Is This Possible?

It is something akin to an article of faith that white senior citizens are the backbone of the GOP–that they will troop reliably to the polls to support the Grand Old Party even as it regresses into an anti-reason, anti-science cult.  It is overwhelmingly my age cohort (aka “old farts”) that watches Faux News, votes religiously (in both senses of that word), and constitutes the loyal and irreplaceable base of the Republican Party.

I have resigned myself to the probability that improvements in American political life won’t occur until the over-65 generation dies off.  Of course, that inconveniently includes me, but hey–it is what it is. I routinely apologize to my students for the mess my generation is  bequeathing them.

But then I read this! Is it possible?

Carville-Greenberg, the Democratic polling operation, has recently reported growing disaffection with the GOP among the elderly.

We first noticed a shift among seniors early in the summer of 2011, as Paul Ryan’s plan to privatize Medicare became widely known (and despised) among those at or nearing retirement. Since then, the Republican Party has come to be defined by much more than its desire to dismantle Medicare. To voters from the center right to the far left, the GOP is now defined by resistance, intolerance, intransigence, and economics that would make even the Robber Barons blush. We have seen other voters pull back from the GOP, but among no group has this shift been as sharp as it is among senior citizens.

According to Carville-Greenberg, seniors voted for Republicans by a 21 point margin (38 percent to 59 percent) in 2010, but among seniors likely to vote in 2014, the generic Republican candidate leads by just 5 points (41 percent to 46 percent.) Seventy-one percent of seniors disapprove of the Republicans in Congress. Only 28% of seniors view the GOP favorably, down from 43% in 2010. During that same period of time, seniors’ approval of Democrats actually rose three points, from 37% to 40%.

More than half (55 percent) of seniors say the Republican Party is too extreme, half (52 percent) say it is out of touch, and half (52 percent) say the GOP is dividing the country. Just 10 percent of seniors believe that the Republican Party does not put special interests ahead of ordinary voters.

These numbers, if accurate, reflect a sea change in a constituency that has been the GOP’s most dependable voting bloc.

Evidently, when a party gets crazy enough, even its most loyal foot-soldiers begin to notice.


  1. Many of us “old farts” left the Republican party before we WERE old farts–and we continue to stay away.

  2. Thoughts that popped into my mind while reading this may seem unrealted till giving them some thought. Being a movie fan; I often retain lines that have meaning to me at the time and hold true today.

    From “Guess Whose Coming To Dinner” (circa 1967), during an argument with his father regarding his love for a white girl which his father is totally against, Sidney Poitier states, “When will we get the weight of you off our backs?” He was referring to the racial generation gap at that time which now encompasses more than race due to the GOP and their NO platform

    From the movie “Fried Green Tomatoes”, after the sheriff complained about owners of the Whistle Stop Cafe selling food to “colored people”; Cicely Tyson shuffles through the room stating, “Eats eggs, shoots right out a chicken’s ass, but won’t sit next to a colored child.” I dearly love this line of dialogue and the truth it speaks.

    The racial issue may be the crux of the “old farts” continuing support of the GOP but I believe it is the fact that too many of “them” just cannot or will not adjust to change. I am 76 and see it in many of my generation but also a disturbing number of younger (not young) people. Of course, I have always been the “black sheep” of my white family and neighbors but leaving them behind has allowed me to grow and learn to accept change. It is the drastic, ugly changes in the GOP that are being forced on all of us that I fight against. I voted as an Independent for many, many years till the past 8-10 years and I deeply resent feeling forced to no longer trust what any Republican says or promises. We also need to be aware of the age range of the GOP who are “speaking in tongues” when it comes to their reasoning, their actions and more importantly to their NON-ACTIONS. Face it; Congress may have been elected by those “old farts” but their age range runs the gamut.

  3. That older voters are a “the GOP’s most dependable voting bloc” is not true. In fact, it’s only in recent years the GOP presidential candidates began getting a majority of the over 65 crowd and even then we’re not talking huge majorities.

    Over 65 vote
    2012 Obama 44, Romney 56
    2008 Obama 45, McCain 53
    2004 Kerry 47, Bush II 52
    2000 Gore 51, Bush II 47
    1996 Clinton 50, Dole 44
    1992 Clinton 50, Bush I 39

    The Democrats have for decades used the issue of Social Security and Medicare to scare seniors into voting against Republicans. It used to be that a Republican daring to support Social Security reform was like touching the electrified third rail in a subway system… you touch it and you die. That is no longer the case. Older people are more open to reform of Social Security than ever before. The pollster’s suggestion that it is Social Security/Medicare issue increasingly driving these older voters into voting Democrat is all wet. I would suggest that there are other factors afoot. Things like opposition to same sex marriage which has historically been a generational issue with older voters much more opposed is going to be less of an issue Republicans can use as those older voters die off and get replaced by “newer” older voters who have more liberal attitudes on the subject. Even then, I think though most of the movement has probably been on other issues.

    I think the movement in older voters is grossly exaggerated.

    Again, older voters are not Republicans most loyal constituency. That would probably be active church goers who vote heavily Republican. Also, the highly educated and high income people vote in much higher numbers for Republicans than do older voters.

  4. It may well be that religious conservatives are the base of the GOP. and that would account for the hard-right movement that Sheila so often complains of. And Sheila is not the only one. Barry Goldwater, the late Senator from Arizona who was the darling of old-style hard-right conservatives, was quoted in John Dean’s book, “Conservatives Without Conscience” as saying:
    “Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them.”

    Goldwater was right. And as a history buff, this reminds me of the Jewish Zealot movement of the first century A.D./C.E., that rebelled against Rome, trying to impose a Jews-only strict theocracy. Result? The Temple and Jerusalem were destroyed, Jews slaughtered, and the survivors scattered. Politics and religion do NOT mix well.

  5. On a day where I read of Senator Lugar being awarded the Medal of Freedom, I am saddened to see the GOP become the party of angry white men. Senator Lugar is a brilliant man who led with distinction. He was the last Republican I voted for and I don’t see anything at the national level that will attract me to the party that I fail to recognize. The GOP with its brand of well funded negative advertising motivates voters through fear. While older voters may be susceptible to this mass marketing falsehood, I am confident that the women over 65 ( who outlive men) will recognize leadership and vote against the continued anti women policies of the GOP.

  6. I don’t know why some Republicans insist that Goldwater should be the model for GOP politics. Goldwater got trounced in 1964 and the campaign he ran is a major reason why Republicans struggle to get the black vote today. Up until his campaign, Republican presidential candidates were pulling in 33-40% of the black vote. Goldwater’s election failure still has lessons for today. Republicans cannot win national elections by simply only pushing fiscal conservativism. They win elections by uniting economic and social conservativism. There are a lot of social conservatives who would otherwise vote Democrat if Republicans abandon social conservativism.

    As far as Richard Lugar goes, Lugar has no one to blame but himself. He didn’t keep a residence in Indiana and used someone else’s house (illegally) to vote from. When he came back to Indiana he lived in hotels. He wouldn’t come back to Indiana for events. He did not keep in contact with Hoosiers and with leadership in his own party. When GOP officials asked Lugar for help in various Republican campaigns, he refused. When he took pictures with local Republican candidates, those candidates would get letters warning them they weren’t allowed to use the photo in campaign spots. (I don’t see how that could be enforced.) If Lugar would have done ANYTHING to keep in touch with Hoosiers and GOP leadership, he never would have been challenged for the nomination.

  7. It’s also important to realize that the “senior citizen” population today is not the same set of people that it was 20 or 30 years ago. The children of the 1920s and 1930s are leaving the mix. and those that were children in the 1950s are joining the senior population. While many people undergo philosophical changes throughout their life stages, it seems to me that the demographics will lead to a senior population that includes an increasing number of folks with a liberal bent. As long as the Republican party keeps tacking rightward, their share of the senior vote will be dropping.

  8. Ogden; as usual you don’t know what you are talking about. The GOP certainly does not see Goldwater as the model for their politics…they run to Bush, Cheney, Rand, Perry, Daniels, Mourdock, Trump, Koch brothers and their ilk as their mentors. Senator Richard Lugar WAS keeping contact with Hoosiers which is why party leaders tuned on him for occasionally crossing the aisle to vote on issues he believed to be in OUR best interest. He was screwed by his own party for maintaining his oath of office to uphold laws and protect his constituents…not to blindly follow the fools who now run the GOP with Tea Party, NRA and Koch brothers billions supporting them for return favors. This once fine party has become rich men’s whores and is run by racists and bigots. Abraham Lincoln is probably spinning in his grave if he is aware of what the party he so proudly represented, and died for, has become in only the past 10 years or so. But; cheer up, maybe we can build more sports venues and raise the status of this country in the eyes of the world along with those of us who must deal with their highly paid waste of time and our tax dollars along with insulting our intelligence while doing so.

  9. The national Republican Party began voter suppression efforts in earnest at about the same time Pres. G. W. Bush was pushing privatization of Social Security. Coincidence?

    Many older seniors don’t have birth certificates and no longer drive or have drivers’ licenses.
    So they are easier to disenfranchise if these documents are required to register and vote.

    When I was 27 years old, a young staff colleague (a liberal) had swallowed the Wall Street Kool-Aid that Social Security couldn’t and wouldn’t be there for us when we retired. Forty years later, it’s paying me monthly benefits. Wall Street has been trying to scare everyone into believing they are a better bet than Social Security. I have funds invested in Wall Street too, but I wouldn’t trade my Social Security away to them for a minute. History proves they care less about my retirement security than Social Security does.

    The Wall Street crash of 1929 eliminated the retirement security of many Americans and was the catalyst for Social Security’s creation. If today’s Wall Street privatizers lost my retirement funds and again create economic upheaval, Wall Street is likely to ask AGAIN for a bailout for themselves and likely to continue to lobby against a safety net for seniors and everyone else whose jobs and retirement security they gambled and lost.

    Bush said his privatization wouldn’t affect current retirees – only younger taxpayers. But if younger taxpayers aren’t paying into Soc. Security, benefits for current retirees have no funding source. Beware – privatizers put their own interests and profits well before anyone else’s, including retirement security of those too old and ill to work.

  10. How many Republicans survive with their Social Security and use Medicare plus a supplemental for their health care – IF they can afford to pay for a supplemental? Or Medicaid if they qualify. This doesn’t seem to be taken into account by Republicans. The GOP keeps crying for smaller government; we are not supposed to be intelligent enough to know that means privatizing/out-sourcing government jobs being paid for by our tax dollars. Government work being paid for with tax dollars should be done by government workers. Government is not in business to make money – private business goal is only to make money.

    I worked local government for 20 years and was never over-paid; in fact, was never paid what I was worth. When I became disabled and forced to stop working, I qualified for Hardship Retirement benefits under PERF. When I applied for Social Security Disability I answered each and every question truthfully. Because I had $3,100 in my savings account (it took 11 years to save it) I did NOT qualify for SSI or Medicaid assistance while waiting for SSD approval or once I began collecting payments. Due to my $189 monthly PERF check when my disability payments began, I did not and do not qualify for Medicaid, food stamps, or any form of assistance. We, on Social Security, are not on the government dole. Neither are we the ones breaking this country financially as Congress is by getting paid to do nothing but repeatedly trying to repeal “Obamacare”. We are getting a percentage of return on what we PAID INTO Social Security for more years than we will live to collect on it. Social Security benefits are not paid with tax dollars. And our Social Security checks are nothing compared to retirement packages paid to qualified government workers. Yes; I said “qualified” because there are specific requirements they must meet and there are limits – be they high – as to what they collect.

  11. Paul and Nancy’s comments may seem contradictory–Paul disputes the GOP’s reliance on elderly voters and Nancy references efforts to disenfranchise them. What both comments fail to note is that the GOP base is composed of elderly WHITE voters (disproportionately male). If we look at numbers based only upon age, that element is lost. And the efforts at vote suppression are not aimed at “the elderly.” They are aimed at poor, minority elderly voters.

  12. Better known as “the good old boys network”. The red neck, white socks and Pabst Blue Ribbon beer brigade rules!

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