Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Ebola and the Election

by Michael Dorf

My new Verdict column discusses some parallels between the Bush Administration's post-9/11 detention policies and the reaction of various governors to the perceived Ebola threat. The core claim is that in both contexts, government officials relied on very old precedents without paying adequate attention to how modern civil liberties law appears to have overtaken those precedents. I conclude by noting that even though this meant that the Bush Administration suffered some setbacks in the SCOTUS, in the end the government was given broad deference. Tentatively drawing a parallel with Ebola, I suggest that grossly restrictive Ebola policies will be struck down but that merely unwisely over-restrictive policies will remain in place unless public opinion turns against them.

That concluding note leads me to wonder whether Ebola fears had much of an impact on the midterm elections. There certainly were multiple efforts by Republicans to capitalize on such fears (e.g., in Minnesota), and exit polls indicated that a majority of Americans had followed the Ebola news but only 44% think the federal government is doing a good job on the topic. At least that's according to CNN. ABCNews had 44% disapproving but 50% approving. I can't tell from the stories whether one of these sources just reported it backwards (and if so which one) or whether they conducted separate polls and got different results.  Meanwhile, I have a hard time believing that Ebola was a decisive issue for all that many voters. A WaPo exit poll did not ask about Ebola specifically. It revealed that of the 25% of voters who rated health care the number one issue, 60% voted Democratic, meaning that Ebola probably didn't count as health care for most respondents. Perhaps Ebola counted as foreign policy, although only 13% of voters who rated that the top issue; they favored Republicans by 10 points.

In any event, it's pretty clear that to the extent that Ebola fears had an impact on the election, they aided Republicans. At the risk of stating the obvious, I'll note that in a rational world, it wouldn't necessarily have worked that way. But first, I'll acknowledge the obvious dynamic at play: People are worried about getting Ebola; they assume (correctly) that, other things being equal, Democrats will worry more about civil liberties than Republicans will; so they vote for the Republicans figuring that the Republicans will crack down with tough quarantines and other measures.

The same logic works in national security cases. I recall talking with an otherwise moderate-to-liberal law professor shortly after 9/11, who said something like this: "I voted for Gore but in a crisis like this I'm glad that Ashcroft is Attorney General because he'll take no prisoners."

In both contexts, the logic is flawed. The problem isn't simply that right-wing politicians who want to "get tough" on Ebola/al-Q'aeda under-value civil liberties for the sake of civil liberties (although they do). The problem is that get-tough policies can be counter-productive.

In the Ebola context, the worry is that 3-week quarantines for asymptomatic American health workers returning from aid missions to west Africa will deter a substantial number of such health workers from going in the first place, which will in turn undermine efforts to fight Ebola in west Africa, which will in turn lead to a worse outbreak there, which in turn will put more Americans at risk because of the inevitable contacts through the rest of the world. So, the argument goes, even if we only value American lives, the overly restrictive quarantines are bad policy.

A similar dynamic operates in the national security context, both domestically and internationally. Domestically, the worry is that crackdowns lead Muslim Americans (and others) to mistrust the authorities and thus undermine the cooperation needed to identify potential threats. Internationally, the worry is that aggressive foreign policy begets blowback.

My claim is not that one should always favor the claims of civil liberties over the claims of security (from disease, armed attack, or whatever). It is a complex question in any given context whether additional "tradeoffs" between security and liberty end up sacrificing the latter while actually undermining the former. My point is only that there is usually more political advantage in campaigning for office on a policy of getting tough than on a policy of avoiding counterproductive sacrifices of civil liberties.

15 comments:

darrowret said...

RINOcracy.com pointed out that the decision by a Maine state judge, Charles LaVerdiere, ending the quarantine of Nurse Kaci Hickox, met with little or no criticism. It suggested that the well-reasoned decision, coupled with the tacit acceptance of it in the media, appears to have had a calming effect on public opinion.

Lisa Harris said...

Useful facts! Distinguished way of writing, I very carefully read the entire one. Look forward to more!
fitjackets.com

amine lahragui said...

thanks so much for that great blog and thanks also for accepting my links thanks
طريقة عمل الدونات طريقة عمل البان كيك طريقة عمل الكنافة طريقة عمل البسبوسة طريقة عمل الكيك طريقة عمل عجينة البيتزا فوائد القرفه

aminos lahragui said...



thanks so much i like very so much your post
حلى الاوريو الفطر الهندي صور تورته حلى قهوه طريقة عمل السينابون طريقة عمل بلح الشام بيتزا هت كيكة الزبادي حلا سهل صور كيك عجينة العشر دقائق

Elyse Henson said...

A comparative element works in the national security connection, both locally and globally.
Palowear.com

David Christian said...

Helpful realities! Recognized method for composing, I painstakingly read the whole one. Buy online celebrity leather jacket

obat herbal said...

ngerinya kutil yang tumbuh di vagina solusi menghilangkan kutil di area kutil di daerah kelamin pengobatan herbal alami kutil kelamin cara mengatasi kutil kelamin cara menyempitkan vagina yang longgar cara membuat vagina tetap menggigit solusi kesehatan perempuan cara merawat vagina agar tidak longgar

wasirdenature said...

obat herpes kelamin cara mengobati herpes kelamin obat herbal herpes kelamin gejala penyakit herpes kelamin

herbal medicine said...

obat herpes kelamin cara mengobati herpes kelamin obat herbal herpes kelamin gejala penyakit herpes kelamin

obat herbal said...

obat herpes kelamin cara mengobati herpes kelamin obat herbal herpes kelamin gejala penyakit herpes kelamin

lionelmessi10 said...

kencing perih dan keluar nanah obat penis keluar nanah obat kelamin keluar nanah obat kencing nanah obat herbal denature obat herbal kemaluan keluar nanah obat nanah keluar dari kemaluan obat kemaluan keluar nanah obat sipilis obat kencing nanah obat sipilis ampuh pengobatan herbal denature kencing perih dan keluar cairan nanah dari ujung penis

lionelmessi10 said...

Hemorrhoids are associated with constipation and straining at bowel movements Pregnancy is also associated with hemorrhoids These conditions lead to increased pressure within the hemorrhoidal veins that causes them to swell Other conditions for example chronic liver disease may also cause increased venous pressure and may be associated with hemorrhoids Hemorrhoids are very common and are estimated to occur in up to one-half of the population by age 50

lionelmessi10 said...

Hemorrhoids are associated with constipation and straining at bowel movements Pregnancy is also associated with hemorrhoids These conditions lead to increased pressure within the hemorrhoidal veins that causes them to swell Other conditions for example chronic liver disease may also cause increased venous pressure and may be associated with hemorrhoids Hemorrhoids are very common and are estimated to occur in up to one-half of the population by age 50

Nay Denature said...

Hemorrhoids are associated with constipation and straining at bowel movements Pregnancy is also associated with hemorrhoids These conditions lead to increased pressure within the hemorrhoidal veins that causes them to swell Other conditions for example chronic liver disease may also cause increased venous pressure and may be associated with hemorrhoids Hemorrhoids are very common and are estimated to occur in up to one-half of the population by age 50

obat herbal said...

Obat kencing Nanah De Nature Obat Herbal obat Kutil Kelaminobat gejala herpes kelamin dan pengobatan herpes kelamin dan cara mengobati kanker payudara dan cara mengobati kanker paru dan cara menyembuhkan kanker dan pengobatan kanker dan pengobatan kanker dari china dan obat kanker serviks dan obat kanker herbal dan obat kanker alami ampuh dan obat kanker ampuh dan obat ampuh kanker usus merupakan solusi pengobatan herbal dari denature indonesia