Why I’m Rolling My Eyes At Neil deGrasse Tyson’s “Anti-Trump hurts Free Democracy” Theory

March 17, 2016  |  

neil deGrasse Tyson

Credit: Andres Otero/WENN.com

Today we all get to feel a little smarter than Neil deGrasse Tyson – just by a hair.

Still, he is the sexist astrophysicist alive. How is this even possible?

Well, it all started with this tweet:

Exactly. What are you talking about Tyson?

I mean, how could the man who proved to the world that Pluto wasn’t even a real planet, be so…well, confused.

Naturally his tweet would spark a lot of outrage – and tons of head-scratching – across the blogosphere including many folks who wondered if this was Tyson’s sly way of endorsing Trump.

Well, late last night Tyson took to his Facebook page and, in a note, offered this clarification:

“Dear Facebook Universe,

On March 12, 2016 I posted a tweet that made reference to Donald Trump. I’ve come to learn that my intended meaning was not accurately received by many, possibly most, people who read it. I think hard about word usage before I post any tweet, so when grammar or punctuation errors slip by that confuse the meaning of my intended message, my only reaction is embarrassment, forcing me to resort to Facebook Notes to confess, clarify, and correct.

“The tweet was this:

People who are anti-Trump are actually anti-Trump supporters — they oppose free citizens voting for the @realDonaldTrump.

But should have been this:

People who are anti-Trump are actually anti Trump-supporters — they oppose free citizens voting for the @realDonaldTrump.”

For those of you who are having trouble seeing the clarification, it is the shift in hyphen from “anti-Trump” to “anti Trump-supporters.”

Still confused? Well Tyson has a response for that too.

More specifically:

In spite of that barely-perceptible hyphen-shift, if you are still confused, then it’s just a badly worded tweet.

My simple point is that if Donald Trump were not a front-runner then his views would be more than footnotes in a day’s news cycle, and nobody would be investing so much ink (electrons) and air (cable) time debating his views — the international press and the British Parliament included. So the real issue for those who are anti-Trump is the strong support he has garnered from fellow citizens – fellow voters. Beyond being “Pro” your favorite candidate, if you are also anti-Trump, then in practical terms you are against the decision exercised by citizens of a free democracy to vote for this particular candidate of their choice.

In the end, for me, it’s all about education — not so much what you know, but how you think about and see the world.

For these reasons, I have not made it a past-time to attack or otherwise criticize elected officials. They presumably represent the views of people who voted for them. (Of course,if that’s not the case, one should ask how they got elected in the first place.) Regardless of whether a politician lies or cheats or deceives the electorate, or is under-informed on matters that may influence legislation, my responsibility as an educator, particularly as a science educator, is not to tell people who to vote for, but to empower people how to think about and analyze information that may affect their lives and livelihood. This especially includes knowing what science is, and how and why it works.


Then I step away, while you formulate your own opinions in our glorious, free, pluralistic society.

As always, keep looking up.

Neil deGrasse Tyson, Washington, DC.”

Okay, I have to say the clarification helped a little but I still have to call shenanigans on both the tweet and his follow-up explanation.

First, there has been speculation that a number of delegates will refuse to endorse Trump at the convention and instead throw their support behind a spoiler. If that happens I could certainly see Tyson’s point about folks being “against the decision exercised by citizens of a free democracy to vote for this particular candidate of their choice.”

But that hasn’t happened yet. He has run and won each of his elections free and clear. In fact, the only obstruction to his campaign that has happened is a lot of protesting and belly-aching at Trump campaign rallies. And since there is no proof that these anti-folks are actually conspiring to block citizens from the ballot box, where the actual voting in this country takes place (and not at campaign rallies), it is a little presumptuous to say that all of the anti- folks – just by the nature of being against Trump or his supporters – are actively denying Trump and his supporters their right to participate in the democratic process.

Secondly, I disagree with the idea that what we have been participating in is at all a “free democracy.” Not when we have Party conventions where delegates and super-delegates get the final say in how our votes should be interpreted. Not when Citizens United is a thing. And not when there is enough PAC money floating around that third party candidates barely breaching the fourth estate for coverage of their campaigns. What I’m saying is that the days of one-man, one-vote are long gone – if those days ever existed to begin with.

Not to mention, Trump is not some Joe-Schmo off the street who decided one day he could be president. He is not The Rent is Too Damn High guy. He is a captain of industry, a media mogul who has both connections and access to people and spaces that the rest of us will never have. His press announcement got more press coverage than all of Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s campaign rallies have gotten combined. So even if folks are actively working against Trump getting the nod, that does not make them in contrast to the very democratic system that got Trump to be seen as a viable candidate to begin with. If anything, it makes them participants.

And finally, who cares? Amirite?

Like really, who cares if the folks who are protesting are anti-Trump or his supporters when it is the ideas, beliefs and attitudes behind the two is what have us worried? I mean, we can anti-both, right?

So, the idea that Tyson is trying to enlighten us on how free democracy works when the American voting system mirrors nothing like a free democracy is just reductive, to say the least.

But what do you folks think? Should Tyson stick to mapping the constellation and the stars or does he have a point?

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