Why The Ann Coulter / Erick Erickson Split Over Ebola Treatment Is A Bigger Debate

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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The case of a missionary doctor brought back to America for treatment of Ebola has revealed an interesting schism on the right.

Surprisingly, the question is not about whether or not he should have been brought back, but instead, over whether or not he should have traveled to Africa in the first place.

On one side of the debate, you have Ann Coulter, who asked “what was the point” to Dr. Brantley’s work in Africa:

…Your country is like your family. We’re supposed to take care of our own first. The same Bible that commands us to “go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel” also says: “For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’”

Right there in Texas, near where Dr. Brantly left his wife and children to fly to Liberia and get Ebola, is one of the poorest counties in the nation, Zavala County — where he wouldn’t have risked making his wife a widow and his children fatherless.

On the other side of the debate is Erick Erickson, who responded:

Erickson goes out of his way to assure us he personally likes Coulter, and I have no doubt this is true (frankly, I do, too.)

But the interesting thing here is how this is really just a microcosm of a growing divide between conservatives who put faith ahead of politics — and a growing, populist strain of tea party conservatism that wants to turn inward and stress “nation-building at home.”

The other week, I wrote about this latter, less gracious, impulse on the right:

It’s the cry of victimhood — not the talk of a prosperous nation, or of kindness or of greatness. It’s the mindset of a nation that truly believes its best days are in the rearview mirror. To paraphrase Reagan, I reject that worldview, partly because such beliefs have a way of becoming self-fulfilling prophesies.

Fear leads to hoarding and bitterness. We can go that direction; conservatives can make that their brand. The GOP can become the party of the angry and the dispossessed — not the party of the aspirational and the generous. But why would we want to?

I was writing about the border crisis, but tell me this doesn’t fit in with the Ebola story, too. Frankly, it transcends both.