When Politics Trumps Science




Holley, Catherine

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The COVID-19 Pandemic disrupted life around the world and tested each country’s ability to mobilize its medical resources, scientific expertise, and political efficiency. The United States stood out among the international community for its inadequate response that seemed to be hampered by political partisanship and reluctance from the President himself to follow scientific evidence. As the American people inch toward herd immunity and the chance for “normal life” again, we must reflect on the COVID-19 Pandemic’s mishandling. This paper aims to recount and describe how partisan politics marginalized the role of scientific judgment and empirical evidence in policymaking during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, it aims to answer the question of how the Trump administration overruled the evidence-informed opinions of U.S. federal scientists during the policymaking process. This paper takes an analytical approach to describing how U.S. scientific authorities succumbed to political pressure and opposition when the country faced the greatest public health crisis in a century. This project will describe the influence of the Trump administration on COVID-19 policymaking. It will explore how the Trump administration convinced federal, state, and local policymakers to discount and disregard the evidence-based opinions of public health officials. In other words, I will collect and analyze new observations on the relationship between political and medical authorities. After conducting this analysis, this paper finds that the United States’ highly politically polarized environment enabled the Trump administration to overcome evidence-based opinions from U.S. public health experts. These outsized influence politics played in the U.S. should inform future pandemic preparedness planning.


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