Republicans Push Against Vaccines In Middle Of Epidemic, Because F*ck Science And F*ck YOU!
The CDC has confirmed 555 cases of measles this year -- 90 in the last week alone -- making this the second largest outbreak since the disease was declared "eliminated" in the United States in 2000. The largest was in 2013, when an outbreak that started at Disneyland led to 667 confirmed cases of the disease. Two more weeks like last week and 2013 is getting knocked right out of the park. Heck, maybe we could end up with measles killing 1200 children, as is happening in Madagascar RIGHT NOW.
Anyone with half a brain might think, "Hey, this is bad! We should probably do some stuff to make sure this outbreak doesn't spread!" -- and that's exactly what Democrats across the country are doing right now. They are pushing legislation that makes it harder for parents to send their kids to school without getting them vaccinated first. This seems a lot nicer than sending them to some kind of quarantined island like the one Henry Fonda and Bette Davis had to go to at the end of Jezebel because he got Yellow Fever and she had to go with him in order to atone for having worn a red dress one time.
Predictably, Arthur Allen of Politico points out, opposition to this kind of life-saving legislation has come from the Republicans, and Republicans in states like Mississippi and West Virginia are currently pushing for more exemptions from laws requiring you to vaccinate your kids.
Mississippi, by the way, has the worst doctor shortage situation in the country, so why not throw a measles outbreak into the mix? What could possibly go wrong?
Andrew Raia, the ranking Republican on the New York Assembly's health committee, said, "I'm not a religious leader, and I'm not a scientist either, so it's my job to weigh both sides." And that's why, he told Politico, he's going to let massive waves of parents continue to pretend they have a Jesus-related reason for not inoculating their children against sometimes fatal diseases.
I don't know that someone has to actually be a scientist themselves to decide that a disease outbreak might be a good time to listen to science over religion. I am not a scientist either. I am just a girl, looking at a legislator, asking him to help diminish an already pretty bad measles outbreak.
While not all anti-vaxxers are on the Right -- we've got Jenny McCarthy, Robert Kennedy Jr., and that hippie chick we went to college with who also believes in chemtrails and heals peoples with crystals ... professionally -- they are the only ones going around opposing this shit legislatively. This is supposedly because they just really believe that the government should not be telling parents what to do with their children.
That would make a certain kind of sense if we did not already have many very good and necessary laws telling people what they can and cannot do with their kids, and that many of those laws exist to protect the safety of others. A parent may feel that their 10-year-old ought to be able to drive a car, but we don't allow that because there are other people on the road who would prefer not to die in a car crash. Just as there are people and children with compromised immune systems out there who would prefer not to die of measles.
Or it may have as much or more to do with the fact that Republicans have become the party of "opposing everything scientists say, just because scientists say it."
But officials worry they are "three Trump tweets away" from an even more polarized situation, noted MIT political scientist Adam Berinsky, who has studied communication around politicized public health and scientific issues.
In Texas, the Tea Party and related groups created an anti-vax PAC in 2015. It hasn't yet gotten its chosen candidates elected, but the very existence of a vaccine-oriented political action committee shows the political salience is growing. Influential voices on the right, including Rush Limbaugh, Tucker Carlson and Alex Jones, have all raised suspicions about vaccines.
"There's a credulity gap between the parties in regard to science that wasn't there 25 years ago," Berinsky said. And Trump could easily inflame the vaccine skepticism, should he weigh in. For a large share of the highly polarized U.S. population, "at the end of the day it's not the arguments people are making, but who is making them," Berinksy said.
To be fair, it is a slippery slope. First you believe scientists when they say vaccines are good, and what then? People are going to wonder why you don't believe them when it comes to climate change and evolution. Not to mention all the weird ass shit Republicans have made up about abortion. No, the only way to handle this is to double down on the belief that all scientists are lying about everything, always. And if they aren't lying, well, it doesn't really matter because the Rapture is a-comin' anyway.
It would be nice if we could all just handle a damn disease outbreak without it becoming a polarizing political issue, if we could just focus on making sure more people do not contract measles. But we can't, because Republicans would rather let it spread than concede that anyone they disagree with on other things could have a point about this. And that is why we can't have nice things.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Previously, she was a Senior Staff Writer at Death & Taxes, and Assistant Editor at The Frisky (RIP). Currently, she writes for Wonkette, Friendly Atheist, Quartz and other sites. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse