Former president Donald Trump took his “Pity Me” Tour to Sarasota, Florida this weekend to rant about his “stolen” election, a theme as stale as week-old French bread, but as vital as red meat to his pack of bellyaching wolves. Attending such appearances and supporting the former president may infuse his supporters with a shot of pissed-off bravura but it may also prove bad for their health.
A recent study by Seth Masket of the Center on American Politics at the University of Denver show that the correlation between how states voted in the last election and the percentage of their citizens who are vaccinated is nearly exact. So strong is the correlation that Masket says, “Vaccinations are a better predictor of state voting patterns in 2020 than education, racial composition, or almost any other demographic factor.” With the highly contagious and deadly Delta variant spreading across the country, an unvaxed red-state America may be protesting at their own peril. This disconnect is no longer an example of America’s increasingly fractured politics, but its deadly malignancy as well. If you have an “R” next to your name, there is a good chance your insurance premiums will be as high as an admitted smoker.
Decades earlier, American states saw unilateral improvements in life expectancy. MSNBC reported that residents of northeastern and western states (which generally vote Democratic) are living longer and healthier lives while in the GOP-voting South and Appalachia life expectancies have stagnated. In 2017, the gap between Hawaii, the state with the highest life expectancy and Mississippi (which has the lowest) was a whopping seven years. White men in large metropolitan areas have seen some of the biggest gains in life expectancy, while white men in non-metro areas have had far smaller gains. These disparate results are directly correlated to the attention and resources that red and blue states devote to the health of their citizens. Blue state Americans have far greater access to health care. Their political leaders invest more in education, day care, and other safety net programs. They strictly regulate handguns, which means fewer of their residents die from gun violence. Medicaid benefits are generous and are not tied to punitive regulations like work requirements.
Dragging out these facts don’t seem to have much of an impact on voters on the “right” who have already proven their willingness to sacrifice their health to make a political stand. No ones gonna tell me to wear a mask! This political protest should be classified in the same category as the mantra gun advocates often proclaim, I’ll give you my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.” One would think there is a better option than one’s defiance leading to death.
An example of this collective effort in self sabotage is found in Missouri, where in 2020 voters tried pass a ballot initiative requiring the state to expand Medicaid. But the Republican-dominated state legislature balked at allocating any money for the plan, in effect killing it, in essence, flipping the middle finger to the “left” and aggrandizing over “owning the libs.” Will any one see the cruelty of contributing to the early deaths of your state’s citizens? But in Missouri and 11 other states, it’s a reality — and one that Republican voters continue to endorse at the ballot box, election after election as they march towards collective suicide.
Perhaps we are seeing the ardent right give new meaning to the term “Cancel Culture,” but do they know it is their own they are cancelling.