It never ceases to amaze me how the American electorate can consistently vote against their own self-interest and for people who are basically out to scare and scam them with the full knowledge of what is being done to them. Thomas Frank wrote about this in What’s the Matter with Kansas? in 2004, but he might as well have been writing about Kentucky in 2014.
From Amy Goodnough at The New York Times:
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Affordable Care Act allowed Robin Evans, an eBay warehouse packer earning $9 an hour, to sign up for Medicaid this year. She is being treated for high blood pressure and Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder, after years of going uninsured and rarely seeing doctors.
“I’m tickled to death with it,” Ms. Evans, 49, said of her new coverage as she walked around the Kentucky State Fair recently with her daughter, who also qualified for Medicaid under the law. “It’s helped me out a bunch.”
But Ms. Evans scowled at the mention of President Obama — “Nobody don’t care for nobody no more, and I think he’s got a lot to do with that,” she explained — and said she would vote this fall for Senator Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and minority leader, who is fond of saying the health care law should be “pulled out root and branch.”
Ms. Evans said she did not want the law repealed but had too many overall reservations about Democrats to switch her vote. “Born and raised Republican,” she said of herself. “I ain’t planning on changing now.”
Not to be too harsh on Ms. Evans, but without Obamacare, she would probably be dead and buried as a Republican a lot sooner than later.
There are plenty of anecdotal stories about people who hate something based on perception but then find out all along they actually like it when they try it. It’s known in some places as the “you’re soaking in it” paradox drawn from the classic Palmolive dish soap commercials with Madge the manicurist.
This leaves the Democrats with their own paradox: how to campaign on a law that they voted for and is growing in popularity without saying that they voted for it or calling it Obamacare because of the unpopularity of the name. Republicans were saying that no Democrat is running a campaign ad saying they supported Obamacare, and that is technically true, but at least one Democrat in a tight race — Mark Pryor in Arkansas — is touting his support of the law without calling it Obamacare.
In a new ad, Pryor sits with his father, former Sen. David Pryor, and proudly says he “helped pass a law that prevents insurance companies from canceling your policy if you get sick, or deny coverage for preexisting conditions.”
Notably, Pryor doesn’t use the words “Obamacare” or “Affordable Care Act.” But he talks up one of the centerpieces of the law — rules prohibiting insurance companies from discriminating against sick people — and invokes his past struggles with cancer.
It would be easy to dismiss the people who love their new healthcare but hate the man who proposed it as ignorant racists who are under the thrall of the GOP and Fox News spell of hating anything associated with That Man. There is an element of truth to that in some quarters, but it isn’t the only reason. New ideas, especially those that have a bearing on something as personal as healthcare, go beyond the logical thinking process and trigger the lizard brain run-and-hide response. Changing healthcare is not the same thing as changing your cell phone calling plan (although there are those who do make as big a deal as possible out of that). Simply put, we humans don’t like change and will go to great lengths, even if it causes pain or money, to maintain the status quo inside the comfort zone.
I don’t blame the Democrats for being skittish about campaigning on Obamacare. They don’t want to change the status quo either. Their problem is that they have yet to figure out a way to get the people to vote in favor of their own self-interest without resorting to the proven method that has worked for the Republicans: greed, fear, and loathing of abstract ideas like marriage equality, black people voting, and health insurance that actually saves money and lives.