The GOP Is Running on Fear — And I’m Here to Help

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Oh man, I’m sure glad I don’t live in Iowa. Or New Hampshire or South Carolina or Nevada or Alabama or Minnesota or Oklahoma or Alaska or Vermont or Arkansas or Tennessee or Colorado or Georgia or Massachusetts or Texas or Virginia:

Scenes of masked men toting guns and waving black Islamic State flags. Refugees scrambling across the border. Fires and explosions.

It’s not just a Donald Trump ad. Most of the Republican presidential contenders and their allies are now waging campaigns focused on fear….Former Florida governor Jeb Bush delivers a similar message in a new spot that begins airing in New Hampshire this week. “We are at war with radical Islamic terrorism,” he declares….And in Iowa, a new ad by a super PAC supporting Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas features a frightening montage of Islamic State militants, refugees on the run and rolling tanks before mocking Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida as a lightweight.

So that’s what we’re getting? A multi-month campaign to see who can out-fear the rest of the field? Well, good luck with that. I’ll even help out. Remember Ebola? That was a great bit of fearmongering. A true classic. But now we have something even better: Zika. Here’s the dope:

The Zika virus, a rare tropical disease that’s causing a panic in Brazil — because it may lead to babies being born with abnormally small heads — has now made its way to Puerto Rico….”It’s spreading really fast,” said Scott Weaver, the director of the Institute for Human Infections and Immunity at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. “I think [the Zika virus] is going to be knocking on the doorstep in places like Florida and Texas probably in the spring or summer.”

Zika is sort of an invisible virus: if you contract it, you’ll either feel nothing or, at most, flu-like symptoms that shortly go away. But it might cause birth defects. Maybe. There’s no need to include that qualifier, though. This is an unseen but implacable menace making its way across our borders and threatening our unborn babies. And what is Obama doing about it? Nothing, I’ll bet—and I really don’t think there’s any need to check on that. So let’s get those ads cranking, guys!

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This feels like the most important fundraising drive since I've been CEO of Mother Jones, with staggeringly high stakes and so much uncertainty. In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," I try to unpack the reality we all face and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support Mother Jones’ nonprofit journalism: We need to raise $400,000 to help cover the vital reporting projects we have planned, and right now is no time to pull back.

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