Seniors are Strongest Advocates for Change in 2010 - Pew Research Center
Several recent polls indicate that older Republicans (and Americans more generally) appear to be more partisan than younger voters. This poll illustrates the trend well, but one question in particular jumps out: "Would you vote for a candidate willing to compromise with people they disagree with? [J]ust 18% of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents ages 65 and older say they would be more likely to favor a candidate who is willing to make compromises, while more than twice as many (45%) say they would be less likely to vote for such a candidate and 31% say it would make no difference."
The bottom line is that almost half of older Republicans see compromise with Democrats as problematic. This may not seem too terribly significant given our highly partisan context, but this assumption neglects the telling difference between Republicans of different ages. This difference is highly suggestive for those interested in making sense of American culture.
First, there is a deep worry that many of our elders are not wiser, but simply more partisan. Wisdom has traditionally been associated with moderation or temperance. This is true not only in classical interpretations of virtue but also of religion. Moderation has in turn been understood as being closely related with being able to reach agreement with others with whom one disagreed, even strongly. To be sure, there have been many exceptions in which wisdom has been dominated by the courage to resist compromise in the face of great evils. And this is where our present story picks up: almost half of older Republicans see President Obama as a great evil. Indeed, on this 4th of July many of those celebrating are convinced that ours is another revolutionary moment when tyranny is to be courageously resisted. The hard truth is that this is simply another way of saying that many of our elders are not wiser but more partisan, indeed foolishly so.
In my next post I'll discuss some of the challenges this presents for politics, families, and religion.