Your article (Trump supporters in the heartland fear being left behind by GOP health plan, theguardian.com, 12 March) is unfortunately very consistent with a study that I recently commissioned looking at changes in white working-class death rates in California over the past 20 years. It showed that against a backdrop of improving white death rates in California, rural California is a veritable hot zone of white working-class mortality. Forty per cent of California counties (23 counties) voted for Donald Trump. Of those 23 counties, 21 of them are experiencing pronounced increases in death rates for whites aged 40-64. In some of these counties, white death rates have increased over 50% since the late 1990s.
This crisis of white premature death is being driven by alcohol and drug-related causes and includes a surge in suicides. These are the very types of health problems that are most amenable to high-quality mental health care and drug treatment services covered by Medicaid, which was expanded to millions of Californians under the Affordable Care Act. Our theory is that rapid shifts in the economy over this period without a meaningful social compact is the underlying cause of this epidemic of white death. These folks are watching the American dream slip further and further from their grasp and they are quickly losing hope. Tragically, their vote to repeal their healthcare access will likely exacerbate their pain.
Dr Anthony Iton
California Endowment, Oakland, CA, USA
• It’s reassuring to hear that Bernie Sanders is campaigning again (Journal, 11 March), but the examples given of his fightback are hardly likely to keep the light-sleeping President Trump awake at night. The usual emphasis on ever-more protests will soon meet the “too many marches” law of diminishing returns, as will I fear the hopes that his young supporters will still feel “the Bern” when the election is five years away rather than being imminent. His call for the Democrats to have a progressive platform geared more to the fears of steelworkers and less to the priorities of the liberal elites won’t on its own see off an increasingly authoritarian Trump. To do that it will need to include policies to cope with potential Democratic voters’ concerns about future immigration and to propose concrete steps to protect American jobs from imports.
This will require the Democrats to consider a progressive form of protectionism that will benefit all countries. Its core aim should be the nurturing and rebuilding of local economies not just in the US but worldwide. To adequately protect domestic jobs will need a permanent reduction in the level of international trade in goods, money and services and the prioritising of the ability of nation states to control the level of migration that their citizens desire. Without such an approach, Sanders could make more likely the ghastly prospect of an eight-year-long Trump reign.
East Twickenham, Middlesex
• Trumps “Muslim ban 2” is planned to come into effect on Thursday 16 March. The ban, with very limited alterations, is just a repeat of the executive order that led to a global wave of protests. Islamophobia is at the heart of Trump’s agenda. The suspension of refugee programmes and the targeting of Muslim countries show just how far he is prepared to go to play divide and rule. We refuse to stay silent as Muslim communities are targeted and call on all those who oppose the ban to join us on the streets on Saturday 18 March as part of the global protests marking UN anti-racism day.
Dr Shazad Amin Mend, Abra Javid Rotherham 12 Campaign, Rashid Majid Khan Solicitors, Amal Azzudin Human rights activist, Tanzil Chowdhury Northern Police Monitoring Project, Nahella Ashraf Stand Up To Racism, Dr Amel Alghrani University of Liverpool, Dr Waqas Tufail Leeds Beckett University, Saleem Ahmed Bury Unison Black Members Officer, Maz Saleem Daughter of Mohammed Saleem, Sabia Kamali TV Presenter and Director of Sisters Forum, Vakas Hussain Barrister, Zlakha Ahmed Founder and manager of Apna Haq, Murad Qureshi Chair of Stop The War
• Rebecca Nicholson (Harry Potter and the Election of Horrors, G2, 14 March) tells an important story about the responses of Harry Potter fans to Trump’s election. She should certainly add to her account the case of the Harry Potter Alliance, the organisation of Rowling fans committed to acting out the values of non-discrimination and inclusiveness. But in just saying that each generation may have its effective “fictions”, she misses out the most important feature of this: that it is contemporary fantasy more than anything that is providing the means to this around the world.
It began with the Lord of the Rings films, which were accompanied for many by a picture of George W Bush wearing a gold ring with the slogan “Frodo has failed”. Then came Avatar, and the adoption of the Na’avis’ blue skin by environmental protestors. The Hunger Games provided anti-military protesters with the three-fingered salute of defiance. And of course Occupy borrowed heavily from V for Vendetta for its symbolism. But perhaps most interesting is the adoption by a number of anti-Trump protestors of the slogan “Winter is coming” from Game of Thrones. The difference being that on the face of it Game of Thrones is exceptional in being so dark and pessimistic. Yet it seems that it is helping people to feel hope within adversity. We are currently exploring this with our ongoing project, developed by 40 researchers in 12 countries. I hope some of your readers will be interested to visit, and perhaps contribute their views, at www.questeros.org.
Emeritus professor, Aberystwyth University
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