The Republican Party and the Elderly: An Anecdote

It’s often said that as one ages one becomes more conservative. Young people supposedly constitute the stuff which spark revolutions; the elderly prefer enjoying life as it is rather than rising up against injustice.

This has political implications. Young, liberal-minded people generally tend to vote more Democratic. As people age and have children they become more Republican; if everybody voted the same way they did in college, the Democratic Party would truly have a permanent majority.

Young, liberal-minded folks – people like me – also tend not to spend much time with elderly folks. The college student and the retired steelworker occupy separate worlds, by and large. They do not meet.

Recently, I bridged this divide in a way most young people do: by staying with my grandparents. Two utterly different worlds crossed. The experience provided some interesting insights, which are noted below.

The life of my grandparents is, one imagines, the type of life that leads one to vote Republican. There were a number of things which hint at this – not explicitly political things, but rather more subtle indications. My grandfather, for instance, insists upon drinking a cup of water just before sleeping and just after waking. My grandmother, watching a basketball game, commented on how disgusting one athelete’s extensive tattoos were. Both constitute fullhearted patriots, exhibiting the type of national pride that rarely graces the halls of an American college.

If I were to guess who my grandfather would vote for in a given election, I would probably choose the Republican candidate. The type of social conservatism it endorses – moral values, traditional families, stability – probably strongly appeals to him (to be fair, it probably also appeals to the majority of Americans, much like the Democratic Party’s economic platform). This is not to say that social conservatism is necessarily a good thing or a bad thing, but merely that it holds a strong attraction to many people.

All in all, I find it hard to place myself in the lifestyle my grandparents lead. Then again, in several decades a young person will, in all likelihood, find it just as hard contemplating him or herself living my own elderly lifestyle.

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