Monday, August 31, 2009

Not FDR, But Ronald Reagan

A very interesting analysis by Matt Bai in the NYT about the ideological proclivities of today's senior citizens:

More to the point, though, it’s probably time for us to update our notions
of elderly Americans and how their worldviews were formed. We are inclined to
imagine our oldest citizens as products of the New Deal, voters whose earliest
memories engendered a lasting faith in the goodness of government. But
conservative theorists like Karl Rove used to say that time was on the side of
Republicans where the elderly were concerned, because Depression-era memories
would someday give way to a more complicated historical legacy — and perhaps, in
this narrow respect, their grand predictions had some validity. If Obama has
little of Bill Clinton’s appeal to old folks, it’s probably because old folks
now aren’t the same ones who rode volunteer-driven vans to the polls in

After all, a 70-year-old American today, born in 1939, probably has no
personal memory of F.D.R., but he would have lived through the pain of
disappearing manufacturing jobs and family farms, and the rapid deterioration of
urban neighborhoods and schools, conditions unabated by government experiments
in welfare and public housing. Wooed by Ronald Reagan during their prime earning
years, these voters may not be nearly as sympathetic to Obama’s vision of
activist government as Democrats might have assumed. For these new senior
citizens, even the Social Security and Medicare on which they often rely may be
viewed less as instruments of beneficent government than as a partial repayment
for decades of taxes.

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