What If Millennials Start to Hate Obamacare?

Republicans need young voters, and so they’re searching for a way to exploit the ACA rollout debacle.

People listen as US President Barack Obama speaks during a rally at Cornell College October 17, 2012 in Mt. Vernon, Iowa.
National Journal
Alex Roarty
Oct. 24, 2013, 1 a.m.

Re­pub­lic­ans are search­ing for an in with Mil­len­ni­als, and they think Obama­care’s glitchy rol­lout is it.

Next to minor­it­ies, there’s no lar­ger vot­ing bloc more res­ist­ant to the Re­pub­lic­an Party. (Pres­id­ent Obama won 18 to 29 year olds by at least 23 points in both of his cam­paigns.) GOP lead­ers feared the party’s po­s­i­tions on so­cial is­sues like gay mar­riage and im­mig­ra­tion had ali­en­ated a gen­er­a­tion of voters.

But then the Af­ford­able Care Act’s on­line ex­changes went live, or tried to, on Oct. 1. Now, with every­one from comedi­an Jon Stew­art to the satir­ic­al Onion web site mock­ing the pro­gram’s rol­lout, Re­pub­lic­ans see a chance to con­vince young voters that big-gov­ern­ment solu­tions favored by Demo­crats don’t work.

It’s an ar­gu­ment rest­ing on an as­sump­tion about young people: Even if they pos­sess an over­all lib­er­al bent, youths re­serve enough skep­ti­cism for big gov­ern­ment ““ and big in­sti­tu­tions gen­er­ally ““ to make them re­cept­ive to the GOP’s mes­sage. The heart of a fisc­al con­ser­vat­ive, they hope, lies in­side every Mil­len­ni­al.

“This is the time to point out that the old top-down pub­lic sec­tor doesn’t work, not be­cause it’s ill-in­ten­tioned. It doesn’t work be­cause it’s old,” said Alex Cas­tel­lanos, a long­time Re­pub­lic­an strategist who has writ­ten about how the party can re­in­vent it­self for young­er voters.

Mil­len­ni­als ““ a group that tech­nic­ally in­cludes people born between 1982 and 2004 ““ have a nu­anced view of gov­ern­ment act­iv­ism. Com­pared to earli­er gen­er­a­tions, they want gov­ern­ment to do more to solve prob­lems. A 2010 Pew Re­search Cen­ter study found 53 per­cent felt that way com­pared with few­er than 45 per­cent for older gen­er­a­tions of Amer­ic­ans. Youths also are far less likely to see gov­ern­ment as in­ef­fi­cient or waste­ful.

But their re­l­at­ive bullish­ness is re­plete with caveats that Re­pub­lic­ans can ex­ploit. As a study from the left-of-cen­ter Third Way showed, at­ti­tudes about gov­ern­ment act­iv­ism can fluc­tu­ate wildly. In­deed, Mil­len­ni­als sup­port for an act­iv­ist gov­ern­ment has dropped steeply dur­ing the last dec­ade. Ex­tern­al events ““ such as say, a widely covered im­plo­sion of the health care law ““ can have a deep im­pact.

“Rather than a deep and last­ing polit­ic­al value, pref­er­ences on the size of gov­ern­ment ap­pear more re­spons­ive to real or per­ceived changes in the polit­ic­al en­vir­on­ment,” wrote Michelle Diggles in the Third Way re­port that ques­tioned wheth­er Demo­crats had a lock on young­er voters.

Their ver­sion of gov­ern­ment act­iv­ism also dif­fers from the kind nor­mally con­ceived by Demo­crats in Wash­ing­ton. Gen­er­ally speak­ing, young­er voters are dis­trust­ful of large in­sti­tu­tions, wheth­er the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment or be­hemoth cor­por­a­tions.

“Where Demo­crats may have it wrong is that act­iv­ist gov­ern­ment doesn’t mean they want New Deal bur­eau­cracy and the tra­di­tion­al lib­er­al ap­proach to things,” said Mi­chael Hais, a Demo­crat and a coau­thor of the book Mil­len­ni­al Makeover. He ad­ded: “In the eco­nom­ic sphere “¦ Mil­len­ni­als are not con­vinced totally that either party has an an­swer yet. Both parties will have to fig­ure out how to ap­peal to this gen­er­a­tion.”

So far, the Re­pub­lic­an ef­fort to des­troy Obama­care has failed to ap­peal to youths. A ma­jor­ity of them sup­port the law, ac­cord­ing to Gal­lup, the only age group to feel that way. But the way the GOP frames the de­bate around im­ple­ment­a­tion of the health care law can change to ad­dress Mil­len­ni­als biggest con­cerns, says Kristen Solt­is An­der­son, a GOP poll­ster who has ex­amined the party’s prob­lem with youth voters.

“Re­pub­lic­ans’ former ar­gu­ments about the specter of big gov­ern­ment were too vague and out there; now it’s something that’s very con­crete,” said Solt­is.

Mil­len­ni­als, Solt­is ar­gued, care about res­ults, not ideo­logy. “That’s the power here. Rather than be­ing an eso­ter­ic philo­soph­ic­al ar­gu­ment about big gov­ern­ment, this is now con­crete, you can see it on your screen.”

Re­pub­lic­ans also are count­ing on the way the ex­changes are de­livered, on­line, to help them. People who ma­tured in the iPhone and Face­book age have little pa­tience for tech­nic­al mis­takes, es­pe­cially if they last for weeks or months.

“The pres­id­ent did him­self a dis­ser­vice when he star­ted com­par­ing the rol­lout of Obama­care to products that young Mil­len­ni­als know, like Apple and Kayak,” said Raf­fi Wil­li­ams, a spokes­man for the Re­pub­lic­an Na­tion­al Com­mit­tee who spe­cial­izes in youth out­reach. “It gave them something firm to com­pare it to. They think, ‘I use these products every day and they’re ter­rif­ic.’ Where­as with Obama­care and the ex­changes, they’re not work­ing at all.”

Demo­crats dis­miss the idea that young voters will some­how be newly hos­tile to the ACA be­cause of the en­roll­ment prob­lems on­line. Be­sides, Dem strategists ar­gue, even a troubled rol­lout doesn’t mean the en­tire law is doomed to fail­ure.

“When all this stuff is be­hind us, and this thing is ac­tu­ally work­ing and people are post­ing on Face­book that they just got health in­sur­ance “¦ [Re­pub­lic­ans] will be seen as cri­ti­ciz­ing and ob­struct­ing something that is demon­strably go­ing to help people’s lives,” said Daniel Frank­lin, a Demo­crat­ic poll­ster. “Where’s the win for them there?”

Cer­tainly, a single mis­hap, no mat­ter how bungled, won’t send droves of youth voters in­to the GOP’s arms. And the ex­changes’ prob­lems might not last much longer, mak­ing a few weeks of glitches a dis­tant memory next time voters head to the polls. But for a party that must play the long game to bring youths back to its cause, non­func­tion­al web­sites could serve as valu­able evid­ence that Demo­crats maybe don’t have all the an­swers.

{{ BIZOBJ (video: 4525) }}

What We're Following See More »
TAKING A LONG VIEW TO SOUTHERN STATES
In Dropout Speech, Santorum Endorses Rubio
2 days ago
THE DETAILS

As expected after earlier reports on Wednesday, Rick Santorum ended his presidential bid. But less expected: he threw his support to Marco Rubio. After noting he spoke with Rubio the day before for an hour, he said, “Someone who has a real understanding of the threat of ISIS, real understanding of the threat of fundamentalist Islam, and has experience, one of the things I wanted was someone who has experience in this area, and that’s why we decided to support Marco Rubio.” It doesn’t figure to help Rubio much in New Hampshire, but the Santorum nod could pay dividends down the road in southern states.

Source:
‘PITTING PEOPLE AGAINST EACH OTHER’
Rubio, Trump Question Obama’s Mosque Visit
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

President Obama’s decision to visit a mosque in Baltimore today was never going to be completely uncontroversial. And Donald Trump and Marco Rubio proved it. “Maybe he feels comfortable there,” Trump told interviewer Greta van Susteren on Fox News. “There are a lot of places he can go, and he chose a mosque.” And in New Hampshire, Rubio said of Obama, “Always pitting people against each other. Always. Look at today – he gave a speech at a mosque. Oh, you know, basically implying that America is discriminating against Muslims.”

Source:
THE TIME IS NOW, TED
Cruz Must Max Out on Evangelical Support through Early March
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

For Ted Cruz, a strong showing in New Hampshire would be nice, but not necessary. That’s because evangelical voters only make up 21% of the Granite State’s population. “But from the February 20 South Carolina primary through March 15, there are nine states (South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, and North Carolina) with an estimated white-Evangelical percentage of the GOP electorate over 60 percent, and another four (Texas, Kansas, Louisiana, and Missouri) that come in over 50 percent.” But after that, he better be in the catbird’s seat, because only four smaller states remain with evangelical voter majorities.

Source:
CHRISTIE, BUSH TRYING TO TAKE HIM DOWN
Rubio Now Winning the ‘Endorsement Primary’
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Since his strong third-place finish in Iowa, Marco Rubio has won endorsement by two sitting senators and two congressmen, putting him in the lead for the first time of FiveThirtyEight‘s Endorsement Tracker. “Some politicians had put early support behind Jeb Bush — he had led [their] list since August — but since January the only new endorsement he has received was from former presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham.” Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that fueled by resentment, “members of the Bush and Christie campaigns have communicated about their mutual desire to halt … Rubio’s rise in the polls.”

Source:
ARE YOU THE GATEKEEPER?
Sanders: Obama Is a Progressive
1 days ago
THE LATEST

“Do I think President Obama is a progressive? Yeah, I do,” said Bernie Sanders, in response to a direct question in tonight’s debate. “I think they’ve done a great job.” But Hillary Clinton wasn’t content to sit out the latest chapter in the great debate over the definition of progressivism. “In your definition, with you being the gatekeeper of progressivism, I don’t think anyone else fits that definition,” she told Sanders.

×