Tuesday, October 29, 2002
previous entry | main | next entry | TrackBack (0)
AGE AND IDEOLOGY: The Daily
AGE AND IDEOLOGY: The Daily Telegraph makes a point I had been ruminating about... that after the 2002 election, there will be a gerontological shift in the Senate from Republicans to Democrats. In plain English -- the Republican old white guys like Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms are beginning to retire, while the Democratic old white guys are staying around and in some cases re-emerging onto the political landscape. Robert Byrd is 85; Fritz Hollinngs is 79, and both Hawaiian Democratic Senators are 78. Frank Lautenberg, if elected, is also 78; Walter Mondale looks like a spring chicken at 74. The oldest Republican left in the Senate is Ted Stevens at 79.
Two questions: will this trend persist, and does it mean anything?
1) The trend will persist. There are four reasons for this. First, as Michael Lewis noted so adroitly this Sunday, one effect of 9/11 and the accounting scandals is a instinctual desire to turn to "established" brands. In politics, that means old white guys. Second, if I was a Democrat, I'd do anything possible to court senior citizens, since they tend to vote at a higher rate. Putting up older candidates is one way to cater to this constituency. Third, if you believe Robert Putnam, the current generation of senior citizens has more social capital than younger generations. This reduces the supply of attractive candidates, making it possible for more seasoned politicians to stay in the fray, as it were. Fourth, the Strom Thurmond story has highlighted the fact that the Senate might be the best retirement home ever invented.
2) It means a few things. For one thing, it's possible that gentility will return to the Senate. Older politicians will feel less of a need to earn their ideological stripes. For another, it could lead to an "age gap" between the parties, with Democrats picking up more older voters out of a brand identification with older white guys. There are others; e-mail them into me and I'll post the good ones.posted by Dan on 10.29.02 at 11:02 AM