Poll: Yesterday’s Democrats are today’s Republicans

A surprising thing has happened to those war-protesting, Eugene McCarthy-voting, Richard Nixon-hating kids of the ’60s.

They’ve become Republicans.

A Wall St. Journal/NBC poll shows that the demographics of senior citizens has flipped since the Clinton administration.

All of which begs the larger question: What happened? Well, for starters, and to state the obvious, today’s senior citizens aren’t the senior citizens of decades past. For a long stretch of political history, older voters comprised Americans who came of age during the long tenure of Democrat Franklin Roosevelt and his New Deal programs. For many who benefited from them, those programs created a lifelong bond to FDR’s Democratic Party.

Today’s 65-year-old voter, by contrast, would have been 30 or 31 years old when Ronald Reagan was elected president in 1980 and, for all practical purposes, brought the period of New Deal dominance of American politics to a decisive end. Such a voter stood a better chance of becoming a Reagan Republican conservative as a Roosevelt New Deal liberal in adulthood.

And much as the early Baby Boomers—a generation defined as those born between 1946 and 1964—may have come of age supporting left-wing causes, backing liberal Eugene McCarthy for president in 1968 and hating Republican Richard Nixon, there seems little doubt they have become more conservative as they age.

In a separate column, the Wall Street Journal says the changing political demographics might be enough to finish off the idea of Republican-backed entitlement reform.