At first I worried that Obama embracing vaccines would have the regrettable effect of making pro/anti-vaccines a political issue per se. The old saw about Obama killing off the opposition with an address in favor of breathing is silly but it’s not that silly. But maybe it won’t happen after all. So far I have been pleased to find that fewer people than feared need to re-up their common goddamn sense booster. Instead Republicans have sorted out into basically three categories, with the most worrisome also being easily the smallest.
On the one hand you have this boojum brigade of predictably excitable noisemakers who jump feverishly on a chance to throw themselves into the national dialogue. Michelle Bachman headlined this crowd, as she so often does, when she summarily disqualified herself from a Presidential debate with made-up facts about the HPV vaccine. In fact the HPV vaccine proved a kind of gateway drug for conservatives, with its connotations of sex without painful or deadly side effects, drawing in folks like Glenn Beck who never miss a chance to compare a hilariously unscientific idea with they-laughed-at-Galileo*. An award for special achievement in boojum goes to single-issue fanatics like Alabama’s Mo Brooks who stipulate that their personal bugbear (in his case, hispanics) lie behind any negative externality that could, has or will occur in the lifespan of our universe.
In the middle you have the choice caucus, a group not obviously deranged like the boojum brigade but still reckless with public health. Chris Christie and Rand Paul, take a bow. For reasons ideological, pandering or both these folks feel that vaccines are just one of those decisions that parents make, like SpongeBob versus Dora or whether to let small children play in traffic. It would be more tempting to forgive folks in the choice caucus if these exact same people had not literally just competed to come up with the most Soviet answer to a public health crisis during the previous election.
The last and largest bin is a Frum forum of pundits and politicians who will get in a clown car this loopy but no loopier. I was surprised and pleased to see Ben Carson, a certified physician but also a man with a legendary taste for boojum, speak about as strongly as a person could (that being his usual speaking voice) in favor of vaccines and public health. Some applause also goes to Bobby Jindal and Marco Rubio for taking an unambiguous and positive stand. Megyn Kelly and Steve Doocy also deserve credit for correcting some of the frothier guests and/or hosts on their illustrious network.
At this point my spider sense tells me that Republicans will mostly sort themselves into the Frum forum with some allowances for those beset by voices, single-issue maniacs, the politically maladroit and Sarah Palin. Thanking god for small favors it looks like preventable diseases of the 18th century will not become an issue in the 2016 Presidential election.
Meanwhile, so far as I can tell there is one kind of Democrat. Maybe a pundit or two (Bill Maher, predictably the moron’s advocate) but otherwise it’s one voice. Vaccinate your kids.
(*) Sadly, no. Experts embraced Galileo’s superior explanation for eccentric planetary orbits pretty much right away. The Church mostly complained that he published his work in Italian, allowing the discussion of heavenly affairs to enter the public realm rather than keep such ideas cloistered among the Latin-speaking priesthood like Copernicus had done.