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Dave Sanders and the Politics of Fear

Republican Steve Buyer, from Indiana’s 4th congressional district, announced yesterday that he will not be running for re-election this year. Buyer has been under investigation for hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from pharmaceuticals corporations to a foundation he created. Buyer is on a committee that is supposed to regulate pharmaceuticals.

Right now, there’s only one candidate registered to campaign for the seat: David Sanders, who ran against Buyer in 2004 and 2006. There only remain about 20 days before other politicians can file the necessary petitions to become official candidates in the race.

Democrats should have some concerns about running Sanders again, however – and not just because he fared poorly both times he ran for Congress in the past. Sanders has used Republican themes to promote his political candidacies. Most prominently, Sanders has used the politics of fear. The graphic you see here is taken straight from one of Sanders’s 2006 television advertisements.

In that commercial, Sanders touts his experience working against bioterrorism as a significant reason to elect him to Congress. However, the United States has never been the victim of a serious bioterrorist attack, and there’s no evidence to indicate that there is any specific danger of an attack using biological weapons. Even in the 2001 anthrax scare (launched by an American, not a foreign terrorist), only 5 people died – while between 10 and 20 times that number of people die of chicken pox every year.

Using scary messages about looming terrorist attacks is a dumb political tactic for a Democratic candidate to use, because it encourages people to adopt the Republican security-state mindset. Once in that mindset, people are more likely to just vote for a Republican, rather than voting for a Democrat sounding like a Republican.

More importantly, this kind of politics of fear is wrong for our nation, causing us to focus on minor problems that excite us, instead of the serious challenges we need to deal with. The Democrats of Indiana’s 4th congressional district would do better to find a new candidate who is willing to confront the right wing obsession with terrorists head on than to give Dave Sanders a 3rd chance to peddle his vision of fear.

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