Sunday’s Washington Post included a front-page story, “Fear, hope, and deportations,” which merits a careful and sympathetic read from liberals, conservatives, and journalists trying to understand what is happening in America today.
Reporters Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan profile a 59-year-old Texas woman named Tamara Estes. She was born into some affluence, raised in “a grand home with a built-in pool.” But her mom died when she was four. Her dad died when she was nineteen. She married young, and by age 26 she was divorced with two kids. She has since traveled a sad path of downward economic mobility, never going to college, taking a succession of dead-end jobs. She now works as a school bus driver in Valley View, Texas, with an annual income of $24,000. “With four days left to payday, she has $118.72 in her checking account.”
She is a die-hard Trump supporter. She seethes at undocumented immigrants and their children in her own community. It’s pitiful to hear her. President Trump brings out the worst in his own neediest supporters before he betrays them.
Ms. Estes is also uninsured. Yet she supports a president and a party that specifically propose to put coverage out of reach for low-income near-retirees like herself. She so perfectly fits a certain political-demographic story that her biographic details might have been perfected at the MIT Media Lab or Huffington Post. As with most things, though, it’s a bit more complicated. I looked up what’s available to her under ACA, and it’s hardly surprising that she doesn’t feel particularly grateful for it.
I wrote about her story at healthinsurance.org. There’s a little snippet below.
Tamara Estes is not the world’s most appealing or most perfect person. She should take fewer puffs on bigoted and deceptive right-wing radio. She shouldn’t blame immigrants for her life’s disappointments and problems. Harming immigrants will do nothing to help her. As a friend noted on email, it wouldn’t hurt her to learn a little Spanish, too. If nothing else, she might learn a few kinds words for the kids she transports. She might be less lonely and isolated if she got to know her immigrant neighbors, who seem like lovely people.
But I can’t hate her. In violence prevention, we like to say: “Hurt people hurt people.” That’s true in politics, too. Tamara Estes is hurting, and she’s lashing out at her own neighbors. That’s ugly to see.
But she still needs help. She didn’t get enough from the ACA. She’ll get a lot less from President Trump, but we supporters of expanded coverage have given her too little reason to really know that. Whatever happens in the current knife-fight over health reform. We face a daunting moral and political challenge to fix that, to go in precisely the opposite direction Republicans are determined to go.