Interesting observation this week in the Los Angeles Times: recent polls are indicating boomers – at least those over 50 – are beginning to defect to the Republican party. Could this really be true? And if so, why?
Well, you have to first consider the two prevailing schools of thought on voting behavior. First, there’s the theory that your political leanings are stamped early in life and never change as the years go by. In essence, the boomer who supported McGovern can be relied upon to support Obama or any Democrat in future elections.
But there’s also another view; a domino theory, so to speak, that says as you age, your priorities change, which in turn changes your voting behavior. To give an example: You hit retirement age…you are now on a fixed income…you become economically conservative…you vote your wallet.
According to the political strategists interviewed in the L.A. Times, it appears that latter theory is prevailing:
Boomers voted for Obama in 2008. They voted strongly for Democrats in the congressional election of 2006. (They voted for George W. Bush in 2004, but only by a narrow margin —unlike the more conservative 65+ voters.)
Now, though, many of the boomers who voted for Obama are moving into the Republican column —and behaving (or at least answering survey questions) just like the older cohort.
“There’s evidence that those two generations, the early boomers and the seniors, may be converging,” said Andrew Kohut, Pew’s director. “If it holds up — and we’ll see in November — that could be a significant change.”
Evidence that we’re starting to vote just like our parents?? OMG!! Even the Democrats are acknowledging it could be true:
There’s a long-running debate,” noted Democratic pollster Mark Mellman. “Are political views a product of voters’ generational experience or of their place in the life cycle?
“To the extent that it’s a product of their place in the life cycle, [older voters] are beginning to look a lot like their parents,” he said. “They are becoming more conservative over time — more conservative on economic issues but more liberal than their parents on social issues.”
That sounds more plausible, we can see boomers possibly buying into the conservative view of economic issues – but mass numbers of us turning into social conservatives? We just don’t see that ever happening.
So what’s a Democrat to do? Some strategists are telling Democrats who want to get elected to steer right of center on issues that affect the pocketbook, such as healthcare, taxes and the deficit. But stay left on social issues like gay marriage and abortion rights.That’s pretty much how Bill Clinton positioned himself to win the White House in ’92.
Is there a chance it could work for Democrats this fall? That’s a big maybe. Because although there are many boomers who will always find it repugnant to pull the lever for a Republican, the “throw the bums out” fever is sweeping fast across the country.
Lots of boomers are mad as hell and they’re not going to take it anymore. That can’t bode well for any incumbent – Dem or GOP – come this November. There’s just a lot more Democrats to take it out on.