There is a seldom-discussed racial element in the debate over shutting down the government and defunding the Affordable Care Act.
That law prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, and everyone benefits equally from this, and from many other provisions of the law.
But the law also provides coverage for the uninsured, and a disproportionate number of the uninsured are people of color. The most recent statistics show 11.1 percent of non-Hispanic whites uninsured, compared to 15.1 percent of Asians, 19 percent of African-Americans and 29.1 percent of Latinos. In our home state of California, 1.7 million of the 2.6 million who will be eligible for subsidies to help them buy health insurance will be Asian, Latino or African-American.
Racial resentment seems to be playing a part in the intense opposition to the Affordable Care Act from the tea party faction. Rush Limbaugh, for instance, called it "reparations."
Playing on racial resentment is a losing game for Republicans, and to their credit, many Republicans have questioned the shutdown strategy. Arizona Sen. John McCain, for example, called the shutdown "unnecessary," and even tweeted a post-shutdown Quinnipiac poll reporting that 72 percent of Americans oppose Congress "shutting down major activities of the federal government" as a way to block the Affordable Care Act.
Remember all the noise after last year's election about how the Republican Party needed to reach out to black, Latino and Asian voters? Even as the votes were being cast last November, former George W. Bush campaign adviser Mark McKinnon told the Associated Press, "The GOP cannot expect to win the presidency in the future by simply relying on running up big numbers with white voters."
Here's a thought: Maybe denying people access to health care isn't the best way to get them to vote for you. Voters of color will be the majority by about mid-century. They know who is trying to take away the best chance they've ever had to get affordable, reliable health coverage.
Politicians of all stripes need to wake up to the realities of America's emerging majority in the 21st century. And Americans of all colors will be better off when all political parties take their needs seriously.
Photo: Flickr user Cliff1066, creative commons licensed.