Can a GenX progressive be OK with joining AARP?
March 13, 2017 2:51 PM   Subscribe

I've been mostly ignoring the solicitations to join AARP because I had always assumed that they were kind of politically conservative. But recently I have been hearing that they are doing a good job fighting the Republican health care plan. Can folks tell me more about AARP's policy positions, both those that would be considered good and those that would be considered bad from the position of someone who is on the left (more Bernie/Warren/Jayapal than Hillary, but I voted for Hillary). Could I live with myself if I joined?
posted by matildaben to Law & Government (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
AARP is a generally left-leaning group. They're pretty moderate - and they probably don't say they're progressive because it's important that they don't piss anyone off, but their big advocacy platform is basically "more social services", especially aimed at those for the older set, which is necessarily a Democratic platform.

At any rate, the very right-leaning/conservative groups hate them, if that's any help :).
posted by brainmouse at 3:03 PM on March 13, 2017 [11 favorites]

AARP's policy booklet (which isn't very long) states the following as priorities:
  • The bedrock protections of Social Security and Medicare must be strengthened.
  • Older Americans who need it should have support to live independently.
  • The safety net must remain intact for the most vulnerable people of all ages.
  • Local communities should do more to promote maximum well-being of residents as they get older.
  • Consumers need adequate safeguards in a fast-changing marketplace.
It then goes into detail on how they wish to support these points, and from skimming, most of which are progressive: being for strengthening Medicare and Medicaid, for government negotiation of drug prices, against gerrymandering, against voter suppression, and for consumer protection.
posted by zsazsa at 3:03 PM on March 13, 2017 [7 favorites]

I volunteer for the VITA/TCE program with the IRS and AARP sponsors our location. This program allows people with low incomes or disabilities (as well as older people) to get their taxes done for free. You don't have to be a member of AARP to use the service, either. To start out, I had to sign up on the AARP website, so I get some of the newsletters and the headlines seem to be generally progressive.

Also, I know at least one conservative person who refuses to join the organization because it is "too lefty". There are competing associations for conservatives, but they are not as well known.
posted by soelo at 3:15 PM on March 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Because seniors often lose their ability to drive, AARP is a BIG advocate for urban planning, especially sustainable transportation options and creating walkable, people centric communities.
posted by voiceofreason at 3:47 PM on March 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

I've crossed paths with AARP's policy team a number of times, and I had no idea that people thought the organization was "politically conservative." They tend to take quite progressive positions, although their rhetoric can be a little mild.

Could you clarify why you think they're conservative?
posted by schroedingersgirl at 3:55 PM on March 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm a GenX liberal and we joined the day my wife turned 50. Give me that sweet, sweet hotel discount. Plus we get 25% off movie tickets at Regal theatres, 15% off at various restaurants. I don't give a damn about their politics, but you'll save your $15 membership 4 or 5 times over without even trying. "Seniors" are one hell of a large buying group.
posted by COD at 4:20 PM on March 13, 2017 [6 favorites]

OTOH, they lobbied heavily for the Bush prescription-drug plan supplement to Medicare, without trying to improve its problematic aspects, which would seem like a dereliction of duty except they had a rather large conflict of interest (they had their own part D plan ready to roll out and make them a pile of money). We cancelled our membership at that time and will not rejoin.
posted by DrGail at 6:13 PM on March 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

It was their push for Bush (See DrGail above) that turned me against AARP. But when I needed a medicare supplement plan, I had little choice but to join again. So I'm a member, but you won't hear me advocate for them.
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:36 PM on March 13, 2017

You could get a motel room anywhere for about half price, and a lot of other benefits. If they benefit older people of any stripe who can pay $16 a year, then how bad can they be?
posted by Oyéah at 7:02 PM on March 13, 2017

AARP also has a conflict of interest because it makes a ton of money from Medigap insurance. There are certain kinds of reform that would cost it a lot of money. But the range on my evil-detector is set so high nowadays it barely registers.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:18 PM on March 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

Yeah, the deal with the AARP is that they're not really across-the-board politically conservative, but they do sell health insurance, so they tend to be generally opposed to health insurance reform that hurts private insurers (as all good health insurance reform would). I'd expect them to come out swinging hard against single-payer, should that ever be on the table. But that's non-ideological, and a lot of Democrats take a lot of money from private insurance companies, so I think you can join with a clear conscience.
posted by Ragged Richard at 8:09 AM on March 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

AARP's pretty awesome. I interned with them in grad school, as did a lot of other public health students in my graduate program. They were interested in everything from aging LGBT populations, improving traffic safety for increasingly older drivers, and spending the $ to get good data for making decisions. Check out their research page. On a more anecdotal level, their DC offices are very open and comfortable in terms of openness and modernity (translation: most of the people working for AARP who I personally know are women, LGBT, have a disability, etc.). I'd be happy to join up when the time's right.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 10:06 AM on March 14, 2017

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