52 years after the moon landing, Republicans reject science and America is unraveling

“A poll on the 52nd anniversary of the moon landing shows a majority of Republicans now reject science, sparking a COVID-19 comeback.”

When the three-man mission had blasted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Democratic ex-president Lyndon Johnson and current GOP vice president Spiro Agnew sat together in the VIP section (pictured at top) and watched with awe. (The equivalent today would be Donald Trump and Kamala Harris hanging out… think about it.) The happy zeitgeist was best captured by CBS anchor Walter Cronkite — when the most trusted man in America could still bea journalist — who listened to Armstrong announce the mission had reached the lunar surface and fumbled for words, taking off his glasses and rubbing his hands before blurting out, “Woo, boy.”

Apollo 11 Landing On The Moon (4 Of 20): Vice President Spiro Agnew And Former President Lyndon Johnson View The Liftoff Of Apollo 11 From The Stands Located At The Kennedy Space Center, VIP Viewing Site. The Apollo 11 Saturn V Space Vehicle Lifted Off On July 16, 1969 And Was Injected Into Lunar Orbit On July 19 With Astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, Michael Collins And Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., At 9:32 A.M. Edt July 16, 1969, From Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex In Florida. The LM (Lunar Module) Landed On The Moon On July 20, 1969 And Returned To The Command Module On July 21. The Command Module Left Lunar Orbit On July 22 And Returned To Earth On July 24, 1969. Apollo 11 Splashed Down In The Pacific Ocean On 24 July 1969 At 12:50:35 P.M. EDT After A Mission Elapsed Time Of 195 Hrs, 18 Mins, 35 Secs. (Photo By Nasa/Getty Images)

Tuesday will mark the 52nd anniversary of the date that an American was the first human to walk on the moon. It should be a moment not only to reflect on that historic high point, but to celebrate another scientific breakthrough that was also mostly born in the U.S.A. The record-time development of COVID-19 vaccines that have already saved thousands of lives and — under the best circumstances — could wind down the deadliest global pandemic in more than a century.

There is, we are finding out rather painfully, a Democratic and a Republican way to do vaccines. Just travel to a place like Mountain Home, Arkansas — in a state where Trump got 62% of the vote last year — where the largest medical center is jammed with coronavirus patients, in a county where more than two-thirds of residents aren’t vaccinated and interest in the jab is low. (”It was just terrible,” a 68-year-old widow with chronic pulmonary disease told The New York Times of her COVID-19 ordeal — before adding she still won’t get vaccinated.)

“We probably would still have polio in this country if we had the kind of false information that’s being spread now,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, told CNN’s Jim Acosta on Saturday. He’d been asked about the promotion of vaccine refusal, laced with medical falsehoods, on right-wingoutlets like Fox News that has been embraced by GOP leaders like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a leading 2024 White House contender. DeSantis’ political shop has even been selling T-shirts that proclaim, “DON’T FAUCI MY FLORIDA” — even as 20% of the nation’s new COVID-19 cases are coming from The Sunshine State.


If you’re thinking that something has radically changed in America in the 52 years since Armstrong bounded down the stairs of the lunar module to take “one giant leap for mankind.,” you would be correct. A new Gallup poll released last week shows that confidence in science among Republicans has dropped by an astonishing 27% since 1975, shortly after NASA wound down moon exploration. During this same nearly half-century, faith in science has actually increased among Democrats and independents. The gap between the two parties over science is now wider than for all but a couple of American institutions.

Indeed, it’s remarkable how closely this stunning drop in GOP voter confidence in science — a high 72% in 1975, but just 45% today — tracks with America’s growing vaccination divide between “red states” and “blue states.” Likewise, almost 30% of Republicans said in a separate survey last month that they refuse to get the vaccine — a critical reason why experts now fear the United States can’t reach the herd immunity needed for the pandemic to peter out. (More)

Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer (Opinion Piece by Will Bunch)