The BDN Opinion section operates independently and does not set newsroom policies or contribute to reporting or editing articles elsewhere in the newspaper or on bangordailynews.com.
Steven E. Barkan is a retired professor of sociology from the University of Maine and the author of “Health, Illness, and Society: An Introduction to Medical Sociology.” This column reflects his views and expertise and does not speak on behalf of the university. He is a member of the Maine chapter of the national Scholars Strategy Network, which brings together scholars across the country to address public challenges and their policy implications. Members’ columns appear in the BDN every other week.
This is not an exaggeration: Your health and the health of everyone you know is at stake in next month’s election if Donald Trump and his Republican supporters in Congress are reelected. Three situations justify this alarming statement.
First, more than 210,000 people have died from COVID-19 during Trump’s presidency. This shocking number was not inevitable, as the United States accounts for 22 percent of the world’s confirmed COVID-19 deaths even though it only accounts for about 4 percent of the world’s population.
Trump, who now has COVID-19 himself, admitted to Bob Woodward how dangerous the coronavirus is, but time and time again he had told the public it is not dangerous, that we should not wear masks, and that the coronavirus will soon disappear. He has also failed in many other ways to marshal the nation’s defenses against the spread and death toll of COVID-19. If he and his Republican supporters are reelected, America will continue to lag behind the world’s other wealthy nations in its approach to the pandemic, and thousands of people will continue to die needlessly.
Second, Trump and the Republican Party continue to try to do away with the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Shortly after the election, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a suit brought by the Trump administration to end Obamacare. Without the ACA, some 21 million Americans will likely lose their health insurance, 133 million Americans with preexisting conditions may either lose their insurance or have to pay much higher premiums and 109 million Americans will once again face annual and lifetime caps on insurance benefits.
If Joe Biden wins and Democrats become the Senate majority, they can take certain measures to render the legal issue before the Supreme Court moot and thus save the ACA. Even if the Court does not invalidate the ACA, Obamacare will continue to be in jeopardy if Trump and his Republican supporters are reelected.
Third, the Trump administration has repeatedly weakened the nation’s environmental laws. As shown by the recent wildfires out West, climate change threatens the planet in many ways, including people’s health.
Air pollution kills an estimated 200,000 Americans every year and 7 million people worldwide. Yet in the face of these problems, Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency has weakened or reversed nearly 70 sets of environmental rules and regulations, including limits on carbon dioxide emissions from fossil-fuel power plants and motor vehicles, restrictions on methane emissions from various sources and toxic emissions from industrial polluters, regulations aimed at reducing several kinds of water pollution and limits or bans on toxic substances such as the pesticide chlorpyrifos, which may cause developmental disabilities in children. Each of these rollbacks puts Americans’ health at risk, especially during the pandemic but also long after whenever the pandemic finally ends, and combined will cause thousands of more premature deaths and hundreds of thousands of asthma and other serious illnesses every year.
Any one of these situations easily justifies a vote against the reelection of Trump and his Republican supporters. Taken together, they remind us that tens of thousands of American lives are literally at stake on Nov. 3.
The lives saved by voting Trump and his Republican supporters out of office could be your own or that of a family member, good friend, neighbor or co-worker. Whether you know them personally or not, the lives saved will come from across our great nation, from large cities and small towns alike, and from rural states like Maine and populous states like California. Wherever they reside, people across America will be safer from COVID-19, from losing life-saving health insurance protections, and from the unbelievable harm of climate change and other environmental problems if Trump and his Republican supporters are voted out of office on Nov. 3.