Is voting for Republicans literally killing white people in rural America? Because the correlation is striking.
Very likely the reader is wearily familiar with one of the memes that American right-wingers endlessly repeat. It's called the "great replacement": the claim that shadowy but apparently omnipotent elites are deliberately replacing the old stock (meaning white) American population with immigrants from predominantly non-white or non-Christian countries.
The notion had its beginnings decades ago in the mental swamps of Southern segregationist politicians and has been recycled in various iterations through white supremacist groups. Donald Trump's election and the popularization of the phrase (in more or less coded language) by professional jackasses like Tucker Carlson made it into another of the Republican base's innumerable slogans.
The idea is bunk, of course, and easily understood as yet another of the many myths designed to play into right-wingers' persecution complex. But it is also possible to understand it as a folk-psychological projection of something that is indeed happening in the strongly Republican regions of the country inhabited by what Sarah Palin called "real Americans." It's not so much the great replacement as the great die-off, and Republicans are both its chief promoters and its principal victims.
The phenomenon first received attention in 2015, thanks to a paper by Anne Case and Nobel Prize laureate Angus Deaton. They detailed first the stagnation and then the absolute decline in life expectancy among non-Hispanic white populations, particularly in white rural areas of the U.S. They charted a significant rise in "deaths of despair" like suicide or drugs (particularly synthetic opioids) or obesity-related illness among the white working class.
This phenomenon cannot entirely be explained by the relative economic disadvantage of those who live in rural areas as compared to cities. Black and Hispanic populations, whether rural or urban, also experience economic disadvantage, but rates of midlife mortality among those groups continue to decline significantly, while they keep rising among white people with no college education.
Much has been written in recent years about the demographic collapse Russia is experiencing. In 2021, that nation lost nearly one million in population, following many years of decrease, a pattern that began in the 1980s. Russia's population is now smaller than Bangladesh and its per-capita income lower than that of the Maldives. Male life expectancy has also fallen below that of Bangladesh, a nation with a relatively recent history of dire poverty and famine. In 2022, with Russia confronting combat deaths, economic sanctions and the exodus of at least 900,000 people, most of them young and educated, the demographic decline may have accelerated into free-fall.