In a season that has defied the laws of political gravity, going low seems to mean going high. Now, as our nation faces a serious health crisis on Zika, the debate is being filtered through a political system that isn't capable of dealing with overt racism, much less serious, nuanced health policy issues.
Donald Trump's racist, bigoted comments seem to have only propelled his candidacy. We're in an environment where even the revelation that he was bragging about his tower "now being the biggest" in New York on September 11th might not derail his candidacy. Can you imagine John Kerry getting away with this?
Rep. David Trott (D-Mich.), a Republican candidate in Michigan's 11th congressional district, has endorsed Donald Trump and, like many of his colleagues, has taken a similarly absurd bent in public policy.
Trott is intent on ignoring national security threats like Zika. Instead, he spent his time in this congressional session ranting about how he "can't imagine how hard it must be to start a small business," while blaming, of all things, the Food and Drug Administration and Center for Disease Control as being the enemy. To be fair to Trott, he probably can't imagine how small business owners feel because he made his fortune kicking them out of their homes.
In the meantime, his Democratic opponent, Dr. Anil Kumar, the Chief of Surgery at Crittenton Hospital, has sounded the alarm on Zika.
"Dave Trott won't have to reassure a mother whose child has been born with microcephaly (shrunken head) - it'll be a Michigan doctor who does that," said Kumar in a recent press release. "It is a cold heart that ignores a mother's tears."
Public health officials say that the incidence rate of microcephaly for pregnant women infected with Zika is between 13-26%, posing serious risks to our country's health and national security. The medical treatment for a single baby with microcephaly is more than $10 million just to treat problems related to the condition.
Certain strands of mosquito in the United States, like the Aedes Aegypti, almost exclusively bite humans and reside in urban and suburban areas. A full-scale outbreak could create long-term burdens on society with the birth of tens of thousands of children with microcephaly. Zika would also freeze travel to popular tourist destinations where the Aedes Aegypti reside like Florida, South Carolina and New Orleans.
Worse yet, the fear and panic of a Zika outbreak could be more damaging than the virus itself. Our country could easily slide into recession as entire sections of the country become paralyzed by fear. No matter how you count the numbers, failure to act on Zika would create a national security crisis.
The proposals being discussed in congress prevent such a grim future - assuming, of course, we had representation that cares about the real issues. Funding is needed to develop mosquito control training and certification, since right now mosquito control is performed by a patchwork of local, county and state organizations with no standard practices. There also needs to be more research into vaccines for Zika as well as more research on the way that Zika spreads.
All in all, the cost would be approximately $1 billion, which is equivalent to the amount spent to successfully prevent the spread of Ebola just a few years ago. While some politicians like Dave Trott and Donald Trump continue to ignore the real national security threats faced by our country, it's encouraging that there are still people, like Dr. Anil Kumar, who aren't afraid to look at solutions.
The real challenge is whether or not we can see past the noxious cloud of nonsense this political season. With robber baron-caricatures like Trump and Trott on the ballot, it's easy to get cynical and throw your hands in the air. Most voters are ready to say, "I quit!" Yet, if there's one thing Americans don't do, it's back down from a fight.
Candidates like Trott and Trump may be a perfect storm for a Zika health crisis, but voters are the hurricane everyone should be looking at. Continued inaction on Zika is a losing issue with the voting public. When voters realize how consistently Trott and Trump do nothing while squawking on the absurd, the gale-force winds of retribution may begin with a gentle breeze of ballots on November 8th.