ONTD Political

Obama movement youth not showing up to health care debate

12:37 am - 08/25/2009
Summary: Health care reform increasingly viewed as an issue for seniors, which the GOP is using to its advantage.

Young Obama backers skip health care fight

By: The Associated Press | 24 Aug 2009 | 05:57 PM ET
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Twenty-somethings may see it as an old folks issue

NEW YORK - Add this to President Barack Obama's problems in selling his health care overhaul: A lot of the tech-savvy activists who helped put him in office are young, feeling indestructible and not all that into what they see as an old folks issue.

It's a crucial gap in support and one the White House may have to correct if Obama is to regain the momentum and get Congress to act on his top domestic priority.

Matt Singer, a 26-year-old founder of the liberal group Forward Montana and an activist in the health care trenches, has tried to engage young people.

"Right now we're seeing a big conversation with seniors, but you're not seeing the same mobilization among young people who are President Obama's core constituency," Singer said. "The age demographic most supportive of reform has not been engaged, and it makes me very nervous."

Younger people are generally healthier and rely on less medical care, particularly young working men who make up the largest group that goes voluntarily without health insurance. They also are less likely to be as vocal at contentious town halls; many are either working or in school during the daytime forums.

Among senior citizens, the fear is palpable about Obama's efforts, reflected in public polling that shows support falling for his proposals. Seniors worry that paying for the $1 trillion-plus, 10-year overhaul will mean cuts in Medicare benefits.

Talk of death panels and "pulling the plug on grandma," although discredited, has scared seniors. Sensing opportunity, the Republican National Committee announced a "Seniors' Health Care Bill of Rights" Monday that pledges to protect the elderly from any attempt to ration health care because of age.

Seniors preferred Republican Sen. John McCain by a 55-43 percent margin in last year's general election — the only age group Obama lost.

Energizing his base

Determined to energize his activist base, Obama talked up health care in an online town meeting last week with Organizing for America, the campaign operation reconstituted as the White House political arm. The operation has stepped up its push on health care, hosting thousands of events across every state and congressional district.

"It's great to be here with all of you because it reminds me of how we got here in the first place," Obama told the group in the meeting.

In an interview with radio talk show host Michael Smerconish, he also promoted his proposal for young people up to the age of 26 to get health coverage under their parents' insurance plans. "It gives them a way of having coverage until they get that job that has a little bit more security," he said.

Said Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster who has researched the youth vote: "I think the White House thought they could mobilize their younger supporters just by saying, 'Come out.' But now they realize they have to run a real campaign."

The question is whether it's too late in the game for the 18-29-year-old voters who turned out in unprecedented numbers for Obama in 2008, giving him 66 percent of their vote to 32 percent for Republican McCain. Polling shows that younger voters are the most supportive of health care reform — but also the most likely to be uninsured.

Put off by attacks

Heather Smith, executive director of the youth-oriented group Rock the Vote, said that the heated arguments that have dominated the debate recently — from the future of Medicare to "death panels" to claims of rationing — have seemed far removed from the lives of young people, whose health-insurance worries primarily center on the cost and availability of coverage.

"What we've learned by working with this generation through polling is that attacks, rather than dialogue, doesn't attract them," Smith said. "Beyond the screaming, there's a tremendous amount of interest and concern among young people. It's just not something you see."

But critics also point to a failure of Obama's message, saying that by focusing so intently on the concerns of senior citizens the White House may have lost the attention of younger voters. They argue that the tools Obama used so successfully to mobilize young voters in the campaign, such as community organizing and social networking, need to be reintroduced and used more aggressively in this debate.

"If we're going to keep this generation engaged, we have to move away from the politics of partisan talking points and move back to what was done last year: the politics of engagement, citizenship, democracy, online and on the ground activity, and conversations with peers," Smith said.

Lake, the Democratic pollster, said the lack of involvement by young people in the health care push may hint at a bigger concern for the White House: Some so-called Obama "surge" voters, who voted for the first time in 2008 and are largely younger and nonwhite, may not be as motivated to get involved in his signature causes, including health care.

"They say, 'I'm taking a break from politics, I'm uninformed about the system, I'm sick of Washington, I'm not going to help these people.' It's interesting that he hasn't countered that disengagement," Lake said.

To bring those voters back, Lake said Obama needs to draw on his own personal popularity and make the health care debate about him, rather than allow it to seem like a mishmash of legislation coming out of Capitol Hill.

"He hasn't said yet, 'This is my plan. The opponents are trying to take my plan away from me,'" Lake said.

That's the argument Amanda Mack, a 27-year old organizer in South Dakota, says she makes when she urges young people to participate in the debate.

"During the campaign, young people got involved because they believed in Barack Obama and health care is something he made a priority," Mack said. She added that she expected to see more activity around the issue in the fall, when colleges are back in session and younger families return from vacation.

Singer, of Forward Montana, echoed that but said Obama must move quickly to inspire his core supporters.

"To win, you've got to turn out your base. In this case, it's the pragmatic youth who trust Barack Obama and say, 'This seems reasonable to me,'" Singer said.

Source: AP article @ MSNBC
volksjager 25th-Aug-2009 08:40 pm (UTC)
You might try holding them on week-ends other times that people are not (supposed) at work...
jaded110 25th-Aug-2009 08:41 pm (UTC)
syndicalist 25th-Aug-2009 08:56 pm (UTC)
Woman trains dog not to accept treats from "Barack Obama."


lisaee 25th-Aug-2009 09:07 pm (UTC)
How much time did that woman spend training her dog to hate the name Barack Obama? jfc
aestas 25th-Aug-2009 08:57 pm (UTC)
NEW YORK - Add this to President Barack Obama's problems in selling his health care overhaul: A lot of the tech-savvy activists who helped put him in office are young, feeling indestructible and not all that into what they see as an old folks issue.

Got that far before I stopped with an "oh my god shut the fuck up."

Definitely agree with the comments so far.
bludstone 25th-Aug-2009 09:08 pm (UTC)
regardless of your political position on this topic, we can all rally behind the fact that this is a SHIT ARTICLE, and the writer needs to
zestylime 25th-Aug-2009 09:36 pm (UTC)
my_private_muse 25th-Aug-2009 09:16 pm (UTC)
Twenty-somethings may see it as an old folks issue.

Sorry, I don't see it this way. I'm turning 25 next year and will technically be off my mom's insurance. So no, this debate is CRUCIAL for me. Considering I have trouble with ovarian cysts.

I would love to join the debate, but have one that isn't 50 miles away from where I live, and at a time where I can go after school/work.

Trust me. I want to be involved. And I do my part with not shutting up about it. Lol.
moonshaz 26th-Aug-2009 12:39 am (UTC)
My daughter turned 23 last year and has been uninsured ever since, because we were no longer allowed to cover her on my employer's plan or my husband's once she reached that age. She sure as hell cares about this issue--a LOT.

Thanks to some enlightened changes in the law here in the state of Illinois, we may be able to add her back on soon, and keep her covered until she's 26 (unless she gets a job with insurance coverage before then). But we have to wait for the new plan year to start, on January 1. In the meantime, she'd better not break anything or develop a serious medical condition--or we'll all be screwed. *sigh*
whosmurry 25th-Aug-2009 10:10 pm (UTC)
I take exception to this. I'm a twenty-something and I'm showing up for this, but I happen to be stranded in rural Oklahoma. If our Oklahoma Democrat leaders would organize some sort of rally here, that would be nice.
rex_dart 25th-Aug-2009 10:16 pm (UTC)
I'm 22 and health care is my main issue, and it has been since before the presidential election season even started.

However, being as I am 22 and thus starting my senior year of college, I have three classes three days a week and four the other two, and thus going to the town hall meeting scheduled a half hour away on Wednesday, a town hall meeting for which there will probably be an excessively long line of slack-jawed tea partiers taking up all the potential spots even if I rushed over after class, isn't really much of an option for me.
countrygirl_914 26th-Aug-2009 03:59 pm (UTC)
Haha, I'd totally take you, if I didn't have to be in the lab working. Grar.
whosmurry 25th-Aug-2009 10:19 pm (UTC)
ALSO, it would be nice if the meetings were geared toward open, two-sided discussions. The ones I've been to have been our local Republican Congressmen coming to scare up support from their base, like a door-to-door salesman. Coburn's people passed out a "fact" sheet that cherry-picked the different plans and made the patients choice act look spotless. And he wasn't interested in discussing the merits of the other plans. He cited several things in his bill that were in all the other proposals and talked like he was the only one who came up with those ideas. And after thirty minutes, he stopped taking questions on health care and started talking about abortion and gay marriage. I mean, come on!

In short, the town hall meetings are bullshit. If they had, like, Barney Frank and Chuck Grassley types going all over the U.S., actually debating each other and taking questions, that would be good. The town halls as they are now are way too one-sided to be constructive.
eleveninches 26th-Aug-2009 02:15 am (UTC)
There was one in my city a few weeks ago, and they only told registered members of the Republican party. :P The rest of us had to find out about it in the paper the next day.
evilgmbethy 25th-Aug-2009 10:36 pm (UTC)
Seniors don't even need to be in on this debate. They've got medicare, they're fucking set.
lickety_split 25th-Aug-2009 11:45 pm (UTC)
IKR!? It's like, "Why are you even here?"
gretchystretchy 25th-Aug-2009 10:47 pm (UTC)
1) Seniors are easy to scare shitless with this stuff - the Repubs already got my grandma freaking the fuck out. (She's also apparently become quite racist over the last year or so, which depresses me to no end, but that's another story. =() Plus, it's not like they have a ton of things to do during the day, which brings me to my next point...

2) If you'd have town halls on WEEKENDS or during the evenings, younger people/employed people might actually come! I have full-time school and a part-time job, neither of which I can really skive off to go to a meeting filled with crazy seniors and whackjobs who don't know anything (and there are of a lot of those here in Kansas).

Trust me, I would LOVE to be more involved in this - health care is one of my pet issues.
agentsculder 25th-Aug-2009 11:49 pm (UTC)
Your two points are right on. Seniors ALWAYS freak out when it comes to health care stuff. If they think they're going to get one less test then they do under the current system, then they're going to make a lot of noise.

And I do think more young people would be engaged if these town halls weren't all being held in the afternoons during the work week. I'm in my early 30s, and I have a full time job (that provides me with excellent health care, thank goodness), and I'm very passionate about health care as well. Before I got the good job I have now, I either had no health care or next to nothing. I know all too well what it is like to hope you don't get sick.
belleweather 25th-Aug-2009 11:34 pm (UTC)
Um... maybe if there were something decent in the bill for young people who have to buy their own insurance instead of enormous giveaways to the insurance companies, more of us would support it. Just sayin'.
moonshaz 26th-Aug-2009 12:46 am (UTC)
That icon is FULL of win.
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