Margot Lindsay, 87, explains why she created Grandmothers for Obama: “At our age and stage, the telephone is difficult, and certainly ringing doorbells is not part of our genes anymore.” Her effort is centered near Boston and involves mass buying of colorful postcards urging a vote, and then seniors address them, write a personal note and (probably) contribute the stamps to mail 50 or 100 or whatever they care to contribute. Even I, at 92 could easily do that kind of work. Republicans too, of course have their volunteer efforts targeting seniors and the 65+ demographic. There’s Moms for Mitt on Facebook and VP candidate Paul Ryan’s own mother, heads Seniors for Romney.
Being a political junkie is my second addiction co-equal with promoting bridge cause. And so I was happy to receive a Google Alert email with a newspaper story by Olivia Gentile, from Boston, that’s a perfect fit, in this presidential election season, for this Nonagenarian Notion blog. See http://www.boston.com/yourtown/lexington/2012/10/03/whether-for-obama-romney-senior-citizens-exercise-political-muscle/0aINBAKfnuorXj0QXbVLKL/story.html. It’s worth reading whether you support Obama or Romney. And given that 65+ voters are estimated to be 16% of voters, they are a voter segment well worth efforts to reach by both parties.
Some of what the article says I already knew–some of it was a surprise.
I was surprised to learn from the article that in the last two presidential elections, more 65+ voted Republican. I thought they were more supportive of the Democratic party all along because of its traditional support of Social Security and Medicare. Not so! In fact, McCain beat Obama in this demographic by 8%! George Bush beat Kerry by 5%.
Why then does a recent Pew Poll indicate that difference has become a tight race this time around, with Republican 65-ers leading Democrats by only 2%? What happened?
Seems clear to me it was Paul Ryan’s budget proposal passed by the Republican House of Representatives calling for ending Medicare as we know it for those 55 and younger. Even though the Ryan plan includes no change to those already on Medicare or those aged 56-64, voter reaction amongst senior voters was negative. Paul Ryan scared them! I remember seeing a meeting on C-Span when Ryan returned to Wisconsin after passage of the Ryan Plan–this was his constituency–they were mad! Medicare, evidently, is still the 3d rail of American politics.
My Nonagenarian Notion about all this is that old age is another country–not understood until you get there. Ryan made a mistake in calling for a vote on his budget and plan for Medicare , using financial logic but insufficient empathy for those much older than he is. Being old and ill and unable to receive medical care–with dignity– may well be the ultimate nightmare as people grow old. Elderly Republicans may worry about the budget and the budget deficit as much as younger ones. But they’ living in a different place–have to deal with the fear of dying without medical care, whether real or not. And understandable!
Consider how the people of England got their health service after WWII. Consider Churchill’s heroic leadership of that country through the bombing by Germany, and the rationing, and loss of lives–they loved Churchill. Despite all that, once the War was over, they summarily dumped him and opted instead for the Labor Party and their health plan. Even Margaret Thatcher, years later, a conservative reformer, did not try to take on the British health system as I remember.
Fortunately, since the Ryan Plan passed, it has been modified to give those 55 and under the OPTION of choosing either old-fashioned Medicare or new Voucher plan. Makes sense! And it provides a period of time when the two plans can be tested to see which works out better.