After Republicans failed to gather enough votes to pass Trumpcare on Friday, a survey from the Pew Research Center found that the ACA achieved its highest approval rating ever, at 54 percent. Isn’t it it curious how months after Donald Trump sailed into office with a promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act, its popularity soared?
There are many theories to explain the sudden change of heart, including that Democrats finally got their message through (which, nah) or that people suddenly realized what they stood to lose. But CNNPolitics presents another compelling theory: racism.
CNN cites many moments in history when chronic issues like depression, AIDS, and drug epidemics were belittled or ignored by public officials when reported by women and people of color and the LGBT community, but taken seriously when straight, cis white men began to complain about them. The same double standard applies to healthcare, the piece argues.
Conservatives saw Obama’s healthcare plan as a welfare program that benefited people of color (the term “welfare” has been negatively associated with race since the 1960s). In 2014, the Washington Post’s Paul Waldman cited several studies that tied the negative sentiment toward the ACA with racial bias, and noted that “whatever policy Obama happens to be advocating at the moment, including health-care reform, conservative audiences are told that it is an effort by Obama to take their money and give it to black people to right a historical wrong for which they are blameless.” Though there were legitimate criticisms of the ACA, so much of the outrage over the bill was rooted in bigoted attitudes.
Post-Trump, media coverage has focused on the plight of the rural white working class—including those who voted for Trump. Republicans returned to town halls flooded with white constituents angry that they were about to lose their healthcare. Here’s what Howard University sociologist and professor Judy Lubin has observed:
“When you see white working-class Americans saying that I’m benefiting and my family is getting help from the Affordable Care Act, you start to hear ‘repair’ not ‘repeal,’” Lubin says. “Whites standing up in support of a policy changes the dynamics of the conversation.”
We don’t know how much of a factor race plays in the sudden reversal of public opinion, but considering that the current president is a rich white guy who rose to power on a racist campaign to delegitimate the first black president, it’s safe to say that racism has played some role here, too.