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Anthony Fauci is a Doctor, Not a Dragon Slayer

Never Trumpers are trying to position him as the next head of the Resistance. That can only end badly.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci listens during a briefing on the coronavirus pandemic in the press briefing room of the White House on March 27, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

A few weeks after Donald Trump won the Republican nomination, Camille Paglia penned an unforgettable essay in which she dubbed Trump the “viking dragon.” Today, that gold-and-maiden-hoarding beast has settled into the Oval Office. And though he’s proven largely un-slayable, the disgruntled Never Trumpers are yet again throwing a bright-eyed tribute into his lair. First it was James Comey, then Robert Mueller, and now they’re turning to poor Dr. Fauci.

There is a troubling spate of messianism in the American politic, a yearning for a savior. For many on the disaffected right, Trump was that messiah. For the left, it’s since become Fauci. The devotional candles are already being sold. Prayers are being whispered: “Deliver us from evil.”

The LA Times editorial board recently published a piece that, in the first paragraph, characterized Fauci as an icon with a history of rebuffing egotistical anti-science ignorance, positioning him as directly opposed to President Trump. And with Fauci making his late-night debut this week on Trevor Noah’s Daily Show, it seems the machine is well on its way to grooming its next St. George.

We know where this will go—we’ve already seen it with Comey and Mueller. The acolytes will sing the dragon-slayer hymn, hyping their expectations, faithful that he will be the one to defeat the great serpent in the White House.

But it’s a Sisyphean fantasy. Fauci is only a man, doomed to fall short of these righteous expectations. And by plastering his face on stickers, T-shirts, and candles, his admirers will draw the president’s unforgiving attention to him, and Fauci will be ousted.

This is such an overplayed story that I’m half convinced that Fauci is really Comey walking on his knees in a lab coat. At least with Comey, his physical size (a towering six-foot-eight) fit the image. A titan to slay the dragon! But Fauci? He’s a doctor, and a good one. But he’s far more cleric than he is knight.

Fauci was a pioneer of AIDS research, and he deserves accolades for this work. I’m glad he has the president’s ear, as much as anyone can. But this fragile relationship is liable to be spoiled by partisan brawlers.

Fortunately, Fauci seems remarkably unphased by the brewing mania. Though he’s been getting attention from celebrities and media giants, he’s remained detached and professional. It’s not like he can actually do anything to “defeat” Trump anyway. Yet as the ephemeral Anthony Scaramucci once famously said about the president himself—it isn’t literal, it’s symbolic.

Though impeachment was practically a waste of time, it was a great symbolic victory. Similarly, the Never Trumpers want to make Fauci a symbol of the resistance. Imagine if the kind doctor were to take the podium at the next press conference and call the president an incompetent boob. What a triumph that would be! The dragon would be slain, no?

No. Fauci is a good doctor, but he’s no dragon-slayer. And if the disgruntled townspeople prop him up like one, he’ll be cut down like all the others. The president, an ever-fickle dragon, would detect the rumbles of discord, and at the slightest sign of Fauci donning a sword and armor, devour yet another sacrifice.

Don’t make him a saint. Don’t make him a knight. Just let the man be a doctor and vote out the dragon if you wish.

Shaun Cammack (@shaunjcammack) is a graduate student at the University of Chicago and a contributor to Young Voices. 

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