Three weeks ago, we implored seniors to vote in their own interests on November 6th. In three of the past four midterm elections, older Americans lopsidedly voted for Republicans – despite the party’s proposals to cut and privatize Social Security and Medicare – and slash Medicaid. This time, seniors reversed that trend and voted in roughly equal numbers for Democrats and Republicans, helping the former flip the House of Representatives. (According to exit polling, the split among voters aged 65+ was 52% Republican/48% Democrat – within the margin of error.)
“Nationally, Democrats won in 2018 because when it came to ‘the deciders’ — [older] Americans —they fought Republicans to a draw. And how they did that is the story of this election.” – Politico, 11/13/18
The question is: why? Early indicators point to the issue of health care. In poll after poll, voters listed health care as a high priority in the midterm elections. Little wonder. Congressional Republicans voted for Obamacare repeal legislation that would have stripped coverage from tens of millions of Americans. When they failed to repeal, the Trump administration and Congressional GOP eliminated the Affordable Care Act insurance mandate penalty, and worked in other ways to sabotage the law.
Once the Republicans got control of the House, Senate, and White House, they enacted a tax cut that mostly benefitted the wealthy and big corporations, then claimed retirees’ earned benefits would have to be slashed to pay for it. Both the White House and Republicans in Congress proposed to eliminate or cut services for low income seniors and research into diseases affecting the elderly. – Entitled to Know, 10/23/18
In fact, budget proposals from the White House and the majority party in Congress called for billions of dollars in cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid – along with a voucher system for Medicare. House candidates vowing to protect these programs prevailed in last week’s elections, including more than 70 endorsed by the National Committee.
Campaign ad from Congresswoman-elect Lizzie Fletcher (D-TX)
A Democratic congressional challenger from Houston, Lizzie Fletcher, ran a campaign ad accusing her opponent of undermining health care protections — featuring a wrecking ball crashing into a cinderblock wall labeled, “People 50 and over.” The message resonated. She – and more than 30 other Democrats – helped the Democrats regain control of the House. In keeping with recent history, Americans aged 50+ made up 56% of the electorate in the midterms.
“[Democrats] won the popular vote for the House by a 6.7 percent margin… driven by a marked improvement among all segments of the electorate. But because older voters made up a larger share of the electorate in this year’s midterms, Democrats’ stronger performance with this cohort was critical to their success.” – Politico 11/13/18
We wrote on October 23rd that a significant shift in the senior vote would represent a historic turnaround. On election day, we saw a swing of 13% toward the Democrats compared to the 2014 midterms. Seniors are starting to vote in their own interests again – shocked into action, no doubt, by the existential threat the outgoing House majority posed to their health and financial security. This trend must continue if older Americans’ health care and earned benefits are to be protected – and hopefully, expanded – moving forward.
For more on the senior vote in the 2018 midterms, watch “Behind the Headlines” on Facebook Live.