There is so much to say about the importance of today’s election, but not a great deal that hasn’t already been spelled out time and time again. Most importantly, if you haven’t already voted, go vote today! Hopefully you’ll have time to research the individual races and find out where the candidates stand on the important issues, particularly those related to science. Either way, though, if you are concerned and disheartened with the direction our nation has taken lately, and if you want to ease the suffering that U.S. science has been forced to endure, you’ll probably be voting Democratic.
The past few elections have been tough on the Democrats, and, as a result, have had devastating effects for our nation in general and for science specifically. Enumerating the sins of the Republican Party–committed repeatedly in an ongoing but undeclared Republican War on Science–is an impossible task, but an abridged list would include pushing creationism over evolution, allowing a slip in scientific funding, delaying action on and often denying the existence of global warming, pandering to religious extremists in outlawing federal funding for most embryonic stem cell research, putting industrial concerns over the environment and public health, explicitely censoring scientists and scientific information, and engaging in all around political interference in science. This year has been particularly bad, from the NASA censorship scandal in February to the Bush veto of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act (HR 810) in July. In the vote to override the veto, Democrats in the House supported the measure 183 to 14, while Republicans voted 179 to 51 against overriding it. It doesn’t get much more black and white than that.
It is true that the strongest force behind this front of anti-scientific attacks has been the Bush Administration, an unfortunate presence that we will have to deal with for the next two years. However, the Administration has only been able to push its radical agenda through an enabling Congress, something that voters have the opportunity to change today. The Democrats are well-poised to take control of the House, and possibly the Senate, but for this hope to be realized, pro-science voters across the U.S. need to make the small effort to turn up and vote.
While some voters will have the opportunity of voting directly for the removal of some of the worst offenders, particularly Rick Santorum in Pennsylvania, voters from all corners of the U.S. can have a hand in helping ensure a Democratic majority in the House and the Senate. Not only will this prevent further damage from the Bush Administration, but it will allow the U.S. to once again embark on a more progressive course–one that is good for the population at large–and it will help create an environment where science in the U.S. can flourish without the burden of excessive political interference.