The country’s fentanyl crisis has become a potent political weapon, reflecting its deep and emotional impact on millions of Americans.
Why it matters: The opioid epidemic was once a rare topic that brought Republicans and Democrats together. But even as overdose deaths continue to climb, the discourse around fentanyl has become more politicized and, at times, less aligned with reality — especially when Republicans talk about its connection to the U.S.-Mexico border.
Driving the news: The White House last week issued a memo outlining the stakes of the government funding debate, zeroing in on “life and death priorities like fighting the fentanyl crisis” and insisting that “House Republicans have a pressing choice to make.”
The big picture: As the opioid epidemic has grown and evolved, so has its role in American politics.
State of play: Once a relatively consensus issue, fentanyl now plays a leading part in some of America’s most contentious political conversations.
Between the lines: Americans’ exposure to the epidemic has also spiked.
Yes, but: Prominent Republicans have conflated the flow of illicit fentanyl from Mexico across the U.S. border with the country’s migration crisis, which experts say is inaccurate.
And Republicans’ claims that Biden’s “open border” policies have empowered cartels are “not at all correct. There has been no weakening of security at the U.S. border since the Biden administration came in,” said Vanda Felbab-Brown, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
What we’re watching: The fentanyl debate isn’t just playing out at the federal level.
The bottom line: “Fentanyl stands apart from other domains of policy, because people are dying daily,” Felbab-Brown said. “This is not a delayed threat. This is an immediate life or death situation.”