How Should We Feel About Working-Class White Voters Having ‘Trump Regret?’

Working on my Sunday column for The Forum. Topic is an internal struggle I’m having about reports of white, working-class voters showing some regret about voting for Donald Trump. With the release of the House Republicans’ health-care plan, there is much analysis to suggest those who voted very strongly for Trump and helped him into the White House — white, working-class voters from rural areas — will be stung by the repealing and replacing of the Affordable Care Act.

According to an article in the New York Times, using analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Cooperative Congressional Election Study:

The people who stand to lose the most in tax credits under the House Republican health plan tended to support Donald J. Trump over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, according to a new Upshot analysis.

“Over all, voters who would be eligible for a tax credit that would be at least $1,000 smaller than the subsidy they’re eligible for under Obamacare supported Mr. Trump over Hillary Clinton by a seven-point margin.

“The voters hit the hardest — eligible for at least $5,000 less in tax credits under the Republican plan — supported Mr. Trump by a margin of 59 percent to 36 percent.”

The article continues:

“Like any result based on a survey, the estimates are imperfect. But the Republican plan offers less assistance to older and lower-income Americans, especially in rural areas, according to the Kaiser data. These groups generally backed Mr. Trump. Most of all, President Trump’s white working-class supporters often make enough money to be ineligible for Medicaid, but not enough to afford costly health insurance that might even become more expensive under the Republican plan.”

There are no guarantees the House plan will become law. There is significant opposition to it from both Democrats and conservative Republicans in the House (though for very different reasons). The Senate does not seem overly enthralled yet, either. But for now, Trump is trying to sell the plan as the best bet to repeal and replace Obamacare. It’s something he campaigned on, and he’s supportive (for now).

So the question I’m mulling is: If these voters end up being hurt badly by Trump’s policies, should I feel sorry for them or should I say “told you so?” I’ve asked a number of friends and the answers have been split.

It’s a question others are mulling, too.

Chris Arnade is a reporter for The Guardian. He’s spent many months traveling the U.S. and talking with Trump supporters from impoverished and often forgotten areas. Arnade’s work gives great context and insight into why many of the folks who traditionally voted for Democrats, or didn’t vote at all, swung to Trump in 2016.

The answer often seems to be: Because they’ve seen decades of decline in their communities and, from where they stand, America isn’t great anymore. They wanted to try something different.

Now, though, some — and I emphasize some — of those voters are having regrets.

One example was a gentleman in rural Illinois who voted for Trump because “he’s seen too many changes.” But this particular man, a 54-year-old construction worker, also happened to have recovered from a brain tumor. And he doesn’t like Trump’s health care plan. In a series of tweets, Arnade wrote that the man said:

“But I wouldn’t vote for Trump now. I don’t like what he is doing with this healthcare. It is just wrong. I had surgery for a brain tumor in January. And I didn’t have catastrophic. But Medicaid saved me. They have covered all my bills. And I mean, I haven’t had to pay anything.”

Arnade asked him what he thought about Trump’s view on health care going into the election. The man responded:

“I honestly didn’t pay enough attention. I am not very political, but I thought what was going on wasn’t working. Look around you. You see all the abandoned buildings.”

Arnade makes the point that we should NOT jump on guys like the construction worker for voting for Trump because context is important. It’s not easy to explain somebody’s vote without first understanding their life experience. It’s a case of “walk a mile in their shoes.”

But I don’t know. We’re all adults. This man is 54 years old. He made a choice to vote for somebody who clearly was never going to have his best interests in mind. And now he has to live with that choice.

Now remember, Trump’s economic policies and America first/closed trade policies might turn out to be great. Especially for people in areas that have suffered horrible economic conditions for years. If that’s the case, guys like this will be just fine. They’ll have great jobs, paid health insurance by his company, his town will bounce back. That will be good for everybody.

But if Trump’s policies don’t work to Make America Great Again and the GOP’s repeal of Obamacare turns out to be worse for poor, working-class whites, well, then who will they blame?

And should those of us who tried to warn them feel sorry for them or, as the devil on my left shoulder keeps whispering in my ear, forget ’em?