By Lee A. Daniels
One source of the widespread losses the Democratic Party suffered this month in the midterm elections can be traced to the Ebola crisis that began claiming numerous victims across the U.S. last month—a crisis many attributed to the managerial incompetence of President Obama for not preventing the disease’s appearance in the country.
You ask: What victims? What Ebola crisis?
On November 11, seven days after Election Day, the last Ebola patient in the U.S., Dr. Craig Spencer, who had caught the disease while treating victims in West Africa, left the special Ebola treatment facility at New York City’s Bellevue Hospital – completely Ebola free – to be greeted with hugs and praise for his altruism by Mayor Bill De Blasio and a host of city officials. Eight of the nine people who came down with the Ebola virus on American soil have recovered. The only fatality was Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian national, struck down by the disease only after he entered the country.
The latest proof that the lethal Ebola virus is not a threat to the American public was greeted with deafening silence from Republican officialdom, the conservative echo chamber and their mainstream media allies, who had ginned up the Ebola “crisis” with the-sky-is-falling exaggerations, half-truths and outright lies.
Nonetheless, it had well served its purpose as a scare tactic to bash the president and the Democrats. Of course, there were several other reasons the Democrats were so deserted by White voters in the congressional midterms, most especially, the wage stagnation that has hammered the financial well-being of middle- and lower-wage workers alike. Then, too, numerous Democratic candidates’ decision to run away from the president and fudge exactly what they stood for didn’t help them, either.
But the Ebola-crisis-that-wasn’t provides a dramatic example of what has been the GOP’s central response these last six years to the Obama presidency: lying.
Remember the “death panels” that conservatives back in 2009 said were a central feature of the proposed Affordable Care Act? Remember the widespread conservative claims in August and September 2009 that the speech President Obama was going to make to the nation’s school children via a national in-school broadcast was actually a nefarious plan to “indoctrinate” them in “socialist” precepts? Remember that more than a third of Republicans still believe President Obama was born outside the U.S., and another 20 percent believe he’s the agent of a global socialist-Muslim conspiracy to destroy the U.S.?
Black Americans – who throughout most of American history have struggled against the lies the White majority told against them and accepted about them – should be well aware that the panoply of lies the GOP has been depending on has had and will continue to have enormous consequences for America’s present and future.
There’s another phrase one can use as a synonym for the GOP’s anti-Obama stratagem: “maximum ideological polarization.” Those words come from a former Republican representative who used them to describe the obstructionist stance of the GOP during the Clinton presidency. Its elements then were a rigid refusal to compromise, extreme partisanship in the Congress, and the use of brazen lies, and conservative money and interest groups to keep the GOP base in a state of rage. Sound familiar?
Consider the lies the U.S. Supreme Court used to further narrow affirmative action for people of color; and in a separate case, to destroy the crucial provision of the Voting Rights Acts of 1965 in order to help the GOP diminish the strength of Democratic-leaning voting blocs; and, in the “Hobby Lobby” case, to give GOP-supporting Christian conservatives a means of discriminating against gays and lesbians, “uppity” women and any others they deem unworthy.
As those decisions indicate, the court’s conservative majority has increasingly functioned as the GOP’s allies – providing increasingly ratty legal “fictions” as they rubber-stamp GOP wishes. Thus, it’s no surprise that three days after the elections, the court suddenly declared it would review the latest legal challenge to Obamacare that had been rejected by a lower federal court. That brazen act drew an extraordinary opinion column from Linda Greenhouse, the leading Supreme Court journalist of our era.
Writing on the Nov. 12 New York Times op-ed page, Greenhouse characterized the court’s taking up King v Burwell as a “decision to enlist in the latest effort to destroy the Affordable Care Act.” She went to say, “This is a naked power grab by conservative justices who two years ago just missed killing [Obamacare] in its cradle, before it took effect.”
She closed with chilling – but properly justified – words: “In decades of court-watching, I have struggled … to maintain the belief that the Supreme Court really is a court and not just a collection of politicians in robes. [Now], I’ve found myself struggling against the impulse to say two words: I surrender.”
Lee A. Daniels is a longtime journalist based in New York City. His latest book is Last Chance: The Political Threat to Black America.