View Full Version : Obama faces trial by ‘angry white seniors’

09-19-2009, 05:45 PM
Over coffee and Coke at a drugstore-meets-soda-bar in the Virginian town of Fredericksburg, the four grey-haired ladies could hardly have held more diverging views about the performance of Barack Obama, US president.

“I’m very pleased with him,” says Beverley Parks, 77, the most liberal of the group and the only one who voted for the president. “I think he’s doing his best.”

Alberta Hickman, 71, does not share her friend’s views. “I think [Mr Obama] is doing too much too soon and he is ramming things down our throats,” says the self-described conservative. “We don’t want healthcare reforms to be made too quickly. Instead, he should sit down and listen to the country.”

The votes of “seniors” – retired people such as Mrs Parks and Mrs Hickman – will be crucial in next year’s mid-term elections, when the Democrats will seek to retain control of Congress and, with it, the ability to push through reforms without Republican support.

Mildred Hartnett, a US senior

Slideshow: Virginia voters on healthcare reforms

Some analysts are already predicting 2010 will be the year of the “angry white senior”, as resistance to Mr Obama’s healthcare reform collides with older voters’ disproportionate impact on congressional elections.

Many are looking to Virginia, which will hold governor elections in November, for clues of what is to come. Mr Obama was the first Democrat to win Virginia since Lyndon Johnson in 1964, but a recent poll put his popularity in the state at less than 50 per cent. Furthermore, for the past 32 years the governor’s race has been won by the party that lost the previous presidential election. Bob McDonnell, the Republican, has the lead over Creigh Deeds, the Democrat, with much of the debate centring on Mr Obama’s healthcare reform plans.

“A lot of people are looking at this race as a *bellwether for the mid-terms,” says Bill Galston, a former adviser to Bill Clinton, now at the Brookings Institution.

“It will be very interesting to see whether the young people, and minorities, and moderates who came out in support of President Obama will vote again.”

The demographics do not augur well for Mr Obama.