The Corner

Two Parties, Two Attitudes Toward the Elderly

Two offhand remarks by the winning and losing candidates in last night’s New Jersey election reflect increasingly polarized attitudes toward the elderly and “end of life” issues.

In making his concession speech, Democratic governor Jon Corzine was consoling his followers when he said, “My mother is probably the only one that’s happy tonight. She’s a Republican. She’s 93 years old so, we’re not going to worry too much about that.”

The line got a big laugh.

When victorious Republican Chris Christie made his victory speech, he told the story of an elderly constituent he met on the campaign trail. “He said to me, ‘I’m 90 years old, and I’m going to vote for you. But you better do what you promise. Because if you don’t, I’m going to vote against you in another four years.’” The line also got a big laugh, but it sounded more joyous, less sneering, and less subtly derisive.

Just a straw in the wind, but the Corzine remark mirrors a callousness, a coarse attitude about the “dispensability” of the aged, that one sees in the debate over health-care reform.

– Stephanie Gutmann is the author of The Other War: Israeli, Palestinians and the Struggle for Media Supremacy.

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