Kyle Palmer | Thursday, February 5, 2015
As a politics addict, I was excited going into this week because the president released his budget, and I wanted to see how the Republican-controlled House and Senate were going to respond. I opened up the news apps on my phone, and with the exception of a new infrastructure and tax proposal within it, there were no stories about the budget. What dominated the news cycle? Not the budget, not the recently released video by the Islamic State showing a Jordanian being burned alive, but measles because apparently measles is a controversial topic. What’s more, the dominating theme wasn’t the measles outbreak itself, but the opinions of political figures regarding vaccinations. It seems election fever has broken out across the nation.
Following the measles outbreak that has been determined to have originated at Disneyland, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was among the first high-profile figures to come out and render a public opinion, stating he thinks that parents should have a choice in whether or not to vaccinate their children. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul quickly weighed in during a fiery interview on CNBC, saying that it shouldn’t be controversial to allow parents a choice in vaccinating their children. To round out the choice-in-vaccination group was Carly Fiorina, who said the federal government shouldn’t mandate immunizations, but that schools should be allowed to keep children out of school for not being vaccinated.
Decidedly taking a middle-of-the-road stance and not wanting to get involved with the issue was Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who thinks the federal government should punt the issue to the states to let them decide. I would ask the good senator if he believes that measles somehow affects children from California but not from Texas? Cruz said, however, “But on the question of whether kids should be vaccinated, the answer is obvious and there’s widespread agreement – of course they should.” To which I would follow up with asking, incredulously, why he then believes vaccinations shouldn’t be mandated nationally?
Then there’s the vaccination crowd, which included Dr. Ben Carson, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whose only comment on the matter was a single, though decisive, tweet: “The science is clear: The earth is round, the sky is blue, and #vaccineswork. Let’s protect all our kids. #GrandmothersKnowBest.”
There’s extremely broad support for mandating vaccinations, especially because the evidence that purportedly proves major side effects of vaccinations is questionable at best, and because diseases don’t just inflict harm to one individual – they can spread and affect potentially hundreds of children. As Sen. Mitch McConnell put it: “As a victim of polio myself, I’m a big fan of vaccinations.” This is a public health issue, so why shouldn’t we leave it at that?
For me, this just highlights the fact that the 2016 presidential race has entered a new phase; where no one is technically running yet, but seemingly everyone is posturing themselves to enter soon. It’s interesting to me because I have been trying to pin down what would be the deciding issue in 2016 for the past couple months. I never suspected that it would be vaccinations. In reality, I don’t expect this to be the ultimately pivotal issue for the presidential campaign, but it may be the first round of eliminations for candidates. While I believe they will run regardless of this issue, I feel Gov. Christie and Sen. Paul’s positions on this issue will hurt them (I am not sure if Carly Fiorina will run, but given her stance it certainly won’t help her chances either). Sen. Cruz will hold on to his loyal base with his passive stance. All who are in favor of vaccination mandates will move on to the next stage. Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum mostly stayed out of this fight.
Clinton is the heir presumptive of the Democratic presidential nomination, so it is the Republican field that continues to narrow. Although the number of Republicans “considering” running for the White House still seems to compete with the population of Wyoming, different voting blocs and fundraisers are deciding who to get behind. With the exit of Mitt Romney, Scott Walker has placed himself near the top of the Republican field, with many believing he would draw a strong contrast to Clinton as an effective governor who still connects to normal people as opposed to Wall Street or Washington, D.C. elites.
The argument over vaccines will likely continue for a week before the media moves on to another topic, but this has certainly forced many candidates to unofficially enter into the race. Surely, events like this intrigue me and other political junkies and offer insight into the forthcoming election. Make no mistake, the outbreak of election fever is spreading rapidly, and you will have a choice of whether you fall victim to it and participate — or vaccinate with apathy.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.