If you live in DC’s Northern Virginia suburbs, you may have received a Romney campaign mailer vowing to eradicate Lyme Disease, “A Massive Epidemic Threatening Virginia.” At least a few incredulous residents already have, which sent the slow-news Friday media into a giggle fit.
But make no mistake, people. Northern Virginia takes Lyme seriously. As I reported this summer (see sidebar) Loudoun County has spent $20,000 soaking its public parks with high-octane pest repellent, and Governor Bob McDonnell created a statewide taskforce on the disease in 2010. Go hang out in NoVa government buildings and you’ll find Lyme pamphlets for the taking. In other words, ginning up fears about Lyme may prove to be a smart bit of retail politics. And it might also be a backdoor way of mobilizing evangelical support. Here’s how.
The claims made in Romney’s mailing, which echo an August letter he wrote to the co-chairs of the House Lyme Disease Caucus, reflect the findings of McDonnell’s taskforce. The man who chaired that taskforce, Michael Farris, is no epidemiologist. Farris is the Chancellor of evangelical Patrick Henry College, and President of the Home School Legal Defense Association.
Farris, who says his wife and seven of his ten children have the tick-borne disease, estimates that one in six Virginians are infected. (The CDC reported 756 Virginia cases in 2011.) He also argues the disease is chronic, a claim the Infectious Disease Society of America says is bogus. Experts be damned, Romney’s all ears.