There’s a story in the Washington Post today about how Trump supporters trust him to do the right thing on health care, no matter what the evidence shows them.
Near the end of the story is a telling anecdote that shows how easy it is for whites to blame non-whites for their economic insecurity. It’s a knee-jerk reaction. In this case a mom, Nancy Ware who has helped her 35-year-old son find an insurance plan and complains about the lack of competition in the exchange in Nashville making her premiums too high. Legitimate complaint. But who does she blame? Not the insurance companies or Tennessee’s political leaders who wouldn’t expand Medicaid. She points the finger at… you know.
Ware is a landscaper and often works near Section 8 housing in the Nashville area, and she becomes furious when she sees residents who “drive better cars than I do, they have weaves and hair color better than I can, they have manicures.” As Ware, who is white, waited in line for the rally to start, a group of young African American protesters walked by, and she yelled at them, “Go cash your welfare checks!”
“He gets penalized on his income taxes, while these people that don’t know how to pull their pants up can go get it for free,” said Ware, whose employer covers the full cost of her health care. “Make it even. Make it balanced.”
Anyone remember Ronald Reagan’s “welfare queen driving a Cadillac” anecdote? Now that welfare queen has health care and a better manicure than white people, apparently.
We’ve been told again and again how the Trump vote was all about economic insecurity. Perhaps. But the blame for that economic insecurity, as it has been throughout American history, is cast on the most convenient scapegoat. In this case, the welfare queen with the better hair color has stolen a white woman’s health care. Because… just because.
And Trump? He’s been doing what race-baiting politicians have always done. Except they used to do it in coded ways, dog whistles like “welfare queen.” The dog whistle is gone. The megaphone is here.