The Laramee Filter: pseudorandom thoughts, subsequently put on the Internet.
Tom Laramee
Date Published:
August 18th, 2019
Word Count:
1,137 (10:00 read time)
Filed Under:

Dying of Whiteness: Why People Vote Against Their Own Self-Interest

I've been trying to find a satisfying answer to the following question for many years: Why do certain people vote against their own self-interests, specifically, w/r/t healthcare?

(... and have finally found one)

Meaning: why do some people vote for political representatives that are against Medicaid expansion, are for rollbacks of protection for pre-existing conditions, or are for trying to have the ACA declared unconstitutional and subsequently thrown out (etc) .. when these outcomes materially and directly affect these voters in a very negative way?

I've found answers before - but never one that made me think "That's it, I've reached the end of the line on this one and there's no reason to contemplate this further".

(...until now)

I'm reading a book called Dying of Whiteness, in which the author travelled across middle America to interview voters and found that "When I met with middle- and lower-class white Americans across various locales, I found support for a set of political positions that directly harmed their own health and well-being or the health and well-being of their own families".

The answer began with a specific person, Trevor, who at the time of his interview was dying from liver failure, due to both alcohol & drug abuse and hepatitis C. Trevor knew he was dying, and at the time the state of Tennessee refused to allow Medicaid expansion via the ACA, which might have [likely would have] been able to prolong Trevor's life.

Trevor said:

"Ain't no way I would ever support Obamacare or sign up for it, I would rather die."

He continued:

"We don't need any more government in our lives. And in any case, no way I want my tax dollars paying for Mexicans or welfare queens."

The analysis of his statements (rolling them up with many other interviews), indicate that Trevor's beliefs "aligned with beliefs about a racial hierarchy that overtly and implicitly aimed to keep white Americans hovering above Mexicans, welfare queens, and other nonwhite others."

(several quotes follow)

"Beliefs that minority groups received lavish benefits from the state, even though he [Trevor] himself lived and died on a low-income budget with state assistance [and was not paying into his state's tax base]".
"Trevor voiced a literal willingness to die for his place in the hierarchy, rather than participate in a system that might put him on the same plane as immigrants or racial minorities."

(Trevor eventually died a very slow, very painful death due to systematic deterioration)

"Yet the more I spoke with Trevor, the more I realized how his experience of illness, and indeed his particular form of white identity, resulted not just from his own thoughts and actions but from his politics."
"I met many people like Trevor over the course of my research. People who were dying in various overt or invisible ways as a result of political beliefs or systems linked to the defense of white "ways of life" or concerns about minorities or poor people hoarding resources."

(This is where it starts to get fascinating: the bigger conclusion here, the higher-level implications)

"The stories these people told me became jumping-off points for a more sustained investigtion of how particular American notions of whiteness - notions shaped by politics and policies as well as by institutions, history, media, economics, and personal identities - threaten white well-being."

Let that sink in for a second ... if your personal political belief system is characterized as "white identity politics", you're significantly more likely to vote for politicans that enact policies that directly harm your health (and the health of your family) in tangible, meaningful, and direct ways .. and potentially sacrifice yourself on the altar of supporting larger prejudices or ideals.

"I repeatedly found examples of policies, politics, or products that claimed to restore white authority but silently delivered lethality."
"When white backlash policies became laws, as in cutting away health care programs, and infrastructure spending, blocking expansion of health care delivery systems, defunding opiate-addiction centers, spewing toxins into the air, or enabling guns in public spaces, the result was - and I say this with the support of statistics detailed in the chapters that follow - increasing rates of death."
"But the data I track in this book reveals the shocking extent to which the health and well-being of white Americans suffered from the health effects of these policies as well."
"Indeed, for a variety of reasons, white Americans in parts of the US saw unprecedented drops in life expectancy over the time of my study."

So ... what do I think about all of this?

(BTW: If you read this far please let me know and I'll buy you a pony)

  1. I'm actually okay with people refusing medical care. The one condition is that you can't later drag yourself into the ER and say "I changed my mind, now that I need $500k worth of medical treatment [because I've been explicitly refusing healthcare for the past N years]". Meaning, if you refuse medical care, you need to go "all in" and be consistent.
    My favorite example of this kind of hypocrisy is motorcycle riders who "live free or die" in NH by refusing to wear a motorcycle helmet ... *until* they sustain a traumatic brain injury, at which point they're more than happy to accept hundreds of thousands of dollars from the [deep] state for attempted rehabilitation)
  2. What troubles me is that if enough people vote for politicans who support say, the repeal of protections for pre-existing conditions or declaring the ACA unconstitutional, well, that means I whole lot of people will lose their healthcare, and that seems invredibly unfair.
    Meaning, while it may be your right to refuse healthcare, it's not your right to take healthcare away from those who do not refuse it.
    This is, I think, at it's core, a libertarian point of view (a coincidence) ... stated simply "everyone is equally free to accept healthcare or refuse it, as it's your personal decision".
  3. The irony here is incredible. Vote white-identity poltics, see increased mortality for white people [and many others].
    "Americans make tradeoffs that negatively affect their lives and livelihoods in support of larger prejudices or ideas. By design, vulnerable immigrant and minority populations suffered the consequences in the most dire and urgent ways."
[1] Trump Voters Stand to Suffer Most From Obamacare Repeal and a Trade War
[2] Trumpcare Is Already Hurting Trump Country
[3] "The twist here was that Trump's plans would hurt the working class white populations who formed the core of his own base."
[4] During an interview on Fox News, Tucker Carlson said to Trump "counties that voted for you, middle-class and working-class counties, would do far less well [under the proposed repeal of the ACA]". Trump responded "Yeah, Oh, I know that. It's very preliminary."