04 May 2010

Democrats' Senior Problem - Tall Cotton

You may have heard this somewhere else, but it is true.  You cannot win an election without the "senior" (65 & Older) vote!  You can't!  Here's why.

Even though older Americans comprise only 12% of the total population, when it comes to voting they turn out at least 10% more than the other age cohorts combined.  They regard voting as a "God-Given Right" and a responsibility of citizenship. And that is bad news for the Democrats, who used to be able to count on the senior vote as being in their hip pockets. That is changing faster than Texas weather, if it is not already entirely changed.

According to the Republican polling organization, The Tarrance Group, seniors now favor Republicans by a margin of 48% to 31%.  Overall Americans are very narrowly split between favoring Democrats over Republicans.  Granted it's a Republican pollster and thus slightly skewed to the right and there are gender, race and regional variables, overall it augers an upheaval in the November 2010 elections.

The seniors who came of age during the Great Depression and WWII are dying--thousands each month.  They are being replaced by people who came to age during the Eisenhower era, which was a much more narrow and conservative era.  They matured during what might very well be the economic zenith of America, the early to mid-sixties--and they know little of the reasons for the New Deal and liberal politics of their parents and grandparents.  To all too many of them, The Grapes of Wrath would be a poor vintage wine or something they cribbed notes for in senior English.

Compounding the misery for Democrats and President Obama in the upcoming 2010 elections is the fact that, despite their very focused efforts, the youth vote is unlikely to turn out as it did in 2008.

Recently Gallup released polling data indicating that people 65 (favor Republicans) and over were twice as likely as people 18-29 (favor Democrats) to say they were "very enthusiastic" about voting in the upcoming November Congressional elections. 

Midterm elections rarely carry momentous issues around which either party can mobilize huge numbers of voters and in a climate of economic uncertainty, catastrophic unemployment and disenchantment with incumbents; Democrats will find themselves, for the most part, in some very tall cotton.

Another political truism is that all elections are local and none are more so than midterm congressional races.  And while we can expect to see some large-scale "fence-mending" through the summer and fall there is little achievement that the Democrats can use to sway the older voters.  Consider Obama's historic, signature domestic health care reform victory--by 58% to 36%, it is opposed by older voters who find few benefits in the bill and who are still suspicious of Government Death Panels.  The one major thing that Democrats can point to with pride has no resonance with the demography they most need to convince.

As I said, tall cotton!

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