In a New York Times op-ed, Thomas Edsall asks, "Is Obamacare Destroying the Democratic Party?" He cites Chuck Schumer's recent comments criticizing the decision to prioritize health care reform in President Obama's first term, rather than more aid to the middle class. Yes, I expressed agreement with Schumer after he spoke, and yes, I should have made note of the fact that Schumer labored strenuously to coddle the rich at the expense of the middle class during the time period in question. But now we have outgoing senator Tom Harkin, a single-payer advocate, also expressing qualms about the health care law. And so the discussion continues.
I don't want to debate this again; I'd just like to refer to what Ed Kilgore says about Edsall's analysis of the polls:
... Edsall wonders if the entire shift of old white folks towards the GOP was the product of anger over Obamacare taking their money and giving it to those people:And what could that something have been? Could it have been ... a black guy at the top of the ticket?
The defection of seniors is most striking when comparing exit poll data from 2006 and 2010. In 2006, seniors of all races voted 52-48 for Democratic House candidates; in 2010, they voted 58-42 for Republican House candidates.Trouble is, Edsall omits exit poll data from 2008, long before enactment of the Affordable Care Act, when seniors went Republican by a 53-45 margin (white seniors by a 58-40 margin) despite all the factors that would normally have led to a backlash against the party holding the White House. Something else has been going on with seniors that the decision to pursue health care reform may or may not have exacerbated but certainly did not cause.
I think it was that (the older demographic is the whitest and least racially tolerant) -- but I also think it's the result of a bigger Democratic cultural shift, toward the young, toward non-whites, toward single women, toward people conducting their personal lives in ways that don't (or don't yet) involve heterosexual marriage and a white picket fence and 3.2 children. This has coincided with Fox News being a constant media companion for many white retirees through all their waking hours. Fox presents itself as the last defender of cultural tradition.
I'm struck, in the recent Quinnipiac poll of 2016, by how age-skewed the votes are in head-to-head matchups. Hillary Clinton crushes every Republican among 18-29-year-olds (I guess her age isn't a problem for the young), but she's losing among older voters, except against Ted Cruz:
18-29: Clinton 55%, Christie 27%
30-49: Clinton 44%, Christie 44%
50-64: Clinton 42%, Christie 47%
65+: Clinton 39%, Christie 45%
18-29: Clinton 59%, Paul 26%
30-49: Clinton 48%, Paul 41%
50-64: Clinton 43%, Paul 46%
65+: Clinton 42%, Paul 43%
18-29: Clinton 61%, Huckabee 22%
30-49: Clinton 48%, Huckabee 41%
50-64: Clinton 42%, Huckabee 46%
65+: Clinton 39%, Huckabee 44%
18-29: Clinton 59%, Bush 24%
30-49: Clinton 50%, Bush 39%
50-64: Clinton 42%, Bush 46%
65+: Clinton 39%, Bush 46%
18-29: Clinton 61%, Ryan 26%
30-49: Clinton 46%, Ryan 43%
50-64: Clinton 41%, Ryan 47%
65+: Clinton 42%, Ryan 45%
18-29: Clinton 55%, Romney 28%
30-49: Clinton 46%, Romney 45%
50-64: Clinton 41%, Romney 49%
65+: Clinton 41%, Romney 49%
18-29: Clinton 64%, Cruz 21%
30-49: Clinton 50%, Cruz 38%
50-64: Clinton 45%, Cruz 41%
65+: Clinton 42%, Cruz 40%
IAre the old blaming her for Obamacare? Or is this something bigger -- the perception that she represents a less traditional party, a perception the young are also picking up on?
If so, that could be a problem for Democrats in 2016, because older people outvote younger people even in presidential years. But it's not strictly an Obamacare problem.