Throughout 2016, people warned that Donald Trump et al. were planning on cutting Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare, were going to increase the ranks of the uninsured (especially amongst the rural poor) by repealing the Affordable Care Act, and were not only rejecting the scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change, but actively supported policy that would make it worse.
And yet not only was he elected president, but candidates who supported him and his ideology overwhelmingly won election into Congress and governorships. And just today we have four news items of note:
- In a town hall-type meeting in Concord, New Hampshire, former presidential candidate and current Ohio governor John Kasich announced that he was supporting significant cuts to Social Security. He asked audience members, "What if I told you that your initial benefit was gonna be somewhat lower in order to save the program? Would that drive you crazy?" When a couple of attendees said that yes, it would upset them, he responded, "Well, you'd get over it, and you're going to have to get over it."
- An announcement by the Congressional Budget Office two days ago estimated the number of people who would lose their health insurance under the current administration's proposal at 24 million. This would nearly double the number of uninsured individuals in the United States. The biggest hits would be to low-income people in the Southeast and Midwest.
- Add to this the revelation that despite repeated pledges not to touch Medicaid, the current health care proposal would slash $880 billion in federal funding for the program. Ron Pollack, head of the health-care advocacy group Families USA, said that the cuts "would put us on a destructive path that would decimate the safety-net Medicaid program for over 72 million people; drastically reduce premium subsidies for working families; and cause out-of-pocket health costs to soar."
- A study released by Tulane University yesterday showed that sea level rise in coastal Louisiana is four times higher than previously estimated, and that "there is little chance that the coast will be able to withstand the accelerating rate of sea level rise."
What is most puzzling about this is that the people who voted in the current administration, and the conservative members of Congress who are currently rubber-stamping the president's proposals, are largely older Americans and the rural poor of the Southeast and Midwest. Louisiana, currently experiencing the highest land loss from sea level rise in the world (16 square miles a year -- a football field's worth every hour) overwhelmingly voted Republican.
I know I'm not the most savvy person politically, but I can't even begin to comprehend this. You would think that especially in fractious times, people would be more likely to vote for whatever candidate was more likely to insure their own personal security. In a way, of course, the Trump cadre convinced people they were doing exactly that; they played into fear, misogyny, racism, and xenophobia, inducing people to accept the blatant lies that violent crime rates were increasing (they're not), that a large proportion of crimes are committed by immigrants (they're not), that acceptance of diversity in society leads to the collapse of a society's morals and culture (it doesn't), and that climate change isn't happening (it is).
But even though the current administration seems to run on the fuel of innuendo, lies, unfounded and unsourced accusations, and "alternative facts," you'd think that the bare truth of people losing their health care, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid -- hell, even watching their communities sink into the Gulf of Mexico -- would cause them to say, "Wait just a moment, now." But that hasn't happened. The most staunchly pro-Trump individuals are the ones who stand to get hurt the most, and amazingly, they are giving every appearance of remaining pro-Trump to the last gasp.
I find this utterly baffling. I keep waiting for the Trump voters to realize that they elected a master con man who never had the slightest intention of protecting their interests, to acknowledge that they've been had, but it's showing no sign of happening.
[image courtesy of K. C. Green]
It's probably naïve of me to expect people to behave rationally, not to mention for me to expect that there is a simple explanation of something complex like why people vote a particular way (and stick to a candidate through thick and thin). But the juxtaposition of the four stories -- Kasich's blithe dismissal of people's concerns about cuts to Social Security, the CBO's announcement that Trumpcare will double the number of uninsured individuals in the United States, the announcement of staggering cuts to Medicaid, and the study showing that southern Louisiana is washing away -- highlights a completely perplexing feature of human behavior.
The fact that once committed to an ideology, people won't change their minds even if the walls are crashing down around them.