Why There Are No Republican Scientists
You may have noticed that there's been a sudden outbreak of non-scientificness among Republican officeholders--a trend hilariously documented in the video below by Americans United for Change. When asked for their views on whether or not humans are changing the climate, nearly every GOP leader interviewed starts off with some variation on "I'm not a scientist, so . . ." Why is this happening? Jonathan Chait takes a stab:
“I’m not a scientist” allows Republicans to avoid conceding the legitimacy of climate science while also avoiding the political downside of openly branding themselves as haters of science. The beauty of the line is that it implicitly concedes that scientists possess real expertise, while simultaneously allowing you to ignore that expertise altogether.
Besides, the modern-day unanimity of opinion in the GOP against doing anything to slow global warming makes it very hard for any leading figure to come out with a contrary opinion. Some candidates in purplish states are struggling to find an intellectually non-risible middle ground, with varying levels of success. But it's a tough challenge. Over at Vox, Ezra Klein explains why via the though experiment of Sean Hannity suddenly deciding the climate change was a serious issue.
Initially, his viewers would think he was joking. But soon, they’d begin calling in furiously. Some would organize boycotts of his program. Dozens, perhaps hundreds, of professional climate skeptics would begin angrily refuting Hannity’s new crusade. Many of Hannity’s friends in the conservative media world would back away from him, and some would seek advantage by denouncing him. Some of the politicians he respects would be furious at his betrayal of the cause. He would lose friendships, viewers, and money. He could ultimately lose his job. And along the way he would cause himself immense personal pain as he systematically alienated his closest political and professional allies. The world would have to update its understanding of who Sean Hannity is and what he believes, and so too would Sean Hannity. And changing your identity is a psychologically brutal process.
For today's GOP, that identity is not defined positively, only negatively: Not a scientist.