Contagion: Republican Cynicism Running Rampant (Ebola?)
The Ebola story has been as close to a daily fixture in our news coverage for the past
several months as anything short of this country’s various military campaigns could be. A lot of
ink has been spilt on this story—a lot of keystrokes logged. Has anyone thought about
#bringbackourgirls in over a month? Did pre-ISIS Syria truly register the way Ebola has
recently? I can’t think of anything that has been covered more breathlessly, more hysterically,
and for less purpose than the US experience with Ebola. Well—perhaps all entertainment news
everywhere, but let’s be reasonable, people—those celebrities help us forget about Ebola.
So, we good Americans, digesting this story as gracefully and completely as we would
the Emmenecker from Jetrho’s, have turned to a myriad of media types for various takes on the
Ebola “crisis” to help us learn more about the problem and how best to address it. Before I go
any further, I should say that I will be deriding the Ebola “crisis” throughout most of this article.
I am specifically referring to the non-crisis here in the US. I do not mean to denigrate the actual
epidemic and social catastrophe that is occurring in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. That
story is truly heartbreaking and is worthy of the attention paid.
Anyway—we look to the media for assistance in dealing with this story and find, as
always seems to be the case these days, two competing, hyper-partisan narratives. These
narratives have developed not around the courageous medical professionals doing the best they
can in challenging situations or the stupendous medical successes that have kept the Ebola
fatalities in this country at one and holding, but around how we screwed up our response to the
Ebola “epidemic” and how the Obama administration has once again proven itself to be woefully
incompetent in every regard. On the other side of the partisan divide you have the president’s
supporters exhorting the public to trust the experts, avoid panic, and BY ALL MEANS GO
ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS IN AN ORDERLY, NON-PLUSSED FASHION.
Wait a minute. Everything that screaming guy typed out in caps in the last paragraph
seems fairly reasonable and not at all hyper-partisan. Could it be that one side of our political
system has seen an opportunity to attempt to score cheap political points to make the other side
look bad? Could it be that this point scoring is coming shortly before a mid-term election that’s
going to go one side’s way by virtue of their eyes shut/ears plugged insistence that the country
hasn’t been steadily improving since their last guy Pied Pipered us to the brink of lemming-like
destruction? That’s not really possible, right? Our politicians are better than that, right?
No, sweet child, sadly no. Republicans and a few craven Democrats are not better than
that. Here we are, a day before the mid-term elections, and this great country is poised to hand
victory to a political party that seems completely incapable of understanding a world that where
not everything is a partisan fight. Not everything is a failure in leadership. Not everything
should be an excuse to freak the eff out.
The Republicans have freaked the eff out. Darrell Issa, the Chairman of the House
Government Oversight Committee, in an example of complete and effortless buffoonery, argued
with a doctor at a recent hearing that it was possible to contract Ebola while using public
transportation while sitting next to an infected person. Republican lawmakers have been calling
for mandatory quarantines and travel bans since Thomas Duncan came to the States. Nevermind
what the experts have to say about any of this. Nevermind that a person sick enough with Ebola
to spontaneously vomit is probably too sick to use public transportation. Nevermind that travel
bans have been criticized by the experts as a disincentive to aid workers from the US traveling to
assist in the ravaged countries of West Africa. We have some fear to monger here, people!
In what is probably the most eyebrow raising moment of this story in recent days was
Senate candidate Joni Ernst’s response to a question put to her by Charles Pierce, a reporter from
Esquire. When asked if she thought the president cared about Americans’ safety, state Senator
Ernst replied, “I don’t know that he does. He hasn’t demonstrated that.” Doubting experts with
regard to the science is an asinine exercise, but at least those sorts of doubters aren’t casting
aspersions on the experts’ sincerity. Doubting whether a leader cares about the people he was
elected—twice—to lead isn’t just asinine. It’s downright stupid. If you disagree, I would direct
you to the comments of one State Senator Kanye West vis-à-vis Hurricane Katrina. Pretty
stupid, wasn’t it.
This narrative isn’t a surprise at this point—or at least, it shouldn’t be. Republicans can’t
catch a break outrage-wise. They were critical how the President responded to Ukraine (except
that no one in the party could think of something else he should be doing). They hated when he
didn’t arm the rebels (well, most of them—and even the guys that did are now running away
from that position as if ISIS itself was chasing them). They desperately want the President to do
something about Ebola—like appoint a czar to manage everything. But not the czar he picked,
because he’s not a medical doctor. I suppose the Surgeon General could be the medical face of
the administration’s response to this “crisis” except the Republicans refuse to vote to confirm the
current nominee, Vivek Murthy, because the NRA doesn’t like his opinion on gun ownership.
And this is the party poised to take control of both houses of Congress tomorrow. It
would be a pretty good joke if the whole thing weren’t so unrelentingly stupid. A traditional
American value championed by the Republican party is the notion that everyone can get ahead
with a lot of hard work. Your accomplishments will be recognized for the triumphant
achievements they are. So, what are the Republican achievements they can point to in this mid-
term? Successfully obfuscating the economic record of a president that looks pretty good 6
years in? Check. Successfully whipping up a panic surrounding an “outbreak” of disease that’s
1-10 in terms of fatalities v. survivors? Check. Successfully tagging an administration with
incompetence by refusing to accept even the most reasonable of responses to any potential
national or international issue as rational without the courtesy of contributing to policy debates in
a meaningful way? Check. Congratulations are in order, I suppose. The Republicans have
successfully kept everyone angry and confused just long enough
victory. I suppose a Pyrrhic victory is still a victory.
Initially, I had wanted to write something about Republican fear mongering and the
Ebola “crisis.” I’ve generally had little patience for their idiotic rhetoric in that regard, but
writing this article gave me another thought. There is an outbreak of sorts plaguing the
Republican party. It’s not Ebola, of course, but a particularly virulent, contagious form of
cynicism with a nihilism mutation. It’s probably been building for years and just needed the
right set of pointless freakouts to really take off and infect the host populace. Somebody call
Chris Christie. I think it’s time for a quarantine.
AKA Blake D. Lubinus