Strengthening Democracy and Social Security via Facebook
Lessons from Florida in 2020
Respectful Exits sought the best way to have maximum impact on the peril to our democracy and Social Security posed by the 2020 Presidential election. Our analysis in the spring was simple and prescient:
Older voters were a major portion of the active electorate in Florida. Its large electoral vote haul made it a crucial swing state. Trump’s early election night landslide victory there would enable him to claim “victory” and build on months of questioning the late-counting mail-in votes from other swing states. As the events in DC on January 6 revealed, his relentless questioning of the electoral results in the key swing states and his call for his vigilantes to storm the capitol to cement his “victory” could have unfolded on November 4 had he prevailed in Florida.
Unfortunately for him, he was already hemorrhaging support among the key elderly component of his base due to his betrayal of their lives and futures by ignoring the ravages of COVID. We believed that an educational campaign focused on the additional threat to Social Security posed by Trump and his debt-obsessed Republican party could help avert the landslide.
Taking a page from the Russian and Trump campaigns’ 2016 playbook, we turned to Facebook to reach the 450,000 Facebook users in Florida 55 or older who showed an interest in Social Security. Our six-month campaign had an impact. We cannot determine the extent of the effect, but a little noticed yet stunning result showed up in the post-election exit interviews. President Trump’s electoral margin among seniors fell by a full 12 percentage points between the 2016 and 2020 contests. Despite his campaign’s intensive efforts with Hispanic voters and the Biden campaign’s dis-organized Florida campaign, the great Florida landslide did not occur.
Building on Success
The years ahead are perilous ones for our democracy – and for aging workers and retirees, especially those who depend on Social Security as their economic lifeline. In 2021 and 2022, we are mounting sustained campaigns modeled on our Florida success in the key battleground states. There modest movement at the margins can make the difference between a sustainable future and intolerable alternatives.
As a supporter of Respectful Exits, you will have many opportunities to join in this critical work. You can find our Facebook campaign at https://www.facebook.com/RespectfulExits/