Politics Kills

The Washington Post recently ran an article with a provocative headline: “Can Politics Kill You? Research Says the Answer Increasingly is Yes.” Here’s the lede:

As the coronavirus pandemic approaches its third full winter, two studies reveal an uncomfortable truth: The toxicity of partisan politics is fueling an overall increase in mortality rates for working-age Americans.

In one study, researchers concluded that people living in more-conservative parts of the United States disproportionately bore the burden of illness and death linked to COVID. The other, which looked at health outcomes more broadly, found that the more conservative a state’s policies, the shorter the lives of working-age people.

It turns out that it is state-level policies that determine these health outcomes. States — those “laboratories of democracy” so often lauded by more conservative politicians– shape the environments in which we live our lives in more ways than we commonly recognize, and those environments have a significant effect on people’s well-being and longevity.  As the article notes,

Some states have expanded their social safety nets, raising minimum wages and offering earned income tax credits while using excise taxes to discourage behaviors — such as smoking — that have deleterious health consequences. Other states have moved in the opposite direction.

Indiana is one of those “opposite direction” states.

Covid death rates were 11 percent higher in states with Republican-controlled governments and 26 percent higher in areas where voters lean conservative. Similar results emerged about hospital ICU capacity when the concentration of political power in a state was conservative.

Researchers from Harvard found that the disparities in rates of  death and disease aren’t limited to COVID: In states where a “chasm of inequality” persists, communities of color face a much higher risk of chronic conditions that leave immune systems vulnerable to multiple serious diseases.

Another  study calculated that, in 2019, if all states had implemented liberal policies on the environment, gun safety, criminal justice, health and welfare, labor, marijuana, and economic and tobacco taxes, at least 170,000 lives would have been  be saved. On the other hand, if states all had conservative versions of those policies, 217,000 more people would have died.

It’s likely to get worse in those Red states, thanks to the overturning of Roe v. Wade. 

With abortion services no longer legal nationwide, university researchers have estimated that maternal deaths could increase by up to 25 to 30 percent, worsening the nation’s maternal mortality and morbidity crisis. Americans live shorter lives than people in peer nations, in part because it is the worst place among high-income countries to give birth.

The stark differences between Republican and Democratic responses to COVID may have  benefitted Democrats politically, as well as medically.

Some midterm election postmortems suggested that the significantly higher numbers of Republican deaths had  diminished Republican turnout sufficiently to help Democratic candidates win tight races. While most knowledgable observers discounted that likelihood, or opined that it operated only in extremely close contests, researchers did identify a less obvious way in which COVID death rate disparities benefited Democrats politically.

Per Politico:

Data from the U.S. Postal Service and Census Bureau shows how the pandemic drove urban professionals who were able to work remotely — disproportionately Democrats — out of coastal, progressive cities to seek more space or recreational amenities in the nation’s suburbs and Sun Belt. This moved liberals out of electoral districts where Democrats reliably won by large margins into many purple regions that had the potential to swing with just small changes to the map.

Politico looked at several close races in places that had gained population during the pandemic–races that seemed to confirm that hypothesis. One was in Arizona.

In one of the most watched 2022 races, Arizona’s Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake — an ardent election denier and so-called Trump in heels — was expected to narrowly defeat Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs. FiveThirtyEight simulations gave her 2-to-1 odds and a 2.2-point margin.

But Arizona’s most populous region, Maricopa County gained nearly 100,000 people since 2018, and Democrats’ margins rose by 17 points since that year. Lake lost by just 17,000 votes.

A major study published by the National Bureau of Economic Researchers concluded that there was a “substantially higher excess death rates for registered Republicans when compared to registered Democrats, with almost all of the difference concentrated in the period after vaccines were widely available.” Overall, the study found that the excess death rate for Republicans was 76%, higher than the excess death rate for Democrats.

Despite the overwhelming evidence of vaccine efficacy, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis–object of the GOP’s current enthusiasm–  is ramping up his vendetta against vaccination. DeSantis is a perfect representative of today’s GOP, a party peddling policies that really are killing people.


  1. Interesting. I wonder what we would see in a study about the passing of “Constitutional Carry” legislation and the number of gun-related injuries and shooting incidents. I suspect we would see a direct correlation and an increase in number and severity.

  2. Last quarter the Bureau of labor statistics said we added 1 million jobs. So people listened to that and voted for more economic disasterous policies ss Biden said he wouldn’t change a thing. The total net was 10,000 jobs about 1 percent.
    Inflation is destroying the black commkunity. Abortion is killing our children in the black community. It is arguably a racist policy as most Planned Parenthood Centers are in minority populations.
    Sad but we continue to believe the effects of Covid shots are harmless as people on video lost their lives in the face of losing their jobs. Covid dhots were not a prochoice thing at all

  3. The stress of politics, which is now the foundation of our daily lives, is a serious health factor. The continuing fear of the unknown regarding the Trump factor is epidemic throughout the country; Putin, Hitler, Mussolini and Idi Amin come to mind. Trump’s killing fields, via mass shootings, created organized armed groups which came together on January 6, 2021 and the world watched them infest our Capital Building, threatening our lawmakers and all who worked within the building. The noose was prepared for Vice President Mike Pence before the insurrection began with the screaming of “Hang Mike Pence!” and “Where is Nancy Pelosi?” with plastic handcuffs ready to take her prisoner. The Covid-19 Pandemic quickly became a weapon used by Republicans to cause fear of the vaccines and safety of masking and social distancing to allow it to spread. This is the foundation of the current Trump White Nationalist MAGA Republican party with spreading Covid and winter upon us along with holidays when we relax our vigil. Where is the vaccine for this health epidemic?

    “Researchers from Harvard found that the disparities in rates of death and disease aren’t limited to COVID: In states where a “chasm of inequality” persists, communities of color face a much higher risk of chronic conditions that leave immune systems vulnerable to multiple serious diseases.”

    I am getting ready to shop at my local Kroger; I will double mask and social distance, hope for no mass shooting on my shopping trip. Yes; “Politics Kills”; will today be my day to die?

  4. Another casualty has been families torn apart by vaccine politics. In the height of the pandemic many stories emerged about loved ones who turned anti-vaxx and then turned on each other, seemingly overnight. Propaganda against the vaccine erupted mostly on FaceBook and YouTube then along with its ultra-conspiracy theorists spawning “dogma” that there was some global elite trying to control us through the vaccine. These theories were being embraced by really intelligent people.

    One wonders if the wedge driven between families over this rift has at all been repaired over the past two years? I rather doubt it. It would be difficult to have a rational conversation with another who is living in some alternate reality, much less be around them.

  5. There are several assertions by “John S” that I’d like to address. 1) Somehow President Biden’s economic policies are “disastrous.” Each of the last three Democratic Party Presidents has faced the tasks of repairing a crippled economy. (President Clinton: trying to fix 12 years of trickle-down; President Obama: the 2008 crash of banks; President Biden: the chaos caused by a man whose only strengths in business lay in creative uses of the Bankruptcy Code). I guess we are just meant to “know” the qualities of President Biden’s policies that qualify them as “disastrous,” with “effects” not being such an aspect. 2) “Abortion is killing our children” – no, fetuses are not children. On the other hand, guns kill one hell of a lot of kids AND SO WILL THE SPIKE IN VIOLENT CRIME in about 18 years if the Abbott case is allowed to stand. Violent crime dropped nationwide 18 years after Roe. 3) The racist policies aren’t carried out by Planned Parenthood. Family planning and birth control are denied by this iteration of the GOP. 4) And stop the [male bovine excrement] about people dying from COVID shots. That [male bovine excrement] is what has killed so many, who otherwise might be alive today (unless those who would have been alive were killed by the gun violence that’s so protected by this iteration of the GOP). (NOTE: I had to hold myself back twice when I wrote “male bovine excrement.” I wanted to tell him to fuck himself. Oh, I guess I just did.]

  6. Way to go, Mark! Spades and shovels need to be called out for what they are.

    Actually, when I started writing op-ed pieces in 2008, my research indicated that Republican-controlled states led the nation in poverty/low pay, teenage pregnancies, abortions, low education scores, murders and several other downside data points. Today’s blog “merely” reiterates what Republicans do when in government: They lie, cheat and steal while befuddling the willfully ignorant with their male, bovine excrement. Everything Republicans touch dies.

  7. You are so right, Vernon. Note how many of the fifteen poorest counties in the nation are on reservation land. There is extreme poverty among the American Indian population.

  8. [Steven Ross Johnson, “The 15 Counties Where Child Poverty Is Highest,” U.S. News and World Report, 2022.12.13]
    I intended to post this link in the comment above.

  9. James, because some states have passed laws on constitutional carry, there are studies about the effects. It turns out as everybody arms up, gun death rates slowly rise over about 10 years to plateau at a level about 10% above the previous baseline.

  10. No new news here (or new rants, either). How about a 2023 resolution to talk about new positive research, projects, candidates, actions we can take, etc.? INFA (I need fresh air). Just sayin’

  11. The Republican response to this diversity of outcomes, should they get the opportunity, will be to use legislative or judicial fiat to impose uniform compliance with the Republican Way (lower wages, reduced access to healthcare, prohibition of abortion and birth control, unlimited proliferation of guns, unrestricted dark money in elections, book bans in libraries and schools, anti-gay legislation and harassment, mandatory public religiosity, etc.) Talk of “freedom”, “local control”, “states rights”, “laboratories of democracy”, etc. instantly evaporates whenever religious zealots or other power-grabbers get control of any upper level of government.

    Then they can claim that “There is no state where *liberal* policies work” because, by fiat, there won’t be any state that is allowed to implement them– something like The Onion’s oft-repeated headline “‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens”.

  12. Ignorance has always been the leading cause of death.

    We now have a new source of it as well as new sources of knowledge.

    Politics is the new source of ignorance or more accurately a recently enhanced source due to pervasive persuasive entertainment/social media.

    Not to put too fine a point on it but Dr. Fauci (and friends) are new sources of knowledge to prevent deaths and unnecessary hospitalizations.

    Entertainment versus learning.

  13. Lester. Getting back to you from yesterday. I’ve read only about half of the book (iGen) but want to share these quotes from its introduction.
    “Some generational changes are positive,some are negative, and many are both.”

    “…using words such as fault and blame doesn’t really make sense. It’s also counterproductive, leaving us squabbling about whom to blame rather than understanding the trends, both good and bad.”

    “Cultures change, and generations change with them; that’s the important point. It’s not a contest to see which generation is worse (or better); the culture has changed and we’re all in this together.”

    This doesn’t sound like a person who agrees with your doom and gloom predictions. I’d like to add that what one person sees as a negative trend another may see as positive. For example, the younger generations are turning away from organized religion, at least Christianity. Some might believe that means our country is going to hell. I think it’s one of the most positive signs of the last century.
    I’m not qualified to comment on the quality of the author’s research, but I see that it has been severely criticized by her peers who, presumably, are.

  14. Sharon,

    If I have implied that the coming generations are all negative, I have poorly communicated. Their strongest and admirable trait is their acceptance of ethnic, racial and gender differences. However, their acceptance of “freedom is anything goes” and seeming lack of energy on community action beyond postering worries me.

  15. Is it any wonder why America’s vintage best past time is the entertaining sports event to determine who among the best of the best is champion? If for but a couple of hours, all the distractions of confusion and uncertainty around us is forgotten.

  16. Natural selection favors intelligence.
    Now, let us hope we are smart enough to reduce our procreation before we make the planet unlivable.

    Happy Holidays to all! 🙂

  17. From today’s Guardian, a holiday essay…

    “On 5 April 1968, the president of the United States joined an estimated 4,000 mourners to remember King at the church where he delivered his last sermon. As a bell tolled and worshippers exited, a group of white children standing outside began singing We Shall Overcome.

    This, my friend, is the oxymoron of America. And that is the lesson for 2022. The only reliable thing in America is the recurring racial backlash; everything else is sermon and song. Progress is fragile. Momentum is fleeting.”

    Thoughtful…I would expand it to “money backlash”.

  18. During the first year of the Covid 19 pandemic, the republican administration intentionally mis-managed the event. Hospitals were scrambling to keep up with supplies so healthcare workers could provide care to the influx of very ill patients. The trump administration told the States that it wasn’t the Federal Government’s role to provide supplies for/to hospitals. As a result, hospitals were contracting with foreign suppliers for protective gear, gowns, masks, gloves etc. I remember it being reported by reliable sources that the trump administration’s covid task force headed by Jared Kushner ordered federal agents to confiscate the medical supplies in rout to the hospitals. How many lives were effected negatively by those unnecessary delays during that critical time. What happened to the Kushner’s pirated stockpile of medical supplies? Did he sell to the highest bidder?

  19. Look at how angry Indiana’s businesses became over Gov Holcomb’s pandemic safety restrictions/shutdowns. The rightwing and far rightwing members were furious and wanted him gone and they demanded that the chamber of commerce they own put pressure on him to ease up. If he hadn’t already been in his second term there is no way he would have been reelected.

    As a Democrat that didn’t vote for him I was impressed at how he handled the pandemic for our state.

  20. Norris,

    It’s obvious that humanity is a one trick pony! Didn’t The Romans do the same thing, bread and circuses?

    They also manipulated the Christian church to indoctrinate their pagan rituals into the church so they could try and ununite their empire in a way that the early Christians seemed to accomplish in their ministry.

    And obviously it didn’t work out so well, but, history shows that the strongest civilizations no matter what color or stripe, used The same stepping stones! Look at the Herculaneans in the city of Herculaneum(named after half human half God) on Mount Vesuvius. It seemed they thought the gods were talking to them, and many never fled. Now we see their remnants twisted and agony. See? One trick pony.

  21. Lester,

    Very insightful! As a matter of fact, my mother-in-law and her sisters used to be involved in the bus boycotts and Kings marches.

    The healthcare issues that were brought out in Sheila’s article here, are very very pronounced in the south. But, they also exist in every area of this country. Up in the northern areas, it’s more hidden, individuals are more two-faced! They hide their disdain for people of color. Not everyone mind you, but enough that causes traumatic issues for a lot of individuals.

    Up in the north here and in the south, they feel that black women don’t feel pain the same way. Therefore, they’re very hesitant to give pain medication to women of color. I guess 3/5 human equals 3/5 of the pain or less?

    As an example, my wife was considered terminal up until a week ago. I had been fighting for a year trying to get her the monochronal antibodies for her severe lupus which was destroying her organs and joints. Eventually I found a sympathetic organization that pushed it through, and she received the infusion. She’ll have infusions every month for the next year. A day after the infusion, she could actually get up and walk around. The next day she was able to take her own shower, the day after that she was able to dress herself completely, and the day after that she was able to go for a walk around the block.

    Lupus isn’t a secret, but doctors have different standards for white women than women of color.

    Clinical studies in the United States are conducted with an inordinate an unbalanced amount of white men compared to the general population construct. So the medications work better on white men than they do on anyone else even white women. The genetic differences minute as they might be, make a huge difference in how medication works in the system.

    For myself, because my Native American genetics are dominant, medications that have been studied clinically in Asia and developed by Asian pharmaceutical companies, work well with me. Medications from the United States or European countries don’t work as well and in one case gave me a mild heart attack.

    You would think, with the knowledge that they have of this already, they would take steps to change how they do their clinicals, but they have not. So, if you don’t know any better, you’re going to take medications that might not function the way they should depending on your dominant gene heredity. In other words how your body functions on the genetic level. Doesn’t matter the color of your skin, what matters is what’s underneath.

    Getting to the issue in the south, since that’s what’s in the article, there’s an absolute reason why they refuse to change, because it an ordinately affects people of color. And not just black, but Native American, and Hispanics especially Mexican which are part North American and Central American native Americans.

    It’s almost like, well not almost like, exactly like, giving Native Americans blankets contaminated with smallpox and other diseases. Why waste resources and bullets when they can just die in their beds. You don’t have to live in the past and you don’t have to walk backwards looking behind you, but everyone should be aware of history and fight against the continuation of policies that never went away even though we have been convinced many of them have!

    Those that were involved in slaughtering Native Americans, butchering Central and South Americans, also the slave trade, were mostly Roman Catholic!

    The church received tons upon tons of treasures looted from the American continents and other areas around the world. Not very Christ-like! Oddly enough, it still happening as we communicate on this blog. Words never make a difference, because words have been around since the beginning. And if they actually change things for the better, they would have! It’s actions or works that people recognize, not just saying it but doing it.

  22. John, you’re right that the same tactics often work with succeeding generations. Yet humanity persists, partly because there is another side to us.
    I assume you consider yourself a part of humanity so we can’t all be THAT bad, can we?😱

  23. No Sharon, there are good folks, but many don’t use their own minds, they go with the flow or they follow the leader so to speak.

    If it weren’t for good folks, I would not have been able to get the infusion therapy for my wife.

    I never expected that this treatment would have done what it has, but I’m pleasantly surprised. And the thing is Sharon, all of these things that are in the pipeline or all of these things that only certain people have access to should be available for every single person on this planet. And that’s just a start.

    You have a good day and follow your heart.

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