Voters in Pennsylvania’s 18th district voted to send Conor Lamb to Congress this week, but his victory was not a foregone conclusion. Donald Trump won the district by nearly twenty points, and it has had a Republican representative in the House since 2002. Lamb won by running a passionate, grass roots campaign that put the need to protect and expand Social Security and Medicare on the front burner.
We’ve had ample opportunity to speak to voters in the district over the last few months. Conor Lamb’s support for seniors won him the endorsement of our organizations, the Alliance for Retired Americans and Social Security Works PAC. Our members have stumped for Lamb at pizza parlors, fish fries, front porches, union halls and retiree clubs for months.
Putting retirement security issues upfront, Lamb’s victory offers a winning formula for Democrats in November’s midterm elections. Focusing on pocketbook issues, protecting and expanding Social Security and Medicare, and bringing down prescription drug prices cuts across party lines.
Seniors have traditionally voted Republican by large margins. But in a poll by Monmouth University just before the election, Lamb was tied with his opponent among voters over sixty-five. Given that older voters (also known as “always voters”) make up a disproportionately large share of the midterm electorate, they represent millions of votes nationally if Lamb’s results can be replicated.
Specifically, Conor Lamb won this election by defending the earned benefits that Pennsylvanians have paid for through a lifetime of work. House Speaker Paul Ryan is champing at the bit to cut Social Security and Medicare and voters are rightfully concerned about their health and financial security. Lamb not only promised to resist Ryan’s plans for cuts, but also go a step further by working to expand Social Security and Medicare. He also vowed to use the government’s power to rein in the greed of the pharmaceutical industry and lower prescription drug prices, including empowering Medicare to negotiate better prices.
Lamb’s positions are in sync with the American public. Recent national polling shows that sixty-six percent of voters are more likely to back candidates who support expanding Social Security, sixty-four percent of voters are more likely to back candidates who support expanding Medicare, and an overwhelming eighty-four percent of voters are more likely to back candidates who support taking federal action to lower prescription drug prices.
Democrats must follow Lamb’s example by promising to expand, not cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid and take on pharmaceutical corporations. That’s the way to connect with the older voters who will turn out in November. Nearly every family relies on Social Security and Medicare or plans to someday. Nearly every family is impacted by the astronomical price of prescription drugs. Voters in southwest Pennsylvania showed that a candidate who commits to improve millions of people’s daily lives by expanding and protecting Social Security and Medicare will receive their votes.