I was with James this past week for an appointment at the UW-Hospital where I heard the intake questions concerning Ebola. Have you had any international travels of late, have a fever, etc. etc? At the end of the intake process I quipped that I had watched some FAUX News and thought I might be contagious with Ebola. That brought a laugh and a couple lines of comment from the lady at the front desk.
But it underscored a larger point.
Republicans somehow think that ginning up the fear factor over Ebola is a dandy way to increase conservative turnout at the ballot box. If you can not lure Republicans to cast a ballot on the issues–and Lord knows this mid-term election season has been void of issues–then by all means create fear and get conservatives riled over a medical matter. It is easier than it sounds as one does not need to add science or facts to the mix–just creat fear.
And this is where we enter Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson enters into the equation
Several Republicans have found a way to work the Ebola virus into criticisms of their Democratic opponents, usually linking an alleged weakness on border security to an enhanced threat from infected persons. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has suggested that the Obama administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are hiding the truth about the transmission of Ebola.
But the prize may go to Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., who suggested in an interview with the right-wing media organization Newsmax that Islamic State fighters might use Ebola as a biological weapon.
While the GOP has taken the lead on the fear bandwagon, a few Democrats have also jumped aboard, scared to be left behind. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Kay Hagan, D-N.C., are among the Dems who have joined the call for travel bans from some West African countries, although health officials have repeatedly said such restrictions would be counterproductive.
Perhaps our elected leaders would be more responsible if the nation were facing an existential threat, as it did in World War II. Perhaps they’d put aside partisanship if Ebola were really poised to create a worldwide pandemic, spiraling through affluent countries as well as poor ones.
History shows us examples of bipartisan cooperation to fight not only Nazi Germany but also the communist threat that lingered for a half-century after that. Unfortunately, that same history shows us many examples of politicians only too willing to inflame passions, incite fear and create panic for personal gain. Sen. Joe McCarthy’s crazed commie-hunt went on for years, destroying not just livelihoods but also lives.
I have no problem with varying ideas and opinions on the issues of the day. In fact, I much enjoy a frothy debate. But there must be–has to be–logic and facts brought to the debate. Johnson only supplies shallow partisan spin and empty rhetoric.
The nation deserves better at a time when people are anxious about this health matter.