The Grandparents Vote: 70 Million Lovers of Children

The grandparents of America are one of the largest untapped voting and consuming blocs, one that is rising to 70 to 80 million people who view many separate issues with one great common interest: the love of their grandchildren and all grandchildren.

As the holiday season arrives, grandparents are looking to buy the grandkids toys that are safe, joining in the national movement to leave their grandkids a better world by combating global warming, and even joining the Peace Corps in record numbers as the group reaches out to them, to use their experience in life to serve our country and help the world.

It is one of the most interesting and powerful demographic trends of our time: As the huge surge of baby boomers grows older, there is a whole new age bracket for grandparents who are younger and in many cases at the peak of their careers.

A good example is the first female Speaker of the House of Representatives, who is the ultimate career woman as one of the most powerful leaders in America, but also the ultimate doting grandma. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) moves effortlessly from managing trillion-dollar legislation and making the Congress environmentally friendly (stay tuned) to planning the most exciting Christmas gifts for the grandkids and the most fun locale for the few holiday breaks the family can take when legislative business allows.

Pelosi is the most visible example of this megatrend in American demographics with even younger grandparents who are in their late 40s and 50s adding to the population of older grandparents, including high-level professionals and love-filled retirees in the more traditional grandparents pool.

While the Census Bureau lags behind the curve and does not yet include a direct question in the census about the exact number of grandparents or baby boomer grandparents in America, the number is huge and will soon reach 80 million Americans.

One new growth company, grandparents.com, is reaching out to baby boomer grandparents as well as the more traditional 60-something and older grandparents with their project of “all things grandparents” that could be an important site for discussing issues of unique importance to grandparents as grandparents, with the common denominator being their love for grandkids rather than their particular age group or self-interests.

The grandparents vote creates the possibility of major new issue-based alliances and even potential consumer-based alliances between large groups representing the grandparents and the grandkids on the many issues in which they have a shared interest.

In a column in The Hill newspaper Dec. 5, “The greening Of America,” I suggested there is a new post-partisan majority in America and cited issues such as climate change as drivers of this political phenomenon that defined public opinion. Another good example is a bipartisan bill that helps both grandparents and kids, called The Kinship Caregiver Support Act.

The Senate bill is S. 661, introduced by Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine); the House bill, H.R. 2188 , was introduced Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.). The growing list of co-sponsors includes both Democrats and Republicans and the support behind the bill includes leading voices that span the generations, such as the AARP and the Children’s Defense Fund.

This bill would enable many thousands of foster children to share safe and loving families and among many worthy goals would combine the love and experience of grandparents with the foster children in ways that would light up the love and lives of both. It would offer assistance to grandparents and others assuming legal
guardianship of foster children and further a trend helping the children in what are now known as “grandfamilies.”

Similarly, the Peace Corps has begun a highly successful campaign to attract Americans, including the baby boomer grandparents and 60-something and older grandparents and seniors, to their valuable international work.

These new Peace Corps volunteers bring extraordinary life experience that helps other countries and our country, and poor children living in the Third World are particularly served by having the benefit of the enormous experience, wisdom and knowledge that this latest generation of Peace Corps volunteers brings to the effort.

What gives the grandparents vote such huge potential is that the grandparents are united in their love of grandchildren and interested in the issues that benefit not only grandparents and their generation, but grandchildren they love in that special way that only grandparents can fully appreciate.

Protecting the environment and leaving a safer planet to the grandchildren, protecting the kids from toys that can be dangerous and even life-threatening, sharing conversations and family discussion between the grandparents, parents and grandkids are all special attributes of the unique values of grandparents and the extended families and grandchildren they love.

There is enormous potential clout for the presidential candidates and members of Congress in both political parties who reach out to this giant constituency of grandparent voters, and equally large opportunities for the companies that can ride the huge demographic wave that includes potentially 70 million grandparents and the entire “grandfamily” community.