Seniors Want Substance Over Style

Older voters are not abandoning Trump

60 Plus Founder and Chairman Jim Martin Friday released the following commentary Tuesday:

“Having studied and engaged in presidential policy since the administration of Dwight Eisenhower, I’ve learned a thing or two over the years. With the benefit of hindsight and first hand experience, I know unequivocally that senior citizens have had no better friend in the White House than Donald Trump. I say this not as a point of partisanship but a point of history.

From improvements in Medicare coverage and lower premiums to expanded safety at nursing homes to confront the COVID-19 pandemic, President Trump has an impressive list of achievements to improve the health and lives of seniors. So what’s up with recent headlines claiming the president is losing support among older Americans?

First off, stories like this are old hat. Consider this headline from the September 21, 1984 edition of the New York Times: ‘The Elderly May Dump Reagan’. Sounds ominous, doesn’t it? But after the votes were counted, seniors voted for Ronald Reagan by a whopping 64% – 36% margin over Walter Mondale. So much for dumping the incumbent. 

It’s easy to dismiss the current stories in the New York Times, Politico and other reliably liberal outlets as slanted at best and fake news at worst. To an extent, these articles are supported by polling data suggesting former Vice President Joe Biden holds a lead over President Trump among seniors, along with cherry picked quotes from random old people who think the president is a bad man. 

But Trump’s record isn’t built on quicksand. It’s built on a bedrock of accomplishments that seniors know and will remember in November. The Trump administration improved Medicare with his plan to cap the cost of insulin at $35 per month. With diabetes being a contributing factor in about 270,000 deaths in the United States in 2017, it’s comforting to older Americans knowing the cost of insulin won’t be a barrier to their health care.

Medicare Advantage premiums have dropped 28% in recent years and are the lowest since 2007. President Trump also earmarked $81 million for increased nursing home inspections and other initiatives that keep seniors safer amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Time and again, President Trump has demonstrated his commitment to and compassion for older Americans and their families. 

So how can polls show Biden leading Trump among seniors? Biden retains the folksy aura of an old school politician who came of age in the mid-20th century. It is a familiar and comfortable style for many older Americans who remember a time when candidates kissing babies did not trigger outrage on Twitter. The former vice president also amplifies the COVID-19 fears of people who are in the most vulnerable demographic for getting the disease. 

Contrast Joe Biden’s style with that of Donald Trump. To say Trump’s brand of politics is brash is an understatement to be sure, but an appreciation for history shows this sort of political pugilism is as old as the republic. Thomas Paine threw beanballs at George Washington, saying of the first president, “If you are not great enough to have ambition you are little enough to have vanity.”  A Civil War-era men’s club in Montgomery, Alabama went so far as to proclaim, “Resistance to Lincoln is obedience to God.” Sound familiar? 

Style matters in politics and the differences between Trump and Biden could not be more stark. But as the campaign matures, the focus invariably shifts away from style toward substance. This will be a challenge for Biden because of Trump’s performance on the issues that matter. Seniors are keenly aware of improvements to Medicare over the past three years and the president’s efforts to ensure the solvency of Social Security. For seniors who rely on investments to supplement their income, they know the impact of Trump’s economic policies on their 401(k) plans. 

Trump also holds an advantage over Biden in terms of ideology. Demands from Biden’s left flank to “defund the police” will not resonate with older Americans. The same holds true for Biden’s accommodation of Communist China. No group of people better understands socialism than seniors, many of whom fought against it in uniform. Add to that Biden’s embrace of the Green New Deal and what emerges is a stew of policies that many seniors will not find palatable. 

Voters 65 and older have supported GOP presidential nominees over Democrats since 2004, and President Trump won 53% of the senior vote in 2016. It’s a reflection of the enthusiasm we’ve seen first hand during 60 Plus Bus Tour events that have criss-crossed the country in years past. Along with educating seniors on the issues, entertainer and 60 Plus spokesman Pat Boone has played a pivotal role in motivating the greatest generation. Political observers know that Boone’s voice is a powerful Get Out The Vote mechanism because he moves the needle with seniors, particularly women, and enjoins them to leave the comfort of their rocking chairs to do their patriotic duty on Election Day.

Polls are snapshots of opinion, frozen in a moment. Joe Biden may hold an edge over President Trump with older voters today. But in the coming debate of substance over style, the former vice president has his work cut out for him. The media know this and that is why they are bending over backwards to advance the daydream of seniors deserting the president. It’s not likely to happen no matter how much Biden and his media allies want it.”