The New York Times needs editorial help. Only a complete absence of editorial competence or integrity could have allowed a completely false headline --- Between Young and Old, a Political Collision -- to see light on Friday.
The heart of Kirk Johnson's article is an exploration of the suggestion made by one of the experts he quotes:
If you only skimmed the headline, you'd assume that the writer was about to quote young and old people in political conflict -- but that's not what he does here at all. There is not one quote from a young person anywhere in the article. Instead, there's a pretty substantial exploration of anxieties among elders in Jefferson County, Colorado and some discussion of polling data and political consultant opinions about older voters' likely behavior in the 2012 election.
Some of what Johnson highlights is actually interesting, despite a thoroughly muddled presentation.
- The recent New York CD-26 special election, improbably won by a Democrat in a very Republican area, does show there is a "Medicare voting bloc." Older voters want to keep Medicare. Notwithstanding obstacles such as the Time's style for describing Representative Ryan's budget plan which apparently requires obfuscation and circumlocution, elders evidently believe that this plan means a vote for a Republican is a vote to end Medicare.
- When AARP urged elders to tell their reps to let Medicare alone, "200,000 e-mails filled inboxes in Washington."
- Besides, elders face real problems for which they expect government support.
These were people whose devotion to family simply would never have allowed them to be drawn into a competition between young and old for scarce resources. The older folks worked on the campaign so that their young relatives could get a good start in life; the young ones weren't about to throw away grandma. I can't imagine any of them being willing to be drawn into a sham generational fight -- I can imagine them demanding vocally that politicians solve our economic problems in some way that seems fair and offers the greatest good to the greatest number. This may look impossible in Washington, but it seems dead obvious out in the country at large. And it's safe to assume that neither young nor old think the highest good ought to be saving rich people from paying taxes.
If 2012 really is the year of the old, Republicans are likely to be in trouble. I don't see either young or old giving up on each other. Those who want to set up the fight forget at their peril that we all start out young and become old and in between we are in the same families, even if there is friction. Plutocrats don't need social solidarity; most people have little else to fall back on and will fight for it.