Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Ranting On...Trump Supporters on Obamacare

I don't hate Republicans, as an entity, even if I can't stand their policies.  I am not one of those people who thinks that to hate is inherently wrong, and I think that there are select politicians where I've probably crossed that line, if only because they make life intrinsically harder for the disenfranchised, minority communities, and the environment.  But I don't hate Republicans as a whole, and can respect where they come from on most views, and even if I don't agree with them, I always respect a well-reasoned argument, which you can get on most major public policy issues provided that you don't veer into opinion or outright falsehood.  Even issues that Democrats frame as "indisputable" like climate change, for example, there's a lot of room for debate on how to address it (even if there's no room to debate whether it exists or is principally driven by humans).

I want to say that preface because I'm about to dish out some very tough love toward a couple in Kentucky who on-the-surface deserve our sympathy.  Vox (one of the best sites on the web) did a profile that's currently going viral and is split into two parts (here and here) centered on a woman named Debbie Mills.  Mills is a member of a family of five that is currently enrolled in the Affordable Care Act, a program that has seen remarkable success in Kentucky, even if approval for "Obamacare" remains low.  Mills' husband currently is in treatment for cirrhosis, and is hoping to get a transplant soon.  She and her husband have seen marked improvement in his health since moving to the ACA because it is now considerably more affordable than their previous plan, and therefore they can afford, for example, some of the blood tests that they used to skip or postpone.  Ms. Mills would have been a poster child for Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail-she's hard-working, runs a small business, and has seen a marked improvement in her family's well-being because of the Affordable Care Act.

Except, of course, that Ms. Mills voted for Donald Trump.

The article discusses her rationale for doing so, principally focusing on the economic implications of Mr. Trump's plans (his pledge to bring back jobs to coal country), and his general business acumen, but in what has to be one of the most well-documented reactions I've ever read about a Trump supporter realizing what they've done, the interviewer (Sarah Kliff), eventually points out that, yes, the Republicans can take away her health care and it doesn't have to be replaced by something else.  Kliff shows an inordinate amount of sympathy to the couple, but is very firm in pointing out that the Republicans can take this away from the couple, and there is nothing that, at this point, they can do to stop it from happening.  Ms. Mills states, literally, at the end of the article that she's now scared.

I read repeatedly on Twitter as people on social media so oftentimes do the level of mockery for this woman, whom we in almost any other circumstance would express sympathy for (we don't want people to be sick and we don't want people to lose their health insurance), but frequently liberals were pushing back on those mocking her, and I have to say, while I don't know that I'd mock her, I think it's unfair to ask for sympathy in this situation.

Listen, I get that it's easy to fall for a conman, and it's not just conservatives who do so (just ask the Democrats who gave $7 million to Jill Stein), but Ms. Mills claimed to pay attention to the election, and anyone who had paid attention to the election knew that Republicans have wanted to take away the ACA.  She's from Kentucky, in fact, so she's actually had to sit through not one, but three, high-profile battles over the Affordable Care Act (in addition to this year's presidential election, also there's the 2014 Senate race and the 2015 gubernatorial contest), and all three times the state sent the message that they'd rather have a Republican who vehemently pledged to eliminate the program rather than send a Democrat that would help defend it.

It is very hard for me, therefore, to feel bad for Ms. Mills when she essentially told her politicians she wanted this to happen.  I get that we never get a candidate that will match us exactly, but she now faces a future that could mean the death of her husband or bankruptcy.  It is hard for me to fathom that she could either be so obtuse or so filled with hubris that she thought herself immune from the promises of a politician.  I don't say she deserves to have Donald Trump take away this insurance, but these sorts of stories are important if only because it shows that elections do have consequences, and in this case, they're very sad.

I don't think that Ms. Mills should lose her insurance, but not because it is so important to her, but because I think that people should have access to health insurance.  I don't think you need to have voted for Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama to take advantage of the programs they put in place (or would have) any more so than I think that Democrats aren't hypocrites if they cash in tax rebates they were against during George W. Bush's presidency.  People like Ms. Mills are why I wanted a bill like the ACA to pass-you shouldn't have to risk losing everything you own just to stay alive.  I do think the bill needs tinkering, of course, but I like the principle behind it and voted for Hillary Clinton in part because I knew she'd keep it on the books.

But it's a step I'm not willing to take to have sympathy for Ms. Mills, because I don't.  She knowingly chose to go with a man she knew would make her life harder, perhaps assuming either that he wouldn't win or that he didn't mean what he said, and that is a bet she looks increasingly likely to lose considering Tom Price's position at HHS.  A recurring theme I saw online was that we should have sympathy for her in the same way we have sympathy for alcoholics or people with depression, but their actions don't impact millions of people across the country.  There were people who are also literally alive because of the ACA who did, in fact, pull the lever for Hillary Clinton and are now looking at Ms. Mills with disgust and shame because she didn't help in their communal struggle.  They are the people I look on with sympathy, they most deserve our fight.

I don't think that Ms. Mills should lose her insurance, but I can't feel for her in this struggle.  She knowingly was willing to gamble with her family's safety by backing a man who would make her life (and so many around her) so much harder.  I pray that she won't have to see the day that her insurance is taken from her, I truly, truly do hope that the Republicans don't take away the ACA, but I cannot forgive her or condone what she did, because it is unforgivable, and she'll have to pay the price for her shortsightedness.  Elections have consequences, a reality that Debbie Mills learned far too late.  Hopefully she'll realize without too much sacrifice that by-and-large politicians do keep their promises, and that she needs to vote accordingly.

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