How Aging Workers & Retirees Stopped Trump’s Florida “Landslide” in 2020

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. Florida prided itself on counting and reporting all its votes by election night. Trump’s early landslide victory there would enable him to claim “victory” and build on his months of relentlessly questioning the late-counting, Democratic-leaning mail-in votes from other swing states.

As the events in DC on January 6 later revealed, his ceaseless questioning of the electoral results in the key swing states and his call for his vigilantes to storm various capitols 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 portion 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.

Learning from the Russian and Trump campaigns’ 2016 playbook, Respectful Exits turned to an interactive educational campaign on Facebook to reach its 450,000 users in Florida who were 55 or older and 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. Trump’s election night boast was derailed and his plans for Social Security were ended.

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 a detailed description of our plans here and join our Facebook campaign at https://www.facebook.com/RespectfulExits/