The Tea Party's Mirror Image

Democratic candidate Kathy Hochul's recent victory over Republican Jane Corwin in a special election in New York's deeply Republican 26th congressional district may have been a shot in the arm for Democrats eager to take back control of the House in 2012. But it was a defeat for the country.

Here's why: Hochul ran a classic “Mediscare” campaign, relentlessly tying her Republican opponent to the dead-in-the-water Medicare overhaul proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) That followed several weeks of raucous town hall meetings, including some held by Rep. Ryan himself, at which elderly constitutents blasted the Ryan plan to replace Medicare in the future with a voucher system covering health insurance premiums. (I don't support the Ryan plan, either.)

Sound familiar? Throughout 2009, elderly Tea Party sympathizers crowded town hall meetings attacking the Obama administration's health care reform plan. Some were genuinely worried about increasing government power, but many were protesting because they thought the government was going to take away their Medicare benefits. That was one of the driving forces behind the Republican victory last November.

So, is this going to dominate our politics? Competing groups of older people fighting over how to protect their benefits come hell or high water? I'm a baby boomer myself, who expects to get Social Security and Medicare, but there have to be sensible limits for me and everyone else.

No doubt both parties will pander to the elderly, who turn out in force on election day. But who's going to speak for the younger people who are trying to build careers and lives in a much tougher economy than we faced–and who have the additional burden of paying for us? Are there any votes in America's future?

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