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Guest Blogger: Saul Friedman

Posted Nov 10 2008 4:51pm

[ EDITORIAL NOTE: The reason for the weekly Sunday Election Issues post would seem to have passed into history. This week, however, it would be nice to post links to elderblogs with stories of the aftermath and followup to the election. If you have written one you would like to share with others, please get a link to me via email (click "Contact" in the upper left corner of this page) by end of today. ]

category_bug_politics.gifAlthough there were some reports that 65 percent of elders voted for Barack Obama, exit polling data from Pew Research reveals a different, less uplifting number.

Today's guest blogger, Saul Friedman, who writes the Gray Matters column for Newsday, explains why he thinks the elder vote for McCain makes no sense and wonders what happened, in a story titled Old. ]

Perhaps the readers of Time Goes By can tell us why voters over the age of 65 (almost all white) voted against their own interests and supported Senator John McCain over Senator Barack Obama, 53 to 45 percent.


Indeed, according to this Pew Poll, elders gave McCain two percent more support than they gave to George W. Bush in 2004. White voters did two percent better for the Democrat than they did in 2004; still they voted 55 to 43 for McCain.

Bush repaid the older voters for their support in 2005, of course, by proposing and campaigning to privatize and thus kill Social Security as we know it. Bush failed, thanks to congressional Democrats, and senior advocacy groups such as the National Council to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, AARP and organized labor.

I thought older people had good memories, so I figured they'd remember the close call when McCain acknowledged during the campaign that he continued to favor some sort of privatization, similar to the Bush proposal. He even called Social Security an "absolute disgrace" because younger workers' taxes were paying the benefits of older retirees, which is the way the inter-generational Social Security system is supposed to work.

What's more, the Wall Street Journal reported that McCain was ready to cut billions from Medicare to fund his proposal to provide health insurance to uninsured Americans. And it's been no secret that McCain has been hostile to "government health programs," although he's benefitted from them most of his life. He has almost always voted with his party to limit Medicare and Medicaid and he proposed to charge more affluent older people more for Medicare's services.

On the other hand, Obama is a strong supporter of Medicare and Social Security and voted with the Democratic majority when Senator Edward M. Kennedy came to the Senate to break a Republican filibuster and override a Bush veto of a bill to strengthen Medicare. That bill cut some of the bonuses insurance companies get. McCain was absent but had made clear his agreement with Bush.

So if Social Security and Medicare didn't matter to people over 65, what did? McCain's age? I doubt it; older Americans, according to an earlier Pew poll, know that 72 is a bit too old to begin a presidency. Perhaps older people, more than younger Americans, liked McCain's experience and policies. Perhaps. Or perhaps older people feared change. Or maybe it was something else.

Whatever the reasons, I'd really like to know. I think it will be sad if in the future a kid, coming home from school and learning about the first black president, asks his or her grandmother, "did you vote for him?" And she has to answer, "No."

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