisanship in an appeal to voters to deny Trump a second term. | Trump photo: AP / Photo Illustration: PW

Two esteemed medical and scientific journals have broken with almost two centuries of non-partisanship and weighed in on the upcoming Presidential election.

Scientific American Magazine, in its October 2020 issue, published an editorial entitled “Scientific American Endorses Joe Biden,” while the New England Journal of Medicine published a statement signed by all 34 editors of the journal, “Dying in a Leadership Vacuum,” which urged voters to deny President Donald Trump a second term in office. Scientific American has never endorsed a presidential candidate in its 175-year history. The New England Journal of Medicine’s non-partisanship dates to its founding in 1812.

“COVID-19 has created a crisis throughout the world. This crisis has produced a test of leadership. With no good options to combat a novel pathogen, countries were forced to make hard choices about how to respond. Here in the United States, our leaders have failed that test. They have taken a crisis and turned it into a tragedy,” the New England Journal of Medicine’s editorial declared.

As befits the focus of the journal, the emphasis of its statement is focused exclusively on the coronavirus pandemic and the Trump administration’s response. It was presumably written before the news that Trump himself had become infected with COVID-19.

Continuing in their condemnation, the editors wrote: “The response of our nation’s leaders has been consistently inadequate. The federal government has largely abandoned disease control to the states. Governors have varied in their responses, not so much by party as by competence.”

Trump has regularly tried to shift blame to governors for the country’s botched coronavirus effort, but the journal’s statement made clear said that the bulk of the blame still rests with the White House. “Whatever their competence, governors do not have the tools that Washington controls. Instead of using those tools, the federal government has undermined them.”

The editors note:

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which was the world’s leading disease response organization, has been eviscerated and has suffered dramatic testing and policy failures.
  • The National Institutes of Health have played a key role in vaccine development but have been excluded from much crucial government decision making.
  • The Food and Drug Administration has been shamefully politicized, appearing to respond to pressure from the administration rather than scientific evidence. Our current leaders have undercut trust in science and in government, causing damage that will certainly outlast them.

The New England Journal of Medicine calls for voters to deny Trump a second term, but it does not endorse Joe Biden by name.

Scientific American’s editorial, like that of the New England Journal of Medicine, is sharply critical of the Trump administration’s response to the COVID-19 threat, but goes beyond the pandemic to assail the Trump administration for wishing to eliminate the Affordable Care Act without a plan to replace it; for proposing billions of dollars in cuts to the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control, the National Science Foundation; and for continually pushing to eliminate health rules from the Environmental Protection Agency—a move that would put more people at risk for heart and lung disease attributable to pollution.

It also castigates Trump for his ongoing denial of the reality of climate change. “The changing climate is already causing an…increase in severe storms, wildfires, and extreme flooding,” says the editorial, noting that Biden has plans for dealing with both the pandemic and environmental issues.

“Although Trump and his allies have tried to create obstacles to prevent people from casting ballots in November, either by mail or in person, it is crucial that we surmount them and vote. It’s time to move Trump out and elect Biden, who has a record of following the data and being guided by science,” concluded the Scientific American editors.

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Lawrence Albright
Lawrence Albright

Lawrence Albright is an activist, writer, and educator who writes from New Jersey.