GOP's scheme to frighten America: 4-point plan of Ebola, Secret Service, Border, ISIS

How Republicans plan to shoehorn fear over 4 very loosely related things through a lens of White House incompetence

By Jim Newell
October 10, 2014 7:13PM (UTC)
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Scott Brown, Mitch McConnell, Thom Tillis (AP/Jim Cole/Manuel Balce Ceneta/Photo montage by Salon)

Let whoever said the GOP has no message or plan heading into the final weeks of the election season be damned. They have a plan alright. And no, it's not this cheap strip of single-ply toilet paper that Reince Priebus distributed last week. It is not Reince Priebus's list of such specific agenda items as "have big economy good" and "more Constitution." No one -- no one -- cared about that. The real message, the real plan, is four-pronged, a bit hazy, dumb, yeah, sure, but artistic and masterful all the same.

The GOP's strategy for the last month of the campaign is Ebola, Secret Service, ISIS, and the Border. You take any combination of these disparate news events, connect them or don't as you see fit, and somehow distill your concoction into an argument for why more Republicans should serve in the United States Senate.


Ebola hemorrhagic fever is a frequently fatal disease and one person in the United States has died from it. ISIS is a terrorist group controlling a piece of territory along the Iraq and Syrian border. The Secret Service is the agency that protects the president and his family and has suffered a couple of lapses. The border between Mexico in the United States is an international border that people sneak across sometimes.

What's the link? That they are four bad things that are happening while Barack Obama is president and the Democratic Party is in control of the United States Senate. That's the link. And what Republicans are trying to do is claim that the Obama administration and the Democratic Party's incompetence is the direct cause of, or at least simultaneous to, these events.

The New York Times' Peter Baker explains -- to the extent that any human can explain this amorphous phenomenon with existing words -- how this single-fiber thread unifies all of the Republicans' far-flung attacks across the country,


With four weeks to go before the midterm elections, Republicans have made questions of how safe we are – from disease, terrorism or something unspoken and perhaps more ominous – central in their attacks against Democrats. Their message is decidedly grim: Mr. Obama and the Democratic Party run a government that is so fundamentally broken it cannot offer its people the most basic protection from harm.

Hear it on cable television and talk radio, where pundits and politicians play scientists speculating on whether Ebola will mutate into an airborne virus that kills millions. See it in the black-hooded, machine-gun-brandishing Islamic fighters appearing in campaign ads. Read about it in the unnerving accounts of the Secret Service leaving President Obama and his family exposed.

Republicans believe they have found the sentiment that will tie Congressional races together with a single national theme.

You don't have to use all four. It's more like ordering a combo platter at a restaurant: mix-and-match a plate of two or three different items out of a possible total of four.

You can say that ISIS is trying to infiltrate the country through its porous border; that Ebola-stricken Africans are trying to infiltrate the country through its porous border; that Ebola-stricken ISIS members are trying to infiltrate the country through its porous border; that ISIS is trying to infiltrate the White House and its vulnerable security perimeter; that Ebola-stricken Africans are trying to infiltrate the White House and its vulnerable security perimeter, etc. All of these things are happening, or they're not, but they could.

President Obama, most generously, is too incompetent to stop any of these things from happening; more likely, he wants them to happen and is abetting their happening, since his end-game is and has always been destruction of the country from the inside.


We don't think that any Republican Senate candidate has threaded the needle between all four yet -- as in, "Ebola-stricken Africans are teaming up with ISIS in Mexico, crossing the porous border, and marching to Washington to infiltrate the White House and its vulnerable security perimeter." Has any candidate said this yet? If not, first one one wins a combo platter at Sizzler.

Can we step back for a second and look at this? We are talking about a bunch of Senate races. Unhappy with things going badly in the world, that may or may not be connected, exaggerated, or hallucinated? Well then what you must do is vote for Thom Tillis to represent North Carolina in the Senate. What you must do to stop the specter of ISIS-Ebola coexistence is elect Tom Cotton to the Senate. To shore up the country's defenses before ISIS seizes control of the White House, you must put David Perdue on the back bench of some Senate subcommittees. Do you see? No?


It's the conjuring of the airborne toxic event as political strategy. No one knows what to make of it, ourselves included. We'd like to just laugh it off and dismiss it, and we'll do that soon, but for now, we can't help but admire the beauty of it all.

Jim Newell

Jim Newell covers politics and media for Salon.

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