Happy Birthday, Millie Garfield
INTERESTING STUFF – 20 August 2016

Does Ageism Contribute to Donald Trump's Appeal?

As I have explained here in the past, I didn't know 20 years ago when I began studying ageing that I would become an advocate for elders. A large part of what led me to that is ageism – what the late geriatrician who coined the term, Robert N. Butler, described in his foreward to the Encyclopedia of Ageism as being “pervasive, gross and subtle, and omnipresent.”

”It is found in the reduced delivery of services,” he continued, “time limits to mortgages, depiction in the media and by Madison Avenue, poor nursing homes, passed over promotion, and other prejudices in the workplace.

“Age discrimination is present in our language and even in our families.”

Earlier this week, I ran across a short essay at Daily Kos written by someone identified only as Soprano who thinks ageism has a lot to do with Donald Trump's popularity among baby boomer men. Let him explain:

They (“We” I should say; I’m 64) have changed our society as we have gotten older, to our advantage.

“We’ve hit a wall, though. America’s love of youth. Notice how the elder members of any cast on t.v. are, at the most, in their 40s, usually in their 30s. Models for clothing advertisements are almost always young — not too many models of my age and size out there.

“Even AARP has embraced youth; now, their magazines are full of people in their 50s, not so much with older folks.

“The articles addressed towards them are usually about how they are falling apart and need help; not so much about the positives of growing older (and yes, there are positives). People over 70 are pitiful victims, doncha know?”

Soprano goes on to explain that he thinks this is why Trump supporters, mostly men in their 60s and 70s, are so irate. It is not the economy or immigration that has made them true believers so much as it is the cultural attack on their self-esteem.

”They have been emasculated,” Soprano continues, “and like little children, are throwing temper tantrums because no one is paying attention to them anymore.”

Soprano blames the predicament these men find themselves in on media in particular and society in general that are geared only toward young people (“We have sacrificed the wisdom of our elderly for the beauty of youth.”)

The prestige and power these men had in their middle years has been snatched away, says Soprano, and

”They don’t know where to lash out because of this societal problem.

“The real answer lies somewhere in giving these people their autonomy back and helping them find a sense of purpose. People who only worry...about themselves will never be happy people.

“Oh, and god forbid, if a WOMAN were to be elected President, that would just send them over the edge.”

I think there is some merit to this explanation – at least, in part. Boomers ruled the American world for so long – all the media told us so again and again – and none of them ever believed it would end.

What do you think?


UPDATE: Neal Gabler reports at billmoyers.com that a Gallup researcher, Jonathan Rothwell, agrees with Soprano:

"What Rothwell discovered," reports Gabler, "is that those who view Trump favorably are racially isolated as well as isolated from immigrants. Their grievances aren’t so much economic or even sociological as psychological. These older whites are a group in despair — shrouded by a cloud of pessimism, loss and disempowerment, as Rothwell describes the nationalist tide in other countries similar to the one that is now bearing Trump."

Ronni, you are correct about the ageism in AARPpublications. These products focus on the younger old, not the elderly. However, the truth is, to survive, they are using demographic research like every other publication, which shows a much larger market in these younger ages. Makes me wonder what they will do when the babies born in the "birth dearth arrive at age 50?

To be clear, the AARP comment in the story is a quotation from Soprano's piece at Daily Kos. Not that I necessarily disagree, I just don't want to take credit where it isn't due.

I agree that there are angry men suffering the last straw with the loss of their youth and no longer having command of the room. These men have lost power gradually over the years and had always had grudges against women and minorities and unemployment ----and here comes Trump--finally someone who is saying out loud what they have been thinking all these years but have not be able to say because they would be accused of being "politically incorrect".

Church membership gave some power as head of the home so some chose to be embraced into the fold. Some bought Harleys and felt powerful. Some just did passive -aggressive behavior whenever possible.

Having to share the wealth is not fun especially if you feel you have been forced to accept defeat --when you knew you were a better man.

That said---- there are some really great men out there!!

AARP's magazine has inspired a local magazine called Prime Time which is supposed to be for the older members of our community (here on Cape Cod 13% of the year-out population are retirees) has told free lance journalists that stories about the ongoing accomplishments of people of 65 is not for them. Almost no one over 70 ever gets mentioned in their pages. I'm certain the parent company of that and other local publications does not consider hiring anyone over 50 in editorial positions.

My two cents is that it's probably very difficult - maybe impossible - to tease apart all the -isms and -phobias that characterize Trump supporters. Racism. Ageism. Extreme sexism. Homophobia. Xenophobia. I believe there's a feeling of profound fear that underlies all of those things, leading them to crave an authoritarian figure who will tell them what to do and make it all right again. So maybe they're angry because "no one is paying attention to them anymore." But maybe they're also afraid.

Lest anyone think I'm feeling compassionate towards these Trumpish folks, I'm not. They need to put on their big-boy (or big-girl) pants and suck it up because no one gets out of here alive. Maybe once we can all learn to wrap our minds around that, we'll learn to be more kind to one another.

Please, as Soprano sez, "send them over the edge."

Great post that totally makes sense. Add to that chronic health problems from smoking, diet & alcohol and you have some self-centered unhappy men.

I'm much more resentful & fearful of angry, aggressive, gun-toting Trumpies than I am of people of other religions, skin-colors, countries of origin,or sexual identifications. You can show opposition to a changing world in better ways than violence, slander, and support of a dangerous narcissist.

Passed over for promotion - I know all about that one. I come with my full plate of skills and when I get to the interview, OMG, she is over 40 - it seems like an exercise in futility.

I think the comments as quoted are insightful. Of course The cult of Trump would not be as effective if there were not widespread underlying feelings of white male entitlement. And just to mention--there are numbers of older female Trump supporters as well.

My observation has been that Trump supporters are more likely to be undereducated white men of all ages who finally see someone who publicly condones and encourages their anger, bigotry, hate, zenophobia, and other antisocial behavior. If only it were limited to men in their 60s and 70s. Then I'd have hope for the younger generation. It's the pervasiveness through several generations that's so frightening.

Patty and Pied Type speak for me. In addition I might add that the Trump loonies are not limited to old mad men. There are some women who are resentful and bigoted who will vote for Trump.

It's not entirely one category, but the underlying theme in all sex and age groups is lack of education.

I heard a talk by Donna Leon, author of the Commissario Brunetti mysteries a couple of years ago. She's an American, but has lived in Venice for decades. Someone in the bookstore audience asked her why Berlusconi kept getting elected. She said that men admired his way with beautiful women and his wealth. That's trump's men in a nutshell as I see it.

“We have sacrificed the wisdom of our elderly for the beauty of youth.”

Little short of tragic, and on a grand scale.


Whoops -- user error.

I agree with Patty, PiedType, Wendl and others as well. Most Drumpfeteers appear to be angry white males between ages 45-70 and the women they have kept "in their place"; that is, dominated by white males. Lack of education is likely part of it since most of his supporters have little or no college--this is true among the younger cohorts of his supporters also. The older Drumpfeteers came of age in a time when well-paid manufacturing jobs were plentiful and available to white males (only!) with a high school diploma or less. How could these men not view themselves as "entitled" since no women or minorities were even allowed on the playing field.

Like any good carnival barker/reality TV show host, Drumpf is highly attuned to what his audience wants to hear and gives it to them--right back atcha! Racism, sexism, ageism, xenophobia, hatred, bullying, up front bigotry--they've got it all in Mr. Drumpf. Unfortunately, the rest of us will get the whole package as well if this terrible man gets elected President in November. Electing Drumpf would only reinforce the same traits in the next few generations, although demographic change will render them increasingly obsolete.

The Beat Generation had their Angry Young Men. Today the Trump supporters have their angry old men. The young ones were much more interesting.

What characteristics do Trumpeteers share?

Anger -- they blame immigrants, legal and illegal, for loss of jobs and opportunities that, if they were honest with themselves, they wouldn't qualify for even if there were no immigrants.

Fear -- Most of them are technologically challenged (as is Trump himself) and are actually afraid of the world passing them by. They may have mastered their iPhones, but couldn't make a spreadsheet if their lives depended upon it.

Insecurity -- Remember when we were all told that if we got a decent job with a big company we'd be set for life? Then those companies switched their manufacturing to Singapore or China and everyone here was left high and dry. Oh, and they stole your pension plan, too.

Insecurity Part 2 -- The house you'd paid for for years and had all that equity built up suddenly lost all its value in 2008 - 2009, and there went all the money you thought you'd have for your retirement. Now you're stuck with the idea of having to live on nothing but your Social Security, in other words, you'll be living below the poverty level.

Insecurity Part 3 -- The kids you sent to college can't find a job either and so they've moved back in with you and your wife along with their three squalling kids and un-housebroken puppy.

I fully understand the anger and fear and insecurity -- but how do they think Trump is going to solve those problems? He knows nothing about the system and how to work it, he'll only make everything worse. They're all going to be up a creek without a paddle.

If only Trump supporters could actually examine their lives and understand the changes that have robbed them of their sense of well-being! It's so much easier to be angry, and since many are Christians, they also have that sheet to pull over their heads. Really, you can think any ugly thing you like as long as you buy in to the more simplistic tenets of organized religion. I know some deeply religious people who live as examples of the love and idealism of religion, but I also know a LOT who are hypocritical in the extreme. It's all sad.

I appreciate the various comments and won't enter the Trump debate tho I'm not pro. What kind of bothers me is the broad brush used in describing "Men"...I see it as ageism pure and simple. I thought this was an issue we all rail against...I guess not when it comes to politics. ..almost a male bashing . Discrimination. ...so much for a united front against ageism.

I have two married friends. None of them are college educated. One pair is for Trump. He is a bit of the angry and bitter white man, as he feels no purpose since retirement. They only travel to see children and golf is his only hobby. They live in a conservative southern city. They are religious of the more conservative fundamentalist type. The other pair are democrats and although, they don't like Hillary, would never be for Trump. They are very involved with conservation and environmental concerns and he made an easy transition from retirement. They have travelled overseas and have seen a broader view of the world and they in a larger
city that is more cosmopolitan.They are not religious, as in church going, but believe in a higher power of sorts with a much more open, inclusive, we are all connected view than typical church dogma. I am with the second pair in my views. I agree with Kate, it's both older white men AND women. I live in a "red" area of the country and definitely see it as both sexes. Also I've heard of a book called "Hillbilly Elegy" that might explain this further.

Hi 2nd

I work as a retiree a couple days week with these type people
Many are real angry with anyone who has more than they do. And that includes anyone their ago. The plus 60 year old guys I see all look like Wilford Brimley.

They all have giant pot bellies, terribly unkept white hair, no money, KMart shoes and 2 - 3 marriages behind them. They are positive they'd be rich if they could have invested their money instead of the government thru Social Security.

They are clueless,

Fantastic topic and comments.

Wilford Brimley..


Wonder who that is..

*looks him up.*


Fred, I like your sense of humour.

I do not cease to wonder how such a large country, powerfull, home to millions of citizens, many of them worthy, could only produce two such candidates for President!
President - the highest, most powerful position in the USA.
How can Americans consider leaving their future in the hands of Trump?!
And what mistifies me even more is that, when the time comes, most Americans will NOT VOTE. If you don't like any of the candidates, at least vote in the one that is less poisonous. The lesser evil.
Do something! protect your future!

The comments to this entry are closed.