Thursday, May 28, 2015
Geezers are liking Bernie
Perhaps because they remember what was really good in the old days. Perhaps it is his stand for increasing Social Security and fixing Medicare. Or maybe both, but whichever it may be, it is striking a resonant note in older voters at his campaign stops.
Mr. Sanders, an independent from Vermont, is running an insurgent’s campaign for the Democratic nomination for president, but to spend time with him on the trail is almost to travel back in time: He sprinkles his remarks with “50 years ago” or “40 years ago” as he reminds his audiences of the progress in the United States on race relations or gay rights.With 16 months to go before the election, Bernie will continue to make a deep impression on people who have memories of when America was a real paradise.
At one point during his remarks in Epping, Mr. Sanders drew a “yes” from Nina Capra Jordan when he commented that back in the first half of the 20th century, the University of California campuses, the City College of New York and other elite institutions charged little or no tuition. (Mr. Sanders wants to eliminate tuition at public universities nationwide and pay for it largely with revenue from taxes on Wall Street stock trades.)
Older voters seem to be responding. Some, facing financial strains now, seem especially drawn to the senator’s evoking of an earlier era’s more generous government and strong safety net.
“He’s like F.D.R.,” Marlene Gilman, 80, whispered excitedly in Concord, N.H., as Mr. Sanders pledged to create more jobs through a trillion-dollar public works program — a plan that echoes President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.
At a campaign rally in Vermont on Tuesday and at three events in New Hampshire, including a town-hall-style gathering in Portsmouth that drew roughly 600 people, older voters made up a sizable minority of the crowds.
Their visibility at his events has been striking because Mr. Sanders’s unabashedly progressive message, calling for a “political revolution” to tax the rich and redistribute income, often appeals to idealistic young Americans who do not pay much in the way of taxes. Even some of these older voters said they were a little surprised to be responding to the fiery, man-the-barricades exhortations of Mr. Sanders. But if young people and African-Americans identified with Barack Obama during his presidential run in 2008, older Americans said that Mr. Sanders had struck a deeply personal chord with them.
“I don’t think he’s too old — he’s articulate and on the ball,” said Leslie Dundon, a 71-year-old from Manchester, N.H. “And look, the older you get, the more you realize that life has actually taught you something, and you have something to contribute.”
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