Tilting at Windmills

January/February 2012 As goes California …

By Charles Peters

“Since 2004 we’ve seen younger people voting much more Democratic than average and older people much more Republican than average,” concludes Andrew Kohut, in a study by the Pew Research Center, which he directs. I think this trend may have begun much earlier—thirty-three years ago, in fact. That’s when California voters adopted Proposition 13, which was basically a statement by property owners old enough to no longer have children in public schools that they were more concerned with avoiding taxes than with educating the young. Of course, the Republican Party, with its kneejerk opposition to taxes, provided this group a natural home. The only hope the Democrats seem to have of getting support from seniors lies in casting themselves as unqualified defenders of Social Security and Medicare, which is not a wise position to be in.

Unfortunately the problem seems destined to get worse as the proportion of seniors in the population grows. The challenge for the rest of us is to be the ghosts of Christmases past, present, and future, in order to persuade these modern-day Scrooges to see the light.

Charles Peters is the founding editor of the Washington Monthly and the author of a new book on Lyndon B. Johnson published by Times Books.