Partisans for both candidates—and reasonably charitable outside observers—can swallow most of the tribal divides in this US presidential election. Blacks, Hispanics, gays, Asians, feminists, evangelical Christians, entrepreneurs, civil servants, and the shrinking white majority tend to favor their own, certainly the candidate who risks the wrath of “others” to advance their concerns.
These divisions are manageable and not terribly offensive. America’s giant democracy has already, and next month will again, elect a black or white president who will then enjoy broad national support to do the job. However, the massive preference for the Republican nominee amongst seniors isn’t possible to understate or easy to accept. Their power is awesome, their motives suspect.
“In Sunday’s Wall Street Journal/ NBC News poll, Mr. Romney led the President among white voters by 59 per cent to 36 per cent and among seniors by 60 per cent to 35 per cent. Both groups vote in big numbers and do not need to be prodded to the polls by vast armies of campaign volunteers.”
Apparently, they love the Romney message; government is killing America’s fighting spirit; Greece is just around the corner; it’s time for tough-minded leadership; okay, peace abroad, but certainly a firmer hand at home!
The elderly Republicans shouldn’t be asked to stop being Republicans when they go on Social Security and Medicare—vital public benefits that few seniors today actually fully paid for. They should be free to vote in greater numbers than the young, if the young choose to defer. Also, they should be free to oppose bailing out workers who still have to earn a living and occasionally support foreign wars even though they’re too old to fight.
However, it’s almost nauseating to imagine that they’re mobilizing to throw out a president for not understanding “the real world” and elect a president who’d repeal “Obamacare” and shrink every form of state aid to the less well off, under the age of 55.
Of course, behind this prospect is a crude but not stupid conservative instinct. “I’ve got my government-sponsored health and income support; and I know it’s very expensive. And that’s why I’ve got to vote for the guy who’ll make sure the others don’t gab too much and put my entitlements at risk.”
There was no doubt in the White House that introducing universal healthcare in a climate or retrenchment and stagnant incomes would not be immediately and widely popular. And that Obama, not deep blue–state legislators, would be most at risk in this election.
American seniors, like lucky seniors everywhere in the developed world, should worry about the financial and economic foundations of their good fortune. However, in a war against government deficits, to draft everyone but themselves is offensive.
In the 60s, draft dodgers were a controversial minority, amongst their own generation. Amazingly, dodging their domestic responsibilities may now be that generation's last political gesture.