Rich Rifkin sent me the following observations on the history of Davis fluoridation that I thought others might find of interest. With his permission, I reproduce them here. JL
My read on the fluoridation fights is that they are always an establishment vs. anti-establishment contest.
Because of the scientific nature of the fluoride question, where one falls comes down to how much a citizen trusts the scientific establishment or not.
Back in 1964 in Davis, I think most of the anti-establishment types were conservatives or right-wingers whose distrust of the scientific establishment was parallel to their distrust of government, especially when it came to government trying to solve a problem which they personally did not think was a real problem. There were also likely a small number of far-left anti-establishment residents in Davis, who looked askance at chemicals and corporations and so on. But I suspect there were not many of these types back then.
However, in later years, after the big cultural shift to the left in American politics—especially the move to the far left on campuses like UC Davis—the anti-establishment faction in the fluoride debate likely became much more of a left and left-of-center group. I suspect it still is mostly left-wingers.
Today, they are convinced that organics are superior foods, that GMOs are a threat, that pharmaceutical companies are evil and that alternative this and that is better than whatever the orthodoxy prescribes.
What used to be an anti-establishment Bircher-right is mostly gone, when it comes to a question like fluoride. Yet I think there are some conservative libertarians, even in Davis, who also oppose fluoride for the old reasons—that they don’t trust government in general and they think individuals can solve whatever problems exist on their own—and a newer, more libertarian reason of “free choice.”
If every single Davis resident of voting age were polled on fluoride, I would bet more than 67 percent would vote yes. Davis simply doesn’t have many anti-establishment leftists or libertarians. However, because no vote ever gets anywhere near 100% turnout, and because the anti-fluoride folks are highly motivated while the pro-fluoride side, save a handful of dentists and public health professionals are largely indifferent, the actual vote would be a lot closer to 50-50, as it has been in past votes.