Republicans Clueless in Obamacare Message to Young Americans

 

Democrats—especially Barack Obama himself—make an effort to spur young people to join a “movement.” Republicans, in contrast, hardly give a thought to energizing American youth, apparently operating under the entitled impression that young voters will vote Republican because it is their only rational option. Case in point: the Obamacare enrollment issue.

In December, reeling from surprising unpopularity among millennials, Obama returned to his trademark pied-piper “movement” rhetoric, likening healthcare policy to women’s suffrage and the civil rights crusade. You mustn’t get discouraged when you’re out to change the world, Obama said, because “change” and leadership take time and hard work! It’s a clever angle because young voters are easily seduced by two things which ordinarily would appear in tension: altruism and self-importance.

Young people want to make the world a better place. But we also want to be rewarded (or at least acknowledged) for our agency in making that difference, to stroke our proud yearning to be heard and even needed by our elders. Is it much of a shock that youth enrollment in Obamacare now has increased to around 25% of all enrollees — enough to stop the death spiral?  I realize the current numbers still are not impressive, but the fact of this upward trajectory suggests Obama is making inroads.  It is even less surprising when you note the lackluster effort by Republicans since December to make that Harvard IOP poll much more than a blip on the “movement” radar.

Republicans gloated about Obama’s “meltdown” among young people who were supposed to be realizing, finally, the stupidity of liberal policies. Not so fast.

The Obamacare mandate insults the intelligence of young people; it is against our rational preferences, and it undermines our dignity and freedoms. But youth’s key role in Obamacare’s success makes it an issue ripe for for igniting our political passions—Obamacare professes to be a revolutionary change for the greater good of the country and young people indeed play an integral part in its success.

Today, Republicans on the Hill tried to make the worst out of the enrollment turnaround, continuing to peddle unimaginative, lazy rhetoric. The talking point: “it’s no surprise” that young people don’t like Obamacare . . . because it’s bad for them. Mitch McConnell’s spokesman: “After seeing massive premium increases and failed bureaucracy in the Obama administration, it’s no wonder they are staying away.” John Boehner’s spokesman: “When they see that Obamacare offers high costs for limited access to doctors . . . it’s no surprise that young people aren’t rushing to sign up.” What a positive vision! Republicans are unsurprised that young people are not stupid.

Still, young people, like so many other voters, are not rational. Precisely because we think we will live forever, we don’t care about runaway deficits that will bankrupt our country. Once the website’s hassle is fixed and a glamorous marketing campaign convinces enough of us that we’re “making a difference” or joining a “movement” (fine print: by signing away our freedoms and burdening ourselves with bureaucracy and expenses), we’ll gladly help. Did Republicans really think that an Atari-esque website, easily mended by Google Democrats, would signal a generational shift in political support?

Republicans need to begin to consider ways to articulate a new “movement” rhetoric that can energize voters, especially young people. The individual liberty+strong defense+personal responsibility mantra feels as stale as a 1994 Krispy Kreme doughnut. And liberty! liberty! liberty!—the rallying cry of the Tea Party—comes across as selfish and mean in most of its Republican iterations.  

We millenials are a sentimental bunch.”Greed is good” and “don’t be stupid” messaging tends not to persuade sentimental people. Expecting Democrats to bungle bureaucratic packaging is also a weak strategy—bureaucracy will only appear more humane as technology gets better and Silicon Valley luminaries remain liberal. I wish young people would stay away from Obamacare exchanges, but it would not surprise me if, between the laziness of Republican outreach and our youth’s self-deluded idealism, they fall in line and march toward the progressive mothership.

Then again, don’t we conservatives have an idealism—a greater good—to profess in a positive (and even sentimental) light?

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  1. Profile Photo Member
    @melissaosullivan

    Paging Reince Priebus!

    • #1
  2. Profile Photo Member
    @MichaelKnudsen

    “Is it much of a shock that youth enrollment in Obamacare now has increased to around 25% of all enrollees — enough to stop the death spiral? ” 

    Not that the GOP doesn’t desperately need better ways to sell conservative ideas (and, er, at least pretend that it believes in them)…but I would be extremely skeptical of those numbers. 

    “Signed up” does not at all mean “paid and will continue to do so” to these administration spinners…..and “young” does not at all mean what they actually need for the pool: healthy. 

    Good round-up at Hotair: http://hotair.com/archives/2014/01/13/uh-oh-just-24-of-obamacare-sign-ups-so-far-are-young-adults/

    • #2
  3. Profile Photo Member
    @MichaelKnudsen

    There is simply no way, in my view, that a demographic where unemployment is disastrously high (30% was the number I last saw), among whom individuals are already burdened with massive student loan debts for degrees that are getting them nowhere (non-dischargeable debt, btw) and among whom most simply do not go to the doctor all that often (I despise the doctor’s office and happily did not go in the years I did not have health insurance; 29 now)…No way at all that demographic acts to save Obamacare when it is so patently counter to their self-interest. Especially once they realize the government wants to “tax” them for not paying out the rear-end for unaffordable insurance. 

    That’s considering if they would; now think about if they even can. Most young people are still living paycheck to paycheck, if they’re not living off of family charity (I say this entirely without sanctimony; the former used to apply to me, and the latter now does; unemployed since September). 

    Best this administration can hope for is a ton of new Medicaid enrollments. Which does absolutely nothing to help the private insurance risk pools. 

    • #3
  4. Profile Photo Member
    @Cutlass

    Only a few comments and already I’m seeing exactly the type of responses that bolster the author’s point:

    –  Repeating arguments for why Obama is clearly a charlatan and expressing frustration that it’s not obvious to everyone else.

    – Trying spin negative information (poll numbers, statistics or whatnot) in our favor.

    – And, as Mr. Beckett put it: “operating under the entitled impression that young voters will vote Republican because it is their only rational option.”

    The main point here is that younger people generally like Obama and see him as hip, cool and well intentioned. Even when he fails it’s because the problems are too big, or our arcane system is too complicated, or heartless Republicans and greedy corporations are in the way. If “progressive” policies don’t work then nothing will – certainly not anything suggested by those dumb Republicans. So, even if neither side can get anything done they may as well support the party who cares over those greedy backwards racists who hate gays and science.

    I wish I could say I had a solution, but I do know that pretending there isn’t a very serious problem won’t get us any closer to one.

    • #4
  5. Profile Photo Member
    @Cutlass

    Oh, and let me clarify that I’m not saying the substance of the arguments I’m referring to are wrong. Obama is a charlatan, information can be interpreted in different ways and I certainly believe voting Republican is the rational option.

    But we’re in an intellectual, political and cultural battle here and it’s important that we understand what we’re up against. In a battle you don’t depend on the scenario most favorable to your own side, but all too often that is exactly what I see among conservatives.

    • #5
  6. Profile Photo Member
    @dittoheadadt

    “…continuing to peddle unimaginative, lazy rhetoric…”

    Almost every time I’ve heard or read something coming from a GOP politician’s mouth or campaign over the past decade or so, I’ve said to myself “Are you kidding me? That’s the best you can do?  That’s nothing but boilerplate politispeech that puts people to sleep and says nothing substantive.”  (By now I’ve shortened that to, simply, WTF??)

    I’ve even said that of some of the things Ted Cruz has said, particularly his appearance on Leno.

    Unimaginative, lazy rhetoric.  Bingo.

    • #6
  7. Profile Photo Member
    @LookAway
    Cutlass: ……..But we’re in an intellectual, political and cultural battle here and it’s important that we understand what we’re up against. In a battle you don’t depend on the scenario most favorable to your own side, but all too often that is exactly what I see among conservatives. · 1 hour ago

    Cutlass, I agree with your sentiment totally with one exception. We have already lost the intellectual, political and economic battle. The two political parties and the economic elite have seen to that. Deep down they all believe that the world is transforming so fast through technology that 80% of the population will be unemployable and therefore need to be taken care of through a nanny state. Throw in drug legalization, elimination of most cultural norms and individualized victim hood and you have a pliable populace 1984 style. Tax rates in the 60 to 70% range to pay for it are no big deal, after-all the truly wealthy won’t pay them any way. 

    So we have lost the battle, will we lose the war? That will depend on how the deep the crises will be when it comes, and if we can recover.

    • #7
  8. Profile Photo Member
    @ManfredArcane

    I don’t see how you can convince folks who lean Democrat that that is the wrong prescription.  It is a fool’s errand, IMO.  Why not treat with them honestly:

    If you want to subsidize everyone else’s healthcare, fine; that is good and noble of you, but can you include us out?  We like to make our own decisions about these kind of life choices, thank you, and not have them dictated to us.  Have a good day.

    • #8
  9. Profile Photo Member
    @PonyConvertible

    Don’t get too excited about the “enrollment” numbers.  By the White House definition, “enrolled” doesn’t mean they have actually paid that first premium.  Many will change their mind when the first bill comes due.

    • #9
  10. Profile Photo Member
    @BrentB67

    Your title is too long. You should stop after the first 2 words.

    • #10
  11. Profile Photo Member
    @JMaestro

    If the GOP really wanted to energize a segment of the younger crowd it would be talking about opportunity. Sadly, as a hypothetical.

    Imagine graduating into a labor market that is dynamic, where you have options for the types of jobs you’d like to take, the type of risks you feel ready to assume.”

    Imagine being able to take a good idea and make a business out of it, being a job creator yourself without having to jump through a thousand government hoops.”

    Imagine being able to afford the basics of life — a house, an education, healthcare — without having the costs of those things jacked up by zombie central planners.”

    For the GOP to say all that the GOP would have to be ready to deliver on all that. Oh wait–

    • #11
  12. Profile Photo Member
    @ZinMT

    Sometimes I am convinced that the only way out is through.  Through total economic and governmental collapse that is.  My only hope in that scenario is that the breakup of the United States is done peacefully.

    • #12
  13. Profile Photo Member
    @JMaestro
    Z in MT: Sometimes I am convinced that the only way out is through.  Through total economic and governmental collapse that is.  My only hope in that scenario is that the breakup of the United States is done peacefully. · 17 minutes ago

    That’s where I’m optimistic — I think the breakup will be peaceful. Pajama Boy will go into a rage spiral (love that term!), but he’s not going to open fire on people who only want to erase the ledger and start fresh.

    If NY and CA want to plod along as they are… they can go for it.

    Which reminds me of at least one “too hot to handle” strategy for getting the young generation off the progressive bandwagon. The term “debt repudiation” might be particularly intriguing to a generation of people about to inherit a debt of $17 – $200 trillion (depending on which obligations you count).

    • #13
  14. Profile Photo Member
    @AaronMiller

    Why not go with something that has a successful track record? “Stick it to the Man!”

    The hippies have taken control and become everything they claimed to hate. There’s a great scene in the British series Coupling in which Patrick, the conservative (by British standards), explains it to Sally, the liberal:

    Patrick: What revolution!? You guys are in power! We’re the revolution now!Sally: No. No, that can’t be right.Patrick: You’re the evil empire.Sally: No!Howard: Yes! Like Star Wars, and Patrick and me are the rebel alliance. (He and Patrick start doing the Star Wars theme. Jeff joins in.)Sally: No! You’re not the goodies, we’re the goodies! We’re lefties!! We’re always goodies!Patrick: (mimics Darth Vader’s voice) No, Sally. You’re the establishment.Sally: Don’t say that! You bastard.Patrick: Ah, you can’t call me “bastard” anymore, that’s oppressive. (does a mock wail) You’re oppressing me!

    Present conservatism as exactly what it must be in modern times — a cultural revolution. What could be more adolescent, more rock ‘n’ roll, than rebellion?

    • #14
  15. Profile Photo Member
    @Pelayo

    I think it would be wonderful if Republicans had some great motivational slogans and heart-wrenching visions to win over today’s twenty-somethings.  The problem is that there is nothing sexy or inspirational about suggesting to someone that the best way to succeed in the real world is to get an education and then begin a career that involves starting at the bottom of the ladder and working your way up.  Promising them a nanny-state that will make everything better is a more appealing message to many, even if it is a complete lie.  The other side of the coin is that as a country we have to make jobs available for college grads.  If young men and women who play by the rules and get an education cannot find any work besides a minimum-wage job then the system has failed completely and we cannot even help those who would normally side with Conservatives.  The solution is JOBS!!! 

    • #15
  16. Profile Photo Member
    @RichardFulmer

    The left’s vision for America is a sea of stagnant, pliable citizens comfortable in and with their material and cultural poverty and happy to be “led for their own good.”  The big question is whether the GOP can come up with a more attractive vision.  You’d think it would be easy.

    • #16
  17. Profile Photo Member
    @BrentB67
    Richard Fulmer: The left’s vision for America is a sea of stagnant, pliable citizens comfortable in and with their material and cultural poverty and happy to be “led for their own good.”  The big question is whether the GOP can come up with a more attractive vision.  You’d think it would be easy. · 16 minutes ago

    Are we sure the GOP doesn’t want a sea of stagnant, pliable citizens, that can be exploited by the special interests that fund the RNC – see Chamber of Commerce, Crossroads, et al.?

    • #17
  18. Profile Photo Member
    @LookAway
    BrentB67

    Richard Fulmer: The left’s vision for America is a sea of stagnant, pliable citizens comfortable in and with their material and cultural poverty and happy to be “led for their own good.”  The big question is whether the GOP can come up with a more attractive vision.  You’d think it would be easy. · 16 minutes ago

    Are we sure the GOP doesn’t want a sea of stagnant, pliable citizens, that can be exploited by the special interests that fund the RNC – see Chamber of Commerce, Crossroads, et al.? · 29 minutes ago

    Exactly! Today’s statists do not believe there will be opportunity for the many  just like in the 1960’s and 1970’s the Establishment (think Nixon)were building a welfare state because they thought the Communists were winning the competition of political philosophies! How often did I listen to Profs tell me about the economic superiority and Utopia of East Germany! Academia, as well as the CIA, got it wrong but still cannot admit it to this day. Fortunately Reagan, Thatcher and the Pope provided an intermission to this nonsense. 

    • #18
  19. Profile Photo Member
    @BrentB67

    I spend a lot of time bashing republicans, mostly because it is like knocking over bowling pins with MK-84 2,000 bombs. That said I don’t think they could raise millions of dollars per annum and also be imbeciles, grossly out of touch with their supporters, but not completely brain dead.

    If they can shake down multi million dollar donors they have some ability to assemble a coherent sales/marketing pitch.

    In cases like this I am not convinced they fail to make the case solely from incompetence. I think we must consider intent.

    • #19
  20. Profile Photo Member
    @BigGreen
    Louis Beckett: 

    Still, young people, like so many other voters, are not rational. Precisely because we think we will live forever, we don’t care about runaway deficits that will bankrupt our country. 

    Louis – Some good stuff in here and really appreciate the perspective.  However, I have to take issue with the above even though you prefaced it with stating that young people are not rational.  

    If young people think they are going to live forever, shouldn’t this be the precise reason why they should be concerned about runaway deficits?  If they live forever, it is a certainty that they will have to deal with those deficits at some point in time.  Your conclusion seems to be the exact opposite.

    • #20
  21. Profile Photo Member
    @LookAway
    BrentB67: I spend a lot of time bashing republicans, mostly because it is like knocking over bowling pins with MK-84 2,000 bombs. That said I don’t think they could raise millions of dollars per annum and also be imbeciles, grossly out of touch with their supporters, but not completely brain dead.

    If they can shake down multi million dollar donors they have some ability to assemble a coherent sales/marketing pitch.

    In cases like this I am not convinced they fail to make the case solely from incompetence. I think we must consider intent. · 25 minutes ago

    BrentB67, Listen to the last 15 minutes of the Victor Davis Hanson podcast with Milt Rosenberg on 1 September 2013 and see if he does not change your mind. 

    • #21
  22. Profile Photo Member
    @BrentB67
    Look Away

    BrentB67: I spend a lot of time bashing republicans, mostly because it is like knocking over bowling pins with MK-84 2,000 bombs. That said I don’t think they could raise millions of dollars per annum and also be imbeciles, grossly out of touch with their supporters, but not completely brain dead.

    If they can shake down multi million dollar donors they have some ability to assemble a coherent sales/marketing pitch.

    In cases like this I am not convinced they fail to make the case solely from incompetence. I think we must consider intent. · 25 minutes ago

    BrentB67, Listen to the last 15 minutes of the Victor Davis Hanson podcast with Milt Rosenberg on 1 September 2013 and see if he does not change your mind.  · 5 minutes ago

    Unless either of them have been elected to office and vote for something that counts I am not interested. We need to stop judging republicans on what their punditry thinks and cut direct to the source and hold them accountable for their votes.

    • #22
  23. Profile Photo Member
    @AaronMiller
    BrentB67: ….

    If they can shake down multi million dollar donors they have some ability to assemble a coherent sales/marketing pitch.

    In cases like this I am not convinced they fail to make the case solely from incompetence. I think we must consider intent.

    Young voters can’t afford bribes.

    • #23
  24. Profile Photo Contributor
    @LouisBeckett
    Cutlass: Only a few comments and already I’m seeing exactly the type of responses that bolster the author’s point. . . . Even when he fails it’s because the problems are too big, or our arcane system is too complicated, or heartless Republicans and greedy corporations are in the way.

    . . .  In a battle you don’t depend on the scenario most favorable to your own side, but all too often that is exactly what I see among conservatives.

    Really, really insightful observation here, Cutlass.  We are in an intellectual battle, and I agree — we need to revise our articulation of the conservative vision.

    • #24
  25. Profile Photo Member
    @BrentB67
    Aaron Miller

    BrentB67: ….

    If they can shake down multi million dollar donors they have some ability to assemble a coherent sales/marketing pitch.

    In cases like this I am not convinced they fail to make the case solely from incompetence. I think we must consider intent.

    Young voters can’t afford bribes. · 3 minutes ago

    Agree, but if republicans can make a pitch to a multi millionaire they have the ability to make a pitch to a young person just starting out. My point is that they choose not to.

    • #25
  26. Profile Photo Member
    @BrentB67

    Louis, Do you think the younger generation is receptive to a “government is the problem, get it out of your way” message or do they still expect and activist intervening centralized government?

    • #26
  27. Profile Photo Contributor
    @LouisBeckett
    Aaron Miller: Why not go with something that has a successful track record? “Stick it to the Man!”

    The hippies have taken control and become everything they claimed to hate. There’s a great scene in the British seriesCouplingin which Patrick, the conservative (by British standards), explains it to Sally, the liberal . . .

    Present conservatism as exactly what it must be in modern times — a cultural revolution. What could be more adolescent, more rock ‘n’ roll, than rebellion? · 2 hours ago

    Great point, reminds me of the Ben Folds tune, “The Ascent of Stan” (“Once you wanted revolution / Now you’re the institution /How’s it feel to be the man?”).

    And maybe my favorite Chesterton quotation: “He is a very shallow critic who cannot see an eternal rebel in the heart of a conservative.”

    Then again, hippie hypocrisy noted, we also need to describe not just what we’re rebelling against but also what we’re rebelling toward.

    • #27
  28. Profile Photo Member
    @FuneralGuy

    We’ll see if those Millenials pay that premium month after month after month after…..

    • #28
  29. Profile Photo Member
    @DannyAlexander

    Robert Gates’ new memoir offers an angle:

    Obama is using the young men and women of America as cannon fodder for his own cynical political ego-trips.

    He did it with the most altruistic millennials in the country:  Those willing to lay their lives down in defense of their country by taking the fight to the Afghans/Pakistanis harboring those who slaughtered thousands of innocent Americans.  

    The POTUS sleazily promised to bolster this fight, which he termed the “good” war, and then proceeded to paint enormous targets, for the benefit of the Taliban, on our young men and women in uniform who wanted to believe in the mission and wanted their CinC to believe in it with them.

    Any millennial who thinks that Obama is not doing, politically speaking, the same thing to them — nay, that he could not be *capable* of doing that same thing to them — in the context of his health insurance strategy (not in the context of the website — the strategy) needs to walk into the nearest VA facility and ask to talk with any of the young veterans of Afghanistan.

    (OK, yes, I know that that is going out-and-out negative as messages go.)

    • #29
  30. Profile Photo Member
    @Kozak

    Fine. Just get out of our basements, get your own insurance, pay your own college bills, cell phone bill and feel as noble as you want. Just get off my lawn.

    • #30

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