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March for Science reflects awakening of civic consciousness

If the right is waiting for progressive-minded activism to quietly fade away, my advice to conservatives is simple: keep waiting.
Image: March For Science in New York
People gather for a March for Science in New York, New York, USA, 22 April 2017. 
The timing was striking. On Friday afternoon, for no apparent reason, the Trump administration asked U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy to resign. This was not a case in which Obama-era officials are replaced with new political appointees after an election; the surgeon general serves a four-year term, and Murthy still had roughly two years remaining.Why would Donald Trump dismiss an accomplished and successful physician without explanation? Perhaps because the president lacks a meaningful appreciation for science -- a point that was driven home nicely the day after Murthy was shown the door.

Lovers of science got their day in the rain Saturday as they rallied around their passions, delivering applause for the technology that brought their smart phones to the obvious theme of climate change on Earth Day. And while the March for Science was on the surface nonpartisan, politics bubbled up again and again. [...]Because it was a march, protest signs abounded, from the funny ("I just came for the pi" and "Without science, it's just fiction") to the sincere ("Science Saves Lives").

There's no official count of how many participated in the event at the National Mall in D.C., but the NBC News estimate was that "at least 10,000 turned out" in dreary weather.And while that may sound like a modest total, let's not forget that (1) this was one of over 600 satellite Marches for Science around the world, many of which also brought out thousands of people; and (2) this total, if accurate, would mean Saturday's March for Science in the nation's capital was on par with the largest Tea Party rallies held at the height of the so-called conservative "movement."There's also the context to consider. In the immediate aftermath of Trump's unexpected election, Americans took to the streets in protest of the Republican and his agenda, and in recent months, the civic engagement has been unlike anything seen in at least a generation: the historic Women's March, the recent Tax Day March, well attended national events in support of the Affordable Care Act, and now the March for Science.If the right is waiting for progressive-minded activism to quietly fade away, my advice to conservatives is simple: keep waiting, because it doesn't appear to be happening.I heard Chris Hayes refer the other day to the "awakening of civic consciousness" in response to Trump's presidency, and it was heartening to see that awakening extend to celebrating the value of science.As for the motivation behind Saturday's gathering, the New York Times noted what precipitated the activism.

The March for Science evolved from a social media campaign into an effort to get people onto the streets. Its organizers were motivated by Mr. Trump, who as a presidential candidate disparaged climate change as a hoax and cast suspicions on the safety of vaccines.Their resolve deepened, they said, when the president appointed cabinet members who seemed hostile to the sciences. He also proposed a budget with severe cuts for agencies like the National Institutes of Health — which would lose 18 percent of their funding in his blueprint — and the Environmental Protection Agency, which faces a 31 percent budget cut and the elimination of a quarter of the agency's 15,000 employees.

The Republican "war on science," to borrow a phrase from the Washington Post's Chris Mooney, isn't necessarily new, but it's arguably as bad now as it's ever been. Here's hoping Saturday's activism marks the beginning of a shift in direction.