COVID-19, the United States and Evidence-Based Politics

The populist attack on evidence-based politics in the United States during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a public policy too often based on ideology, partisanship and wishful thinking rather than on scientific consensus. Institutions that might have blunted the populist challenge to evidence-based politics had been captured before the pandemic or were captured during it, including the Supreme Court. Hundreds of thousands of people may have died because President Trump was uninterested in science (or in governing). This paper traces the course of the pandemic response in the United States through the Trump and Biden administrations, highlighting ongoing threats to democracy and the rule of law in the form of, inter alia, voter suppression and activities in Republican-controlled states that lie outside the parameters of normal democratic and evidence-based politics.