“Republicans plan to end Social Security and Medicare if they take back the Senate.”
— Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), in a tweet, Sept. 25
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hen an election campaign enters its final weeks, year after year, both political parties rely on familiar themes to attack their opponents.
For Republicans, it’s crime and immigration. For Democrats, it’s Social Security and Medicare.
Murray, who has been in the Senate since 1993, is running against Republican Tiffany Smiley. Murray’s tweet is a succinct example of what we called “Mediscare” attacks — an effort to warn seniors that Republicans will take away their hard-earned benefits. Indeed, the rest of the tweet stated: “Washington seniors who have spent their lives paying into these programs deserve better — and I’ll keep fighting to make sure they get it.”
Don’t worry, seniors: There is no such plan.
When Social Security was established in 1935, most Republican lawmakers supported it — but more Republicans than Democrats opposed it. When Medicare was created in 1965, slightly more Republicans opposed the new program than supported it, in contrast to the broad support among Democrats.
Decades later, Democrats have never let Republicans forget this history. In campaign attacks, Democrats often conjure up nonexistent plans by Republicans to terminate or somehow undermine the programs. This tactic has certainly given us material to fact-check.
In 2014, for instance, House Democrats falsely accused then-congressional candidate Martha McSally of wanting to “privatize” Social Security, even though a more modest version of the idea by President George W. Bush years before could not even get a committee vote when Republicans controlled both houses of Congress. And in the 2020 presidential race, Joe Biden falsely claimed that President Donald Trump had a “plan” to deplete Social Security so benefits would run out in three years.
In that same campaign, Biden accused Trump of wanting to “slash Medicare benefits.” Not so. In fact, back in 2011, then-Vice President Biden accused House Republicans of proposing a plan “eliminating Medicare in the next 10 years.” That wasn’t true, either.
Now comes the latest iteration of this campaign attack. But it’s just as empty as the previous ones.