Since President Obama's election, the Republican party has gained support across all age groups, says a recent Pew poll, with a 5 percent to 6 percent jump among baby boomers, Generation X, and Millennials. But the shift has been most pronounced among those born from 1928 to 1945, who have shown a 17 percent shift to the right. Support from older voters could be crucial in this year's mid-term elections. But will the aging of the party make it harder for Republicans to win down the road?
Republicans have sold out at their peril: "Elderly voters...have come running back to the GOP in the last year," says Daniel Larison in American Conservative, because the Republicans have painted health reform as a threat to Medicare. Unfortunately, becoming the "defenders" of a gigantic entitlement program for the elderly -- "at the expense of our future" -- is not the way to endear the GOP to tomorrow's voters.
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If you're going to have a solid voting block, this is the one to have: "You can win an awful lot of elections just by mobilizing the over-65 constituency," says Ross Douthat in The New York Times. They vote, "and there are more of them every day." But the GOP can't just abandon its commitment to limited government. The trick will be figuring out how to keep the elderly happy and rein in Medicare spending -- an economic necessity -- at the same time.
The elderly alone aren't enough to sustain the GOP: "In the long run," says Kevin Drum in Mother Jones, "this is a disaster not just for small-government conservatives but for the GOP as well." Republicans have driven away younger voters, "blacks, Hispanics, and virtually the entire Northeast." They'll find out soon enough that the "white South and the elderly" aren't enough to sustain a national political party.
To survive, the GOP must work with Democrats: "The future of conservatism depends upon restraining entitlement spending" on things like Social Security and Medicare, says Jonathan Chait in The New Republic. Trouble is, Republicans can't do it "without Democratic cover." But if they want that, they'll have to cooperate on health-care reform, say, or "a bipartisan deal to trim Social Security while raising taxes a bit -- the kind of deal Obama is all but begging for."
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