Give Them Something To Believe In

This week’s Courier Herald Column:

Republicans last week were celebrating a Harvard survey of “Millennial” voters – those Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 – showing that they have quite sharply turned their backs on both President Obama and his signature Affordable Care Act.  The poll went so far as to showing that a majority of those under 25 go so far as preferring the President be removed from office.

The results please Republicans even though the reliability of younger voters has proven unreliable at best.  The age group had previously represented the strongest core of support for the President and Democrats.  In addition, those looking at demographic trends have been predicting that these voters would remain loyal to the Democratic Party as their age wave replaces voters who are older and currently lean Republican.

A word or two of caution is in order before Republicans pop the corks on their Champagne.  Just because these younger voters are displeased with Democrats doesn’t mean they believe their only alternative is to embrace the GOP.  The poll shows a genuine amount of disillusionment with the youngest voters.  It is possible that decades of partisan bickering with each side seeking to show the other as illegitimate may have these voters placing a pox on all political houses. 

After all, Congressional approval ratings in the poll were equally abysmal.  45% of the group would vote against their own member of Congress, with an even higher 52% saying all members of Congress should go.

It’s relatively easy to see why this age group would be disenchanted with the President.  The healthcare for all promise has become another bureaucratic mess.  Not only is the price significantly higher than promised, but this generation that has only known a world with personal computers and finds it hard to remember a world without an internet can’t seem to understand why 3 years wasn’t enough time to build a website that might actually work.

The most idealistic of this generation are wondering how promises to close Guantanamo Bay and leave Afghanistan have turned into expanding Guantanamo and negotiating to stay another decade or so in a war zone most thought we would have left during Obama’s first term.  Others may just be concerned that six years after the financial collapse, they have loaded up on student loans only to find few jobs waiting at even lower wages than they were expecting.

Clearly there is opportunity for Republicans to make their case.  But they should not expect millennials to reflexively join the GOP merely because they are disillusioned with the Democrats.  Their support will have to be earned.

Republican messaging has been less than welcoming to the youngest generation of voters.  While honest differences between GOP and Democratic solutions to environmental issues exists, it does not help drawing younger voters who do place environmental concerns significantly above others to see GOP politicians and pundits talking about leaving all their lights on and driving their SUV’s around the block a few extra times in “honor” of Earth Day.

Likewise, an honest look at messaging is in order if social conservatives wish to attract millennials to the GOP brand.  Those within the movement could use some honest self-reflection to determine if their message represents one of limited government and freedom of religion, rather than an imposition of a specific religious preference.  It’s a fine line, but one that definitely deserves some attention.

This is dissolution among younger voters – and frankly, too many Americans of all ages. The solution to attract these voters back into the fold can start with a relatively simple premise:  Under promise and over deliver.

Both parties have taken campaigning to a level where anyone that is paying attention can easily see that rhetoric does not match reality.  Large comprehensive government programs cannot give everyone more while reducing the costs.  Likewise, taxes cannot continue to be cut while promising no substantial cuts to entitlements or discretionary spending without borrowing more money and increasing the related debt ceiling.

Voters of all ages have become keenly aware that their votes are being bought with lies and empty promises.  It undermines our entire system of government.  If we know we are electing our leaders based on who gives us the best campaign lie, we have no reason to believe when our elected officials then try to govern.

There is only one substantial way to turn around the race to the bottom our two party system is currently giving us.  Our leaders, whether campaigning or governing, must provide honest talk and real solutions.  Ones not based on what we want to hear, but what must happen to solve actual problems.

The current system breeds too much cynicism.  The party that wishes to fix this will be the one that gives us something to believe in.


  1. D_in_ATL says:

    You make some good points but I have to say it feels like the same articles you have written in the past. Namely, all are long on messaging but lack any actual discussion of policy changes.

  2. DavidTC says:

    I continue to find it astonishing that Republicans think that current dissatisfaction with the rollout of the ACA will somehow translates into political gains far down the road.

    No, it really won’t. It might translate into political gains _during the time_ it doesn’t entirely work right. That is a reasonable idea, although it’s worth pointing out that public opinion on the ACA hasn’t changed much since it passed.

    But the idea that, in 10 years, people who are now 29 might care that it took six months before all the edges were smoothed on a government program a decade ago is completely nonsense.

    The reason that many young people don’t like the ACA is that many young people are idiots who don’t think they need health insurance. And they are people who’ve mostly never had to worry about _not_ having health insurance.

    In ten years, they will instead be people who purchase health insurance on the exchange every year, or who get insurance via their job and don’t care one bit about the ACA except they know they can buy insurance if they lose their job.

    Incidentally, it’s really hilarious how Republicans think that young people who are critical of the President must be critical from the _right_. Uh, no. Hells no. Obama might not be popular, but the Republicans are _less_ popular. This is a group that approves of Republicans in Congress by _19%_.

    Of course, there is an easy way for Republicans to capture people that age. In fact, the poll ends with the conclusion: A majority of Millennials are seriously concerned about student debt; and they speak largely as one in their support of the “Buffet Rule,” cutting foreign economic aid(1), cutting the number of nuclear warheads and preserving both federal K through 12 funding and Social Security benefits for most.

    If Republicans could just do that, they’d be Democrats! I mean, win!

    1) The zombie stupidity that will not die.

  3. There are a lot of ways to modify the ACA and make it more conservative, but Republicans aren’t there yet. They probably need one more big defeat snatched from the jaws of victory.

    In the meantime, Silver+HSA or Gold plans really don’t look that unreasonable to me, but I’m coming from the group market (and seeing how much a company was paying with Cobra) whereas I guess if I was coming from the old individual market I may feel a little differently.

    But like $275/mo or so for a $2500 deductible with a lot of preventive care covered and relatively low co-pays – this doesn’t seem that outrageous to me. Or $225/mo for the Silver+HSA with $3600 deductible and you pay for everything but preventative – again, not a bad deal. Drugs are cheap at Costco and Walmart.

  4. Engineer says:

    As one of those who are 29, I don’t trust either side to fix anything at this point. Which is part of why I’ve ended up voting for some 3rd party candidates in the past couple elections. I still find it funny that with a name like the Affordable Care Act, that the options are not affordable at all. How they expect underemployed college grads (and before you say it, I’m mostly talking about grads in STEM fields) who can’t get decent jobs, to pay those pricey premiums is beyond me.

    • $136/mo for Humana catastrophic plan that includes preventive care and $35 copay for primary care doctor, no subsidy available for this plan.

      Or – $186/mo for Humana POS bronze plan, with potential subsidy if you’re “underemployed”.

      Are these prices really unaffordable? I’m not asking if they’re a great value or how they compare to before, but just unaffordable?

      • Engineer says:

        That isn’t a fair assessment, those prices vary based on where you live. For example in southwest GA, you are lucky if you can find something under $275 a month for catastrophic (with a $40 copay). That price doesn’t even take into account if you need something like dental or vision (God forbid you wear glasses), because they aren’t covered. Even if they are eligible for for subsidies (and this varies based on your income so this makes the price vary wildly), once you add dental and/or vision (around $15-20 a each extra), you are easily looking at upwards of $225-250 a month with subsidies.

          • Charlie says:

            And therein lies the problem of this system conceived in DC by progressives who only understand how things in urban areas work, and then when folks in flyover country complain, you get comments like “it works for most Americans” or “that’s unfortunate, what would be nice would be…”

            This is just unfortunate, and we’re well past the time of talking about theoretical things that would be nice.

            People are losing their healthcare because of this law. And these “junk” plans that people liked are being replaced by ones that don’t cover nearly as much, and cost much more.

            And the progressives think that’s “unfortunate”, but they also know it doesn’t affect them or anyone they know. And so they move on.

            • How am I moving on? When I say stuff like “I would say in areas like that they should just let you buy into Medicaid or something similar” that is a serious policy proposal. Presumably, private employers in places like Albany and the state/feds (Medicare/Medicaid) also face higher insurance costs, do they not?

              The ACA is just exposing individuals to the same pricing that the large group market already faces for similar plans (if you pick gold) and those prices are somewhat of a shock to people in places like Atlanta (but again, prices that their employers are already paying) and doubly so in places like Southwest Georgia.

              I am not in the legislature. My party has no power in Georgia. Higher healthcare costs have been a problem in places like SW Georgia for decades. Very little progress has been made. If Medicaid/Medicare is cheaper, I say at the very least let people buy into it as a temporary or permanent solution. Or, the legislature and governor can come up with something else. Maybe Georgia just needs to directly subsidize more clinics in places that are medically underserved.

              Let me remind you what your party’s elected insurance commissioner said on the record about Obamacare implementation: “Everything in our power to be an obstructionist.”

              Somehow in your worldview the fact that insurance costs are high in rural Georgia and I have proposed at least one solution (that I have no power to implement) makes it my/my party’s fault? Good lord.

            • One problem with the ACA, I will admit, is that the plans and benefits in the new individual market were pegged to the average benefit level that large group plans contain. The problem of course, is that very few people in a large group plan know/knew how much (taxpayer subsidized) healthcare they were getting. And I think (and this is what many Republicans argue) that many people who “get free healthcare” through work would, all things being equal, choose to get less generous free health care, and more money directly as salary. At least I would.

              Now it’s true that liberals, in pegging the individual market plans to the benefit levels that exist in the large group market, focused more on the benefits and less on the costs. It’s also true that liberals don’t necessarily think about how this will affect places like SW Georgia because many of the people in SW Georgia who actually vote for us will or should be on Medicaid and won’t be paying those costs.

              So – that leaves people like Nathan Deal and Ralph Hudgens as the type of elected officials who could have piped up anytime over the last 4 years when rules were being made and this thing was being implemented to say wait a second, we need to do this differently or have the flexibility to do it differently. But they were either silent or worse (rooting for obstruction and failure).

              I am the first to admit that the ACA isn’t perfect. I would also point out that it’s by definition impossible not to have some disruptions (positive and negative) and some unforeseen outcomes when you have a major change like the ACA. I’m perfectly willing to step up to the plate and work on changes, I’m in no way wedded to the ACA as it is now. I think the feds and the state need to do things still to reform the way healthcare is paid for and delivered in this state and country.

              I just fail to see how it is my fault that a solution isn’t already in place.

    • Jon Lester says:

      There is no such thing as wasting a vote on a third-party candidate. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, because they usually say that when they’re out of positive reasons to choose between Democrat and Republican.

  5. saltycracker says:

    Not youngsters but several of us sang this discussion at lunch. Not only is what you point out preaching to that choir but toss in the bullet points of our candidates that are code words for just the opposite intent. Then toss in the unwillingness to properly administer programs or enforce violations with “entitlements” or movement on closing tax loopholes which has to be done prior to even knowing what can be cut.

  6. Will Durant says:

    “Those within the movement could use some honest self-reflection to determine if their message represents one of limited government and freedom of religion, rather than an imposition of a specific religious preference.”

    Face it. Unless you are in Utah most Republicans are stereotyped as Protestant Christians of pale complexion and at least here in the Bible Belt have more than a few elected Pharisees wearing their religion on their sleeve. There is also a lot of picking and choosing of which religious tenets they wish to impose on other citizens. I hate to go all Biblical on y’all but reading Mr. Chidi’s 24-hour journal on Grady I could only think of the following passage and wonder how the Republican leadership can reconcile their actions.

    31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

    41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” — Mathew 25:31-46

  7. Dave Bearse says:

    It’s disappointing because it undermines your credibility (that I hold in esteem) when you don’t get a simple fact straight on something as readily checkable as the number of Guantanamo detainees.

    The last Guantanamo detainee arrived in March 2008, and there were 240 detainees when Obama took office per Fox News:
    There were 164 detainees on 29 Aug 2013 per PBS (update):

    “The most idealistic of this generation are wondering how promises to close Guantanamo Bay and leave Afghanistan have turned into expanding Guantanamo…”

    Am I overlooking something with respect to the claim of Guantanamo expansion?

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