Ebola Becomes a Campaign Issue in the US

It’s the famous October surprise, which usually emerges one month from the legislative elections and has the potential to muddy the process unpredictably. In 2014, during a campaign devoid of substance, it has been Ebola that has breathed air into the debate between both parties and has thrown gasoline on the fire of the attacks between candidates. Undoubtedly, fear is a great motivator, whether for voting against or in favor of something, and political strategists know it.

With the lowest approval ratings of his term, the president has cancelled his trips outside Washington to raise funds for Democratic candidates competing in the upcoming midterm elections on Nov. 4 for two consecutive days. On Wednesday, Barack Obama met with some of his Cabinet members directly responsible for the fight against the spread of the virus in West Africa and its arrival in the United States. This Thursday, the leader stayed at the White House in order to supervise his administration’s response to the Ebola crisis and did not fly to Rhode Island or attend a political event in New York.

The White House spokesperson, Josh Earnest, said Obama’s decision to cancel a trip for campaign purposes for a second consecutive day was evidence of the “sense of urgency” with which the president and his administration are addressing the Ebola crisis. This Thursday, he will meet again with the members of his administration who participated in the Wednesday meeting at the White House and will call members of Congress, CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) workers and foreign leaders by telephone. The president also signed an executive order on Thursday afternoon to allow mobilization of National Guard reservists to countries in West Africa affected by the virus, which has already taken over 4,000 lives according to the WHO (World Health Organization).

Republicans are attacking the Obama administration on two fronts regarding Ebola: incompetence and border security. For example, Republican Sen. Pat Roberts, a contender in a state that may determine control of the Senate, has declared this week, “I call on the president to actually lead on this issue, take emergency action, and protect American lives before we have an epidemic here at home.”

Although Roberts may have begun to dig the same political grave as his opponent, Independent Greg Orman, who is very well-situated in the polls, has utilized the record of Congressional attendance and public acts showing the senator did not attend an important hearing at the Capitol last month.

In the opinion of Cory Gardner, a representative from Colorado, the CDC has irresponsibly wasted money instead of utilizing it to protect citizens. In order to counter the criticisms made by his Democratic opponent that the multiple budget cuts applied by the Republicans have left the government without resources to confront Ebola, Gardner declared “jazzercise programs, massage therapy and urban gardens” as CDC priorities.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we have an Ebola outbreak. We have bad actors that can come across the border. We need to seal the border and secure it,” said Thom Tillis, who is looking to become senator of North Carolina, in a debate against Democrat Kay Hagan. The polls show that U.S. citizens are paying attention to the debate on Ebola. Hagan accused Tillis of utilizing “scare tactics” and also made Ebola a campaign issue.

Two-thirds of those surveyed by the Washington Post/ABC News claim to be worried about a possible epidemic of this illness within the country’s borders. Ted Cruz, a possible Republican candidate in the 2016 presidential elections, is demanding that the Federal Aviation Administration close the door to all flights from West Africa.

The death of a Liberian citizen in Dallas, Texas last week and the news of two infected nurses has caused anxiety levels to shoot up in a city that has lived with the stamp of paranoia glued to its history for decades. Because if the infection levels of the African virus are low, the public hysteria levels may not be, especially after it came to light that one of the nurses now diagnosed with Ebola flew on a commercial airline from the city of Cleveland, Ohio to Dallas when she was already experiencing symptoms.

There are many citizens of this country who fly once a week and quite a few are questioning the possibility of having breathed the same air as someone who perhaps was at the point of developing an illness with a high mortality rate. The responsible people at the CDC, as well as the director of the Dallas hospital where the infected nurse worked have expressed their regrets this afternoon at an appearance before Congress and asked forgiveness for having made misguided decisions, such as allowing the health worker to fly on a commercial airline along with 132 other people.

In Dallas, ground zero for the illness with one death already among its Ebola victims, the Independent candidate for the House of Representatives, Eric Williams, appears to be ready to join efforts with the partisan mobilization of panic, suggesting that a state campaign governed by the policy of “no handshakes, no hugs” be initiated.

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