Kaci Hickox may not have intended to become the center of a political debate, but she is one now.

When the registered nurse — fresh from fighting Ebola in Sierra Leone — spoke out against a mandatory quarantine in New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie was the first Republican into the breach. While refraining from attacking Hickox personally, Christie took up an unusual rallying cry for a member of the party of Reagan: the need for big government to contain a crisis.

“The government’s job is to protect [the] safety and health of our citizens,” Christie said on “Fox News Sunday.” “And so we’ve taken this action, and I absolutely have no second thoughts about it.”

Christie had second thoughts on Monday, when he freed Hickox from quarantine after taking heat from, among others, President Obama. By then, Hickox was well on her way to becoming the left’s poster child — though those of that political persuasion do not typically object when government intervenes in the name of public health.

When Kaci Hickox stood up to Governor Chris Christie for quarantining her against her will and claiming she was ‘obviously ill’ when she wasn’t, she did more than bring a little sanity to our Ebola-panic politics,” the Nation wrote. “She also struck a blow for all the teachersnursespublic employeesminimum-wagers and workers of all kinds that Christie has bullied, belittled and silenced over the years.” 

When back at home in Maine, Hickox — now a stand-in for the entire labor movement — defied another mandatory quarantine from another Republican governor, the partisan divide over her irresponsibility or moxie only deepened. To the right, she was a do-gooder who fell from grace, trading praiseworthy humanitarian work for obnoxious grandstanding as she and her boyfriend set off on a defiant bicycle ride with a scrum of TV camera crews in tow. To the left, she was a hero standing up to “bully governors.”

“There is something uniquely jarring about a display of selfish insolence from someone who is so praiseworthy in other respects,” Townhall wrote in a piece called “Kaci Hickox, Self-Absorbed Hero.” “Maddening traits usually come from maddening people, as their true character surfaces.”

This contrasted with Salon’s take: “America’s new Ebola hero: Defying hysteria, Kaci Hickox bravely goes for bike ride.”

The fact Hickox is a registered Democrat only further inflamed the Rush Limbaugh crowd in their atypical demand an individual bow to the will of the state:

CALLER: I think she’s a flaming liberal. The rules don’t apply to me. The rules apply to everyone else. 

RUSH:  Well, that could be partly true. And she didn’t find any lawyer. She went and found Norm Siegel of the ACLLU.

CALLER:  Exactly.

RUSH:  The American Civil “Liberal” Liberties Union. But there’s even more of an answer to this I think. Is this not a little bit sanctimonious? I mean, here you volunteer and you let everybody know, by the way. … “I am a good person. I have volunteered to go to Africa, and I am helping Ebola patients. Look at me. See me? I am a good person.” You come back, “I have just returned from Africa helping Ebola patients, and you are not going to quarantine me so that I can’t be noticed.”

CALLER:  Absolutely ridiculous.

To make matters worse, the Daily Caller revealed that her lawyer once attended a dinner at the Obama White House.

Meanwhile, over at MSNBC, Rachel Maddow was worried. In a segment called “Uncowed Kaci Hickox supported by state health leaders,” Maddow said Maine wanted to “force her into basically house arrest — involuntary strict quarantine even though she does not have Ebola.”

The culprit infringing upon Hickox’s individual rights as Ayn Rand might have imagined them? According to Maddow: “Maine’s bombastic walking carnival of a governor, tea party republican Paul LePage,” who “has basically now threatened that that nurse may not be safe in Maine.”

The Daily Kos agreed.

Hickox is smart, well-spoken, and determined to teach politicians a direct lesson about science and about public health,” Joan McCarter wrote. “She’s a strong voice of reason in the midst of Republican-induced Ebola panic, and has already made a fool of Christie. LePage should think twice before taking her on.”