Let's Bring Seniors Back Home

In 2004, the age group among which George W. Bush performed best were older voters -- those aged 60 and above. Among this segment, which made up just under a quarter of the electorate on election day, the President bested John Kerry by a 54 percent to 46 percent margin.

As I noted last month, much of this strength in the polls could be tied to high expectations for the coming Medicare prescription drug plan, which was devised by the Bush White House and rammed through Congress with minimal Democratic support. As a result of the highly partisan nature of the bill's passage, it was no wonder that older voters switched their voting pattern in 2004 and backed Republicans in nearly unprecedented numbers (remember that Al Gore carried older voters by a healthy margin in 2000).

New polling indicates, however, that seniors are ready to come home to the Democratic Party. Similar to the polling referenced in my post last month, which found that a vast majority of older voters found the Republican Rx plan confusing, the latest polling on the bungled program shows older voters particularly disapproving.

The Kaiser Family Foundation, which is deeply involved in healthcare around the country, commissioned a poll this month studying Americans' attitudes towards the new program, and the results of the survey are quite interesting. Among Americans aged 65 and older, only about a third understand the new program, while three-fifths do not. Even more noteworthy, among this same subset of voters, only 23 percent hold a favorable view towards the program while almost twice as many hold an unfavorable view towards it.

In order to maximize their electoral potential for 2006, the Democrats must tap into seniors' widespread discontent and confusion about the Republican-envisioned Medicare prescription drug plan. And there is quite a bit of room for Democratic growth among seniors this November. A cursory look at exit polling from the last two presidential elections finds that had John Kerry performed as well among seniors as had Al Gore (just 52 percent of the two-party popular vote), he would have received a full 1.5 percent more of the popular vote -- perhaps enough to have shifted a key swing state or two in the direction of the Democrats, thus possibly changing the outcome of the election. Given the fact that a large plurality of older Americans are already discontented with the Republican program, it's not at all inconceivable that the Democrats would be able to pull in 52 percent of the support of older voters, or perhaps even more, pushing them above 50 percent in the national, popular vote for the House this fall and ensuring that at least one half of Congress is under Democratic control next year.

Tags: Medicare, Pulse, Seniors (all tags)

Comments

11 Comments

Ideological Program vs Demographic Marketing

Perhaps Jonathon was inspired by the NYT article this morning. The Times pointed out that the Republicans intended the drug benefit plan to consolidate the senior vote, but its very messy roll-out is having the opposite effect. The Times suggests that democrats are hoping to make this an issue in November.

Unfortunately, simply relying on gop failure or trying to use one program as a wedge is a very thin reed to hold on to. All the gop needs to do is fix the problem, and your big issue suddenly loses importance.

The dems need to be more effective at popularizing a liberal ideology, PLUS learn to market to specific demographics. The conservative movement is really good at this. They have worked for decades to create a shift in political ideology. But, this is combined with well-analyzed demographic marketing and the clever use of wedge issues. Both strategies are useful, and you don't get the sense that the democratic party quite knows how to play the same game.

A good example is splitting conservative-VALUES voters (who by rights should vote democratic on economic issues) by fostering outrage over social issues like gays & abortion. This isn't easy because economics is pretty darned important to people. Look how extreme the rhetoric has to be in order to bump abortion from below economic self-interest to above it.

Getting back to Seniors.

Medical issues and social security rank very high on the critical importance list. Ironically because we successfully give seniors decent health insurance in Medicare, health is sort taken off the critical importance list allowing other issues (family values, waving the bloody flag, etc) to drive the voting booth lever.

The gop has shown us how to do it: Use higher-octane rhetoric, blame the gop for failing seniors, promise a better drug program with cheaper prices, without the donut hole. The gop is not afraid of spending money on seniors, why should we resist promises?... of course they made sure the drug companies got a good cut of it.

by MetaData 2006-02-18 10:13AM | 0 recs
Re: Let's Bring Seniors Back Home

I was explaining this to Mom the other day. Blogs are totally ignoring the AARP set, and AARP seems to be straddling the fence politically. These people are totally up for grabs, and simply telling them the truth about the GOP should scare the bejeezus out of them. But can the Democrats overcome their own fear of the truth ?

Every time they launch a $80,000 Hellfire missile at some Iraqi insurgents, that's a couple senior citizens that won't get kidney dialysis or heart bypasses.

And the Predator drone that fires the missle costs $4.5 M, which means that 100 people won't get hip replacements, new knees, or physical therapy. Hello bedsores ! That does not not even begin to take into account the cost of the soldiers.

At this point, the country is far in debt. There  is no "rainy day fund" to make up the difference. Every missile fired means that a couple senior citizens won't get surgery.

The Bush administration projections on the budget stop just before we can no longer make minimum payments on our debt. We are wracking up 10% debt per year, and when Bush talks about "reducing the debt by half" he is talking about reducing the RATE OF INCREASE by half, just about the time the country is BANKRUPT.At that point in 2010 we are going to be simply eliminating most Social Security and Medicaid benefits.  

Also, we owe more and more of that money to China, so rather than spending that money on our senior citizens and college students, we are going to be sending that to China for the next 20 years so China can build factories and universities. That's going to piss off the seniors !

Like I told Mom, that is why Bush is so desperate to privatize and reorganize these programs - so they can create enough confusion to win the 2008 elections before people realize nearly all their benefits have disappeared.

And for what ? So our armies can keep marching around the world ? Which incidently means that we are living under martial law at home. We have learned that energy independence can't come from the barrel of a gun and occupying the Middle East does not get the oil out of the ground. Winning in Iraq was not like winning Super Powerball - it turned out to be incredibly expensive. But Bush got a tip about a "sure thing" from some his buddies (Wolfy, Rummy, Count Chocula), and he gambled away the mortage payment. But will the Democrats just be the codependent spouse that can't confront the drunken gambling husband ?

by bernardpliers 2006-02-18 11:10AM | 0 recs
Re: Let's Bring Seniors Back Home

The drug benefit is a microcosm of what is wrong with the GOP approach to health care and to problems in general.  Make it as complicated as possible and as profitable as possible for the industries involved (HMOs and Pharma).  Bungle the implementation and kick the real problems down the road for someone else to deal with.

At this point, the GOP drug plan is so overbudget that it would probably be cheaper to just cover outpatient drugs under Medicare Part B, with a reasonable co-pay and an exemption from the co-pay for people on Medicaid.  Dump the subsidies and allow Medicare to negotiate price reductions.  Above all, keep it simple.  When you get older, new things, and indeed things in general, get harder to figure out.

It is not just the elderly (who are generally defined as those 20 years older than you, if you are middle aged, just like middle age is 20 years older than you when you are younger).  The Boomers are going to be eligible for Medicare beginning in 2010.  There is no doubt in my mind that the Dems should add the prescription drug issue to a small list of core programs and issues in 2006.

by Mimikatz 2006-02-18 12:36PM | 0 recs
A lot of them are dead

I read somewhere that in every year, 5% of the electorate dies.  I guess it's that high because older voters are more likely to vote.  

So in four years' time, 1/5 of the voters may be dead and of course not voting.  Something to think about.  I personally believe a lot of hard-core New Deal FDR Dems were helping the Dems stay in power for forty years.  However, every election more and more are dead, being replaced by sixty-somethings who were NOT the New Deal generation and are more conservative.

Just a random thought.

by jgarcia 2006-02-18 02:23PM | 0 recs
Re: Let's Bring Seniors Back Home

FUNNY YOU SHOULD MENTION THAT.

I GOT AN E-MAIL FROM HARRY REID'S SITE YESTERDAY ANNOUNCING HIS "WIRED AND RETIRED" INITIATIVE TO GET SENIORS INVOLVED IN PROTECTING THEIR PROGRAMS FROM BUSH AND HIS CRONIES IN THE INSURANCE AND FINANCIAL SERVICES INDUSTRIES.

IF YOU'RE A SENIOR OR KNOW ANY SENIORS, GET PLUGGED IN BY LOGGING ON TO:

www.giveemhellharry.com/page/s/wired

PASS IT ON....

by Bush Bites 2006-02-18 02:48PM | 0 recs
Re: Let's Bring Seniors Back Home

My mother lives in Florida and at 88 years old, a life long Democrat and a populist that makes the netroot "progressives sound like card carrying John Birch Society members.  Her complaint for years has been that the "old fogey" Republicans that live around her are a bunch of self interested, elitist, boobs with no social conscience.  Mind you she would not be caught dead in the presence of a modern "consevative" and those she knows and I've met are Republicans from a by-gone era.  Conservative, yes, but ones that at least I can reason with, persuade, or even on occasion be persuade by.

Now, I'm here to tell you, in her domain, these same "old fogeys" are mad as hell at what they describe as "passing" for Republican and all the baby boom generation for completely losing a sense of society.  Last year Bush and the gang lost these people with the Social Security Plan, or lack there of.  They see what is going on in this country and don't like it and don't want their grandchildren inheriting this mess.  They can't see jobs, education, or the oppurtunity to attain what they have through self endevor.

I believe that the Democratic Party needs to address the desires of this over 65 set, but they are there just waiting for invitation.  We don't hear from them in the editorial columns like used to be, or on talk radio, or most of the outlets progessive Democrats frequent and rale against.  No, they are silent and fuming.  Did you notice fund raising in Florida is down?  Want to guess why?

This demographic is waiting for us, as "progressives" or old style "populist", to make an overture.  Not the standard bearing establishment party but the kind of "crayzes" that they read and hear about on "that Internet thing".  Believe that email, photo sharing, and weblogs have made enough seniors "techie geeks" to keep a buzz going down at the center.

Long rant to short.  This post is spot on, except that I don't see them needing to be brought home.  They are standing on the stoop waiting for someone to answer the door.  They only ring once.  It would be a very cost effective demographic to pick up.  If local candidates or volunteers would stop by the senior centers and just chat, argue (old folks love to argue), maybe play bridge or dominoes for an hour,  minds would change.  Remember, these people vote.

I'll end with one of my favorite quotes from my mother's across the street neighbor of 74, who watches Faux News 5 hours a day and swears that Rush & Bill sometimes make sense.  His quote is; "Hell, today, if you want to find a good Republican, chances are he's a damn Democrat"

by ddrich 2006-02-18 04:00PM | 0 recs
Re: Let's Bring Seniors Back Home

Plus, many seniors are incensed about the crushing debt with which Bush is burdening their grandchildren.  I think we can win many of them on this point alone.

by Via 2006-02-18 04:03PM | 0 recs
Crushing Debt

Hear! Hear! ".... many seniors are incensed about the crushing debt with which Bush is burdening their grandchildren."  That is the loudest grumbling I hear about.  Social Security is a betrayal carried as a grudge, but money .... loud and long.  

Old'ster Repubs hated Clinton for his morals, the war and women, but now hold his economics in high esteem.  A "stupid, low-life genious" comes to mind on the topic of economy.  

by ddrich 2006-02-18 04:15PM | 0 recs
Don't discount the gay revulsion thing

Just as support for marriage equality trends higher with youngsters, it's lower with the over 55s. Count on Republicans to exploit this again and agan, as they did so effectively in 2004. Scare the old folks with a "Democrats are for gay marriage" rant and you've got their votes sewn up. At least for a few more years, until we show them the truth, which is that marriage equality strengthens, not weakens, society's bonds.

Or until they die.

One way or another, attitudes will change, and the Republicans will lose this advantage, and marriage equality will be the law of the land. Until that day comes expect them to beat up on gays every time they get the chance. Us gays have our work cut out for us, but that's another subject....

by iyou 2006-02-18 07:18PM | 0 recs
Re: No gay marriage = no Social Security

Th GOP will forbid gay marriage, then throw away Social Security.

A lot of old folks no longer care about this because, like Dick Cheney, they have gay family members.

by bernardpliers 2006-02-18 08:17PM | 0 recs
Unleash your Inner FDR

I have been trying to argue for years that Social Security can be a potent weapon for the Democrats. It is not enough to defend the program, now is the time to push back and show that the Republicans have been lying to seniors and young people both all of the time.

Social Security is not broke. Social Security is overfunded going forward. And the people who told you different are the same people who sold you Iraqi WMDs. Repeat after me "not broke". "overfunded going forward". Too good to be true? Doesn't accord with everything you know? Well that is because they don't want you to know.

Absent some massive fraud with the numbers (which at this point won't go undetected) the release of the Annual Report of the Trustees of Social Security (due by March 31) is going to show a program fully funded throught the traditional 75 year window. And every Cato/American Heritage/Club for Growth Fellow that has told you different is going to be revealed as a huge lying fraud.

It is not just that their 'solution' to Social Security 'crisis' does nothing to solve the crisis. There just is no crisis to solve. And this year offers us the opportunity to pick up and dust off that FDR New Deal stick and whale the crap out of the whole lying mob. Want to win back seniors? Show them that Republicans have been lying to their grandkids about Social Security and its Solvency for two decades.

A meme has been built into political discourse and ordinary thought. 'The retirement of the boomers is going to put a huge strain on the American economy'. Well except that it isn't. And we can show as much this fall.

Want numbers? Well wander on over to the economists' sites (Brad, Max, Mark or the three Angry Bears). Or visit my site. Or my past diaries here. Or my diaries at dKos. Because I have the numbers to back this one up Social Security is not broke: by the numbers

FDR just borrowed Teddy's Big Stick. But I can't guarantee that Franklin will be 'Talking softly'.

by Bruce Webb 2006-02-19 04:43AM | 0 recs

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