Thursday, August 21, 2008

Will the Oldsters Put McCain Over the Top?

I worry about the world-view gap between septuagenarians, nonagenarians, centenarians, and the rest of us. I worry that this gap may cost Obama the election in November, and I'm not happy that those with little at stake in America's future may make the difference in determining what that future will be.

Yes, it's risky to talk in generalities, and I know that there are grandma's and grandpa's who are rabid for Obama. But, in general, I believe a large majority of oldsters will vote for McCain. Why would they make this irrational choice? Because they think he's the rational choice, of course! McCain appeals to their world-view.

I recently observed a well-dressed, tight-lipped old lady sitting in a car repair shop waiting room reading one of the latest swift-boat books about Obama. She fit exactly the profile of the Fox News watching, Limbaugh-listening senior who lives in a world very different from mine.

If I had tried to chat with this lady I'd surely have found she's ruled by fear. Fear of blacks. Fear of Muslims. Fear of latinos. Fear of Russians. Fear of taxes. Our imaginary conversation would be all about what she's afraid of and nothing about what she's for. Her vision would be a return to the America of the 1950's when she was in her prime and society was not yet homogenized. She liked it when the white cream was clearly on the top, and she identifies with anyone who rants at how America has changed in the last 50 years. And, unfortunately, she votes.

Is this lady a caricature of her generation? Are they all so buttoned-up and sour? Of course not. But her generation certainly leans hard in her direction. Their knee-jerk reactions have little to do with today's realities and everything to do with the programming they received as young people. Less wealthy oldsters fear the democratic party because it represents a multi-colored society, and wealthier oldsters add the fear that their wealth might be redistributed to those who are different from them. McCain looks like them, and he speaks their language. He will get their vote.

My world is also largely caucasian and well-to-do, but it's a world one generation ahead of this older woman's. We've been through the period when other races and women proved they are just as capable as whites and men. We've been through the period when homosexuals "came out", and we learned they are not the scary deviants that they were formerly portrayed to be. We've been through the period when the Vietnam war and the recent Iraq war showed that American militarism can be a cancer on our country. We've been through a period when our government failed to enact sensible energy and fiscal policies. My baby-boomer generation understands that a return to the past would be retrogression rather than progress.

Will the votes of people who live in a world long past put John McCain in the White House? Will we who want to capitalize on America's new strengths have to wait four more years before it's obvious that America's gone down the wrong roads for too long? I hope not. But I worry about the voting power of those who won't be around to suffer the consequences of their fear-filled choice for the republican party and its backward-looking agenda.

1 comment:

ThomasLB said...

In the 60s it was "Don't trust anyone over thirty." Now, forty years later, it's "Don't trust anyone over seventy."