Winter’s Late Arrival
This Week in Elder News: 8 November 2008

Guest Blogger: Saul Friedman

[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.gif Although 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."


Correct me if I am wrong, please; but, my understanding is that older voters have always been more conservative in politics than the younger generations have been. Plus, I don't consider a 2% difference between the number of older voters for Bush vs McCain to be very significant. It may be because they have the longer memories that older voters went for McCain. I can imagine that people were impressed by the McCain of a decade or so ago, and that they refused to believe his campaign rhetoric that was meant to entice the far right. Older voters believed that McCain would have returned to his true form as a moderate had he been elected.

I can also imagine that older voters did NOT consider 72 years of age to be too old to run for president, but that his age gave McCain more depth and breadth of knowledge, wisdom, and political cronies (in the good sense of the term) upon whom to call for input/cooperation, than would be available to the much-younger, less experienced Obama.

P.S. It isn't always a bad thing to vote "against one's self-interest" if one is looking at the larger picture. We should be voting for everyone's best interest!

In her response, Cop Car reveals much of what we need to know about our demographic voting for McCain. One, change is hard--and gets more difficult as we age. Two, all the negative campaigning by McCain did an excellent job convincing older Americans that only older people know what's best.

I could go on but I feel my blood pressure, fortunately always low, rising.

My husband, age 78, voted unenthusiastically for McCain because he's a fiscal conservative, and he supported (for example) partial privatization of Social Security. He was unenthusiastic because he doesn't like McCain the Maverick, and he thought the campaign was very badly run.

It's a false dichotomy to assume that everyone opposed to Obama is voting against their own interests, by the way.

I'll answer for my four older people, my parents and in-laws, who are in their late 70's and early 80's, and who don't read blogs.

These hard working very middle class folks have taken the utmost pride in self-sufficiency. They worked hard to bring their standard of living up past that of their own parents. (My great grandfather lived in a dugout in Nebraska, my mother emigrated from Europe in the 50's.)

They believe Obama is of the mindset to punish productivity with higher taxes, and reward inactivity with even *more* government hand outs.

They do not trust this man to make decisions to drive the economy.

They certainly do not trust his allegiances.

They see a handsome, eloquent passionate man, thin on substance.

As Cop Car wrote, they voted not on what THEY PERSONALLY WOULD GAIN, but by what they thought would make a better country for all.

And finally, why it must be stated again and again is just beyond me...

**This has NOTHING to do with this man's race, but his ideals.**

Naomi says: "Two, all the negative campaigning by McCain did an excellent job convincing older Americans that only older people know what's best." Does anyone have a Rosetta stone handy?
I need something to help me understand what "Naomi" has written.

I am at a loss to understand the comment about negative ads having influenced older voters. I live in the midst of a very red state (Kansas), and as a 70-year-old, myself, am amidst older voters nearly daily--including ultra right wing conservatives. Not one of them showed any appreciation for the negative ads that the McCain/Palin team ran. They, and I, abhorred the negative ads--regardless of source. They were just plain stupid...not to be believed!

The reactions I heard from a lot of elders some of which sent me crazy even before I finally chose Obama as my candidate(Note: I never seriously considered McCain and would have written in or gone 3rd party.):

"I can't vote for a black man."

"I don't like his weird church."

"I'm not convinced he isn't a Muslim."

Those were the top three and when I heard them it took all I had to keep from choking whoever said it. This campaign has been hazardous to my health.

What bothers me most is that the neocons are keeping up the nasty tone that McCain set during the campaign. They are not going to give up and will do everythng possible to undermine the new administration.

Being from a southern, red state, I can give you several major reasons but none of them can really be considered definitive until the subject poll is broken down into “geographical demographics” and “ethnic demographics”… my opinion.

Numbers originating from southern states with regard to the elder vote are primarily going to be overwhelmingly influenced by race, gun control, and religious views.

Last night on a local new telecast a pastor from one of Little Rock’s largest non-denominational churches was being interviewed by a reporter and was voicing serious concerns that he and his congregation were quite fearful that the Obama Administration was going to stop supporting Israel in its struggles and begin supporting the Muslim nations instead. Now, just because you and I think that is absolutely ridiculous will not circumvent the ignorance that feeds that rhetoric.

Another top story on the local news last night related the fact that after the election results numerous Arkansans were going to their local gun stores and purchasing guns. This because of the deep-seeded fear that an overwhelming Democratic Administration was going to enact stringent gun control laws. Apparently even before they take office!!

In my local neighborhood, with the one exception of myself, all my elder neighbors were voting for McCain. There reason? They could not believe a black man was running for President of the United States.

I think there might be data in the polling you cite that would help explain the elder vote:

Thanks to Social Security, our still-somewhat feeble Medicare, and the extraordinary good run the US economy has enjoyed, elders (at least those who vote) are NOT so often members of the under $50,000/household income demographic as they would have been even 40 years ago. Thank goodness and smart social policies. These have given much of the voting segment of elders the option to focus on other concerns.

But it is the struggling working poor (many non-white, many young) who really put Obama over the top. White elders voted more or less in the same split as white people of all ages. We could have done better -- but as several have said, novelty seems suspect after you've seen too much of it.

I want to chime in regarding seeing the larger picture rather than just one's personal interests in voting (here you and I go again, Cop Car):

Not every elder is as well-fixed financially as others often for many reasons beyond their control.

Some barely made enough money all their lives to get by week-to-week, let alone save anything. Others, like me, had so many ups and downs in their careers and other difficulties that every time they'd put away a substantial amount of money, disaster depleted it.

Social Security is the entire income for something like 25 percent of elders and research tells us that 75 percent of boomers are not prepared enough for retirement. None of these people can afford to lose a penny of Social Security.

As for those retirees and near-retirees who do (did) have adequate savings, so many have all but been wiped out in this economic disaster, working until death and/or Social Security are the only options they have and thank god for it.

Yes, the economy will recover, but not for a long time. It was not until 1954 that the stock market (if you care to use it as a benchmark) fully recovered from the Great Depression. Most elders and many near-retirees don't have 25 years to wait to recoup their losses and their final years will be filled with hardship.

So I'm not convinced that the larger picture, i.e. greater good, qualifies as a reason to have voted for Senator McCain.

Even tho' my "red" state voted blue for Obama, it has become blatantly clear that those here in the over 65 camp voted for McCain because he is an older white male who would let them have their hunting rifles! I think Kay & Gary have explained it quite well. And indeed, I had to closely watch my blood pressure & excuse myself from the friends & acquaintances & family who distrust this "smooth talking Harvard lawyer who is surely a Muslim"! I felt heartsick each time my spouse came home telling of similar conversations at his morning coffee klatch. I fear that if we cannot get past thess attitudes the president-elect will face insurmountable obstacles. We have to storm heaven with prayers. Dee

I can't explain why elders voted against their best interest. I can only tell why the seven I know voted for him. Two couples belong to a Fundamentalist Church and I think Sarah Palin did one thing to help McCain. She fired up he base and I all of them voted for McCain. Two other people are dyed-in-the wool Republicans and unless the R. candidate was completely unacceptable they would vote for a Republican against their best interests. The fifth just doesn't think things through and believed the distortions and lies of the McCain campaign.

I believe there is more to this than anyone is really saying. Most of us grew up at the time of civil unrest, the civil rights movement, desegration, George Wallace and more.

Some of us (I wuold like to believe alot of us) marched and supported this movement. But these events, on either side, created an indelible picture in our minds.

If you look at the numbers of whites vs other minorities, rural vs. suburban and urban, you see, what I think is the fear factor.

It is not to be discounted. My own son called me on election day to tell me we should not vote for Obama because he hates the Jews and Israel. Obviously we are Jewish. I told him it wasn't true. Those are made up stories to evoke fear and change people's votes. And I did not believe them. He was satisfied and voted Obama.

Today, I saw an article on how a black man had an Obama sign on his front lawn that was replaced during the night with a confederate flag. It isn't over people.

The seeds of mistrust that were planted over 40 years ago have been resurrected by some. Let's just hope those seeds don't grow.

What matters now is that we support his efforts because they are OUR efforts to unite this country, end discrimination, bring peace, stabilize our economy, provide quality healthcare for all...the list goes on and on. He is but one human being. He has his work cut out for him.

well, the demographics I've seen mostly leave out religion, and having lived most of my life in the heart of the midwestern red states, and i assure you that religion has a very strong role in the midwestern swing to the right. look at minnesota, for gosh was once the home of Senator Gene McCarthy, and VPs Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale. Now NORM COLEMAN has at least tied Al Franken thanks to voters pretty much everywhere but in the Twin Cities and the Duluth area. A friend there explained it to me that the combination of economic hardship and fundamentalist religion has let the republican party capture most of the rural area. believe me, i know people whose email addresses you wouldn't believe 15 years ago ( I think she-who-must-not-be-named had a significant part to play in luring these older white rural voters to mccain because of her outspoken anti-abortion, nay anti-meaningful sex education stances. it almost worked, but thanks be, WOMEN and YOUNG PEOPLE everywhere else were smart enough to vote for obama.

I am sick and tired of being accused(overtly and covertly) as a racist for not voting for "The One". I voted in line with my interests...philosophically, not emotionally, and what I consider to be in our country's best interest. I am 51 years old. I am a fiscal conservative, and even though the Republicans have screwed it up royally according to my philosophical leanings...I don't think voting for someone that espouses MORE fiscally irresponsible spending is a stupid way to vote. Just what government-run programs currently in play do you folks love so much? I don't think the government has any business in private industry...and even though the Repubs have opened up this door via their stupid bail-out...I still HOPE that conservatives will clean up their act and go back to being real conservatives. I am not going to keep my mouth shut anymore...fear of liberal backlash is so over for me. Time to grow up, Dems...those of us that remember what it was like to be self sufficient, proud of it and able to take our lumps if we made stupid financial decisions are pissed off and not going to shut up anymore....

Just as a matter of pure interest, it would have been good to see the gender breakdown as well as the age, ethnicity and income ones. Women are generally supposed to be more conservative than men but that may well not be so any more, especially amongst the savvy elderwomen.

I find it amazing that the author believes that seniors are only interested in Medicare and social security because there were a raft of other issues to consider. Besides, not all of us are so poor that we'll have to depend on the government to get us through our advanced years.
This kind of liberal crap is why I no longer live in the U.S.

It's great to see conservative comments on this blog and reasons that folks supported the McCain/Palin ticket. I'm a strong progressive and it doesn't have much to do with my economic interests, so I appreciate that economic interest isn't the only rational thing to consider. I'm not rich, but I also do not have to depend fully on Social Security. I really appreciate medicare however as my husbands cancer bills flow over my desk. Let's work together folks. This country is in a mess and it truly will take everyone's ideas to solve the current problems.

Ronni, in the same table of info is another clue. About 10% of either party voted for the other party. I think a lot of people grow up with party loyalty they got from their parents and they don't switch. I've always been a liberal and I don't think I'd ever vote different. But you are right, you'd think elders would support liberals more because of our support for social security, medicare and advocacy of universe health care. Evidently, there are other aspects of liberal thinking they dislike more.

it boggles my mind to listen to so-called "fiscal conservatives" complain about the excesses of liberal thinking and liberal policy. the last time the U.S. government had a surplus was when Bill Clinton left office. and we all know what happened to that when the current administration took over.

I wonder if the issue of national security may have had something to do with older people voting for McCain. This particular group have memories of WWII. They may be afraid that Obama will decimate the military, and leave the country vulnerable.

The Greatest generation had some very ungreat charecteristics and racial bigotry was one of them. Those who use other excuses are kidding themselves. Had Obama been white, he might have won by 20 points in a landslide bigger than Reagan's. There are at least 56 million folks who voted for McCain and with the exception of the very rich or theologically dogmatic, all voted against their best interests.

Go Figure....


My husband's aunt, who is 86 years old, has lived a very hard life - working in menial, poor-paying jobs all her life. Worked as personal maid for an even older little old fella until she was 75. Existed (note - not "lived") on her social security until a couple of years ago when her brother passed away and left a tide nest egg.

She has always been a staunch Democrat and was excited about voting for Hillary. However, her exact words when queried about voting for Obama:

"We cain't give the country to the negras."

Further, another younger aunt who typically votes Democratic, said she was certain sure that Obama is the Anti-Christ. Says so in the bible.

My own sweet (uh huh) little retired public school-teacher racially bigoted mother would not vote for Obama (she has believed she is a Republican since my brother told her she was) as it would be "giving the country to the blacks".

You aren't going to sway that kind of backwoods southern bigotry easily.

Perhaps, with each passing generation the racial misconceptions and hate will wither and die away as well.

One can hope.

"So I'm not convinced that the larger picture, i.e. greater good, qualifies as a reason to have voted for Senator McCain."

Ronni--You and I actually agree on your statement, above. BUT, what one considers the "greater good" is surely varied across the political spectrum. I believe that you agree with me that the right to a safe, legal abortion is a "greater good". People whom I feel are otherwise reasonable and intelligent disagree with us.

My own mother was raised to believe that the black "race" was put on earth as a curse to the white "race". However, I saw her evolve over the last 50 years of her life. (She spent her last evening on earth having dinner at a black neighbor's home, enjoying the company of the neighbor and her family. The neighbor has been friends with me, my daughter, my granddaughter--for about 30 years.) I truly believe that Mother would have voted for Sen Obama. OTOH: Hunky Husband was raised in a household of Democrats (he is 1st generation American, on mother's die, & 2nd generation, on father's side). He voted for John Kennedy (or so he told me at the time, although he now denies it). I don't believe that, after 50 years of living in Kansas, he would ever vote for a Democrat for president--no matter who the candidates were.

My feeling is that, those who did not vote for Sen Obama are not our enemies, they are not bad people. They are our friends, loved ones, neighbors, fellow Americans.

John McCain gave the speech of his life, in which he acknowledge the need to come together--showing the statesmanship that, in my view, he should also have been showing during the campaign. Pres-elect Obama gave an eloquent, answering call. We need to join our new Pres-elect in figuring out how to work with people of all pursuations in setting America on a firm course toward better lives for all of its citizens, and better relations with other countries.

Your last comment, about "how sad" it would be if one had to tell one's grandchild that one didn't vote for the first black President, tells it all. It gives lie to all your claims and tables. It tells me that, to you, getting on the bandwagon and participating in the "right way" in this election is more important than one's own assessment of the relative merits of the candidates. I'll be happy to tell my grandchild that I voted for the person I believed would do the job best, and that's what my grandchild should do when the time comes, guided by analysis and thought, not emotions.

I believe it's wonderful for our country and for the world that we have come so far that a Black person could be seriously considered to be a viable candidate for a major political party. But to vote for (or against) a person simply because of his race is folly.

I observed Mr. Obama's performance in his less than one term in national office, and determined that his claims of change, hope, and unity were without substance. His billion dollar pork earmarks for his constituency, his wife's promotion after he secured a million dollar grant for her employer, his shelving the idealistic principle of public financing for the fact that he could get six times as much money than McCain by going to liberal interest groups, his slavish adherence to his party in his voting record all show me his performance does not represent CHANGE, but the sadder side of politics as usual. His voting record, (16th most liberal in 2005, 10th most liberal in 2006, most liberal in 2007) shows that his desire for UNITY is based on his desire for people to come over to his viewpoint rather than reaching out toward the center. As for HOPE, we hope that an on the job trainee with no executive experience can do better than a former governor or a person with over 20 years as a naval officer. But his lack of experience did not bother the massive youth vote; they don't value experience because they have none themselves. But anyone over 45 knows how important experience in any profession is: from plumbing to law-making to race-car driving. Enthusiasm and slogans don't carry the day.

Yes, I participated in this historic election by selecting the person I believed most worthy. But now that we have the other person, God bless him. I believe he is a smart man, a sincere man, and a hard worker (and not a secret muslim). I pray for the safety of him and his family. And I pray that he, and the many people he'll have to pay back for their massive help in his meteoric rise, can bring about good for this country and the world.

Very interesting discussion. I am glad so many feel such great confidence in our new President. He is our new leader and I intend to be supportive. However, we have a Democratic congress which will surely pass anything he sends their way. We have elder Supreme Court judges which will be replaced by this same congress. Checks and balances are always good. Bush had a similar circumstance early on. The pendulum swings. Let's hope it doesn't go too far.

I don't know why elders voted as they did, but it made no sense to me. I wonder if they liked fox news better? I just don't know. I am 65 as are my friends and we all voted for Obama because we liked his policies, felt his experience was the most beneficial to get our country in line. We had heard Bush make promises, as did McCain, and not fulfill them. McCain would say he voted with Bush 90% of the time and then that he'd go a different way. Was that inclined to make us trust him? We also didn't like that McCain chose a woman who clearly was unprepared to be president. Why did he do that if he was so loyal to this country?

I don't remotely see elders as more intelligent, more wise or anything else. We are humans and we can be stupid as we age as well as when we are young. What causes so many elders to be taken by shysters who convince them to turn over their money for some scam? I have known wise elders and not so wise, those who can sort through information and those who cannot.

Obama had a lot of abilities, had experience and yet how many believed he didn't because they heard some news or radio program say something else? You could look it up for yourself how many bills he co-sponsored while a Senator but how many did? You could look at how seldom McCain voted on anything this last year as he ran for office but how many did?

How many did research or trusted somebody else to do it for them? Incidentally despite my working for Obama and my friends working for him, I do not know anybody who thought obama was 'the one' or some messiah figure. That came more out of right wing accusations. The stuff about him being a socialist was again right wing info which McCain even denied when he was pinned down and yet how many who believed it bothered to look up anything about it?

A lot of people vote against their own best interests for what they see as higher purposes. The thing is though make sure they really are higher purposes-- whichever age you are.

Not to say all elders who voted for McCain did so for this reason because there likely are no blanket reasons, but maybe a lot of elders are more easily stirred to fear. And fear has been an effective political tactic for quite awhile. Maybe they are more afraid of change. I really don't know. I mean we all can speculate but often people who think they know why they did something really don't. It's something inside that they simply cannot access.

At any rate whatever the reasons, I hope that we are going to see political tactics like were used this time like accusations of terrorism, etc etc... I'd like to see those stop working for all ages. If we vote on the issues, we might disagree but at least it makes more sense.

The L.A. Times Thurs. 11/06/08 edition carries a breakdown chart sourcing The National Election Pool exit poll conducted for select major media outlets reporting on the majorities that voted for Obama and McCain.

They cite the following groups as voting for McCain: married, white men and women, 65+, conservatives, protestants, white evangelicals, Republicans, military veterans.

As to why they voted as they did, I think there is a voter residue left over from the eight years of divisiveness that had been intentionally nurtured as the only way to distract many voters away from major issues and enable winning elections. Fortunately, despite Palin's efforts that tactic was not as effective this time.

There continues to be a group who want to mix theology with government inappropriately politicizing issues.

I'm also aware of those who say they're not racist, but whose actions in business about which I know prove otherwise. I agree that other reasons cited above are true, too, guns, etc. (The good news is the so-called Bradley Effect -- if there ever was one -- did not materialize in this election.)

Strange as it may seem, I expect there are still those who believe the Iraq 9/11 cause and effect relationship stories and may still think this is WWII all over again, which, of course, it isn't.

I think there are always a hard core voter group who align themselves with one particular political party throughout their lifetime. They religiously vote a straight party ticket, and seldom, if ever, waiver to candidates of another party. I think this has been especially true of older voters. They come from a day of worker/company loyalty, guaranteed pensions, good health care and may not have been fully impacted by all the world changes. Even if they are touched by change they simply can't think outside the box. Only after change happens, shows some success can they then accept it -- maybe.

From some of the demographic maps I've seen of both red and blue states, the rural and farm areas votes tended much more strongly toward McCain just as did the geographic center of our country. Most farming any more is big business.

What I noticed years ago is that the Republican Party has long since ceased to actually practice what their party used to stand for. Unfortunately, too many of their followers fail to realize that has happened. They've also allowed a minority base to take over their party. If anyone takes the time to examine what actions, especially their most recent administrations have taken, many are counter to professed party ideology and beliefs established many years ago.

This isn't the first time in USA history when a political party has gradually evolved to positions and actions they previously maligned their opposition party for practicing. For years now, as an example, the Republican Party has become the big spenders, running up record government deficits (check Reagan's numbers,) and increased government employees in large numbers. They have abdicated responsibility to the average American and cater primarily to big business. They've created arguments to justify doing that which have proven to not be true -- that the ordinary American ultimately benefits from the gross excesses of big business. The astonishing thing is that so many voters actually believe these erroneous rationales.

I believe this nation's government would be much healthier if a moderate majority would retake possession of the Republican Party. Our country desperately needs to see unification of our peoples toward the greater good. I urgently hope both of our major political parties can find a way to work together toward that end.

I find the stats that you have tended to look at to imply that older voters are racist really interesting. -2 is not really statistically important especially since many people tend to vote along party lines. After all, someone had to get McCain this far, and a lot of them are not changing their votes for ANY Democrat.

The stat that really jumps out, as far as inferring racism is the numbers for black voters 95% - which went up 7%. Hispanics went up 13%.

But no, we want to look at a 2% number. Pathetic.

People tend to infer that I am racist whenever I talk about illegal aliens (not the legal ones mind you), they will really start calling me racist now.

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