Voting is the only political act that most Americans involve themselves with. U.S. turnout for elections is lower than almost all other western democracies. Elders vote in larger numbers relative to their population than all other age groups.
That should give elders an outsized influence in elections; if we voted as a bloc, our voice would be thunderous. As it is, that voice is muted because many elders vote against their own and, therefore, all elders' best interests.
They are the ones who, in the tea party's infancy, shouted the oxymoron, “Keep your government hands off my Medicare.” They are the ones who support calls for “shared sacrifice” which, translated from the deceptive, means more taxes on the middle class and the poor while exempting the rich.
They are ones who support “entitlement reform” which means cut – or better yet, eliminate - Social Security and Medicare.
And even though it takes older workers twice as long to find employment as younger ones, they are the elders who support tax cuts for “corporate jobs creators” which means no jobs.
Have you seen any new jobs from corporations in the past three years as their profits have soared? No, you have not and since they weasel out of their taxes anyway, reducing the corporate tax rate will not, nor is it intended to, produce new jobs.
A newly published dissection of our nation's current political predicament is a compelling and brutal diatribe that spares no one – not Democrats, President Obama, the religious right nor the loonies and especially not the Republican Party. Some excerpts:
“Both parties are rotten...But both parties are not rotten in quite the same way. The Democrats have their share of machine politicians, careerists, corporate bagmen, egomaniacs and kooks. Nothing, however, quite matches the modern GOP.”
“The GOP cares solely and exclusively about its rich contributors. The party has built a whole catechism on the protection and further enrichment of America's plutocracy. Their caterwauling about deficit and debt is so much eyewash to con the public.”
“It should have been evident to clear-eyed observers that the Republican Party is becoming less and less like a traditional political party in a representative democracy and becoming more like an apocalyptic cult, or one of the intensely ideological authoritarian parties of 20th century Europe. This trend has several implications, none of them pleasant.”
“...when a program is too popular to attack directly, like Medicare or Social Security, they prefer to undermine it by feigning an agonized concern about the deficit. That concern, as we shall see, is largely fictitious.”
“Republicans' myths about taxation have been internalized by millions of economically downscale 'values voters,' who may have been attracted to the GOP for other reasons (which I will explain later), but who now accept this misinformation as dogma.”
“Pandering to fundamentalism is a full-time vocation in the GOP. Beginning in the 1970s, religious cranks ceased simply to be a minor public nuisance in this country and grew into the major element of the Republican rank and file.”
You may think that has all been written by a Progressive or, at least a Democrat. You would be wrong. Mike Lofgren is a highly-esteemed, 30-year Congressional staffer expert in the areas of budget, defense and security who has worked mainly for Republicans.
The title of his piece says it all: Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult and with it, Lofgren just made himself the Wendell Potter of politics. Fed up, he retired in June:
“It is this broad and ever-widening gulf between the traditional Republicanism of an Eisenhower and the quasi-totalitarian cult of a Michele Bachmann that impelled my departure from Capitol Hill...
“I left because I was appalled at the headlong rush of Republicans, like Gadarene swine, to embrace policies that are deeply damaging to this country's future; and contemptuous of the feckless, craven incompetence of Democrats in their half-hearted attempts to stop them.
“And, in truth, I left as an act of rational self-interest. Having gutted private-sector pensions and health benefits as a result of their embrace of outsourcing, union busting and 'shareholder value,' the GOP now thinks it is only fair that public-sector workers give up their pensions and benefits, too.
“Hence the intensification of the GOP's decades-long campaign of scorn against government workers. Under the circumstances, it is simply safer to be a current retiree rather than a prospective one.”
Which gets us back to the elder vote. One of the successful Republican tactics of the past 40 years of their march to a permanent Republican government is repetition. Repeat any lie enough and it becomes fact to those Lofgren refers to as “low-information voters.”
The rest of us – in our conversations with others, our blogs, comments at other blogs, letters to editors, etc. - need to do everything in our power to convince low-information voters of the Republican agenda. Such as this from Lofgren:
“If you think Paul Ryan and his Ayn Rand-worshipping colleagues aren't after your Social Security and Medicare, I am here to disabuse you of your naiveté. They will move heaven and earth to force through tax cuts that will so starve the government of revenue that they will be 'forced' to make 'hard choices' - and that doesn't mean repealing those very same tax cuts, it means cutting the benefits for which you worked.”
I know it doesn't sound like much to keep up our side's drumbeat, but it is a start. More, we can begin now to support candidates for Congress who are not the lunatics vying for the Republican nomination for president.
The eventual Republican nominee will be bankrolled by unlimited funds from unknown donors whose names we may not know, but we can be certain they support corporations' best interests against the people's.
So we must seek out and help sane Congressional candidates defeat those of the Republican cult – people like Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont who is unequivocal in his fight to maintain Social Security and is up for re-election next year. If you have a few extra dollars, you might throw some Bernie's way.
Don't think that elders' interests are selfish interests. There is not a single elder issue that does not benefit younger people – if not now, later in their lives. It is crucial to future elder generations that we do our part to keep Social Security and Medicare, among other programs, safe for them. If we can enlist more elders to believe this, our voice will be heard.
Also, I urge you to read Mike Lofgren's entire piece – it is the most compelling, honest political commentary I've read in years and it – correctly, in my mind – identifies the dysfunction in government that could destroy our way of life.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Clair Jean: I Can See Clearly Now