Sunday, March 8, 2020

Has Coronavirus Infected our Politics?


Have you heard enough about Coronavirus yet?   If not, feel free to tune in to the Coronavirus News Network, also known as CNN.

I have zero medical experience in virology and public health, so read no further if you are looking for a Whistleblower travel advisory or if it’s safe to pet Scruffy if he develops a fever.

I’m also not here to gripe about our nation’s response to this incipient pandemic.   Although we have a first class team in place now, even they admit that they stumbled initially.  I'm more interested in making progress than in racking up debate points.

My observation is that there is no issue or event that is immune to politicization, a reality that depresses me.  We all agree that prior to the virus’s emergence from China, we were already rabidly hyper-polarized and hyper-partisan in the zero sum game that now defines our political landscape.  I won’t add to this sentence so as not to waste readers’ time in reading what we all know and agree on. 

On many issues we should expect differing views from our two main political parties that are philosophically distinct.  For example, changing income tax rates, border issues, health care policy, funding our defense department, trade policy are examples that will give rise to spirited policy debates. This is as it should be.  During normal times, meaning decades ago, these differences would be debated and a solution forged by resorting to the diabolical technique called compromise. 
But, or so I had thought, some issues should hover above this chaos in the rarefied region of the stratosphere where reasonableness prevails.   

Illustration of Coronovirus
Is it Democrat or Republican?

To offer an absurd hypothetical, if a lawmaker offers a bill declaring cancer to be evil, would this pass unanimously?  It seems non-controversial, but who knows?  Perhaps, the opposing party might be suspicious of the motive, or fear that this is the entry point to the slippery slope that will lead to Medicare for All.   Or, the opposition will agree to vote for the bill only in exchange for votes on some unrelated issue.  We all know how this works.

I have hear many pundits and partisans in recent days who can’t resist taking political shots at their adversaries when they are questioned about Coronavirus issues.  These crass responses give this gastroenterologist heartburn.   Let them save their partisan venom for an appropriate issue.  Coronavirus is a potential global health crisis and, as a medical professional, I assure you that it is non-partisan.  It will infect anyone.  So, when a salivating political hack is asked about it, he should be telling us how he intends to help rather than angling for a cheap political dividend.

I wonder how my patients might react if I queried them about their political leanings as they were about to be sedated before undergoing a procedure.  



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