“Unstable, Paranoid, and Irrational”
It was far from the first time a Republican in the state had attacked Dayton’s mental health. Those attacks started among right-wing bloggers during the 2010 campaign. In September of 2010, Look True North’s Ism called Dayton “unstable, paranoid, and irrational.” Powerline’s Scott Johnson demanded that Dayton release all of his medical records, because “one would have to be a fool to take his word that depression is the only mental health issue Dayton struggles with.”
Though the attacks were aimed at Dayton, they hit a broader target. 14.8 million adult Americans suffer from major depression, and 20.9 million suffer from some form of mood disorder. Diagnosis has increased as antidepressants with relatively minor side effects have become more readily available. More people have been more open about dealing with their mental health issues. (Author’s disclosure: I suffer from major depression, which is kept well in check by medication.)
Nevertheless, while understanding of depression is increasing, a stigma still remains. Mental health issues, even very treatable ones, are simply not viewed in the same way as physical health issues. If Mark Dayton was diabetic, nobody would have insinuated that he was hiding some far worse secret diagnosis.
If the attacks had stayed confined to the blogosphere, it would have been despicable, but relatively unimportant. Unfortunately, the attacks were soon mainstreamed by major figures in the Minnesota Republican Party.
“Crazy Dayton Eyes”
Tom Emmer, Dayton’s opponent in the 2010 election, landed on his feet. Today, he co-anchors the morning show on KTLK-AM, a right-wing station that carries Rush Limbaugh.
It would be nice to think that Emmer would still comport himself like a former state representative and gubernatorial candidate. Instead, Emmer has attacked Dayton, and not just on policy. Perhaps the nadir was “Crazy Dayton Eyes,” a parody of “Bette Davis Eyes” that ostensibly hit Dayton on spending. The parody included lines like “He’s always been a bit off/Oh, he’s going to cry.”
The attacks continued to circulate among Republicans, until bursting forth during the primary for the party’s nomination for U.S. Representative in the 1st Congressional District. State Sen. Mike Parry, R-Waseca, one of the two challengers, was dead serious as he told Republicans in Brown County that Dayton was a “scary man.”
“When you sit across from him and you watch him pop 15 to 16 pills while you’re having a meeting, it’s scary,” Parry said. “We all know how scary Obama is. [Dayton] is at the same level.”
Image Credit: Office of Gov. Mark Dayton
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