Votes Are Cheap

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Garance Franke-Ruta writes at The Atlantic:

To get the young people whom the system needs to succeed into the exchanges will require more than just “navigators” and microtargeting key populations. Fortunately, if the Obama campaigns in 2008 and 2012 were good at anything, it was turning out and engaging young people, and that knowledge ought to be deployed in the campaign to sign people up for insurance, too. The campaigns made electing Obama a community project and a community conversation that involved meeting people where they were to talk about politics and voting. It involved barbershops and hair salons, coffee shops, laundromats, community organizations. Getting the insurance equivalent of low-information, unlikely-turnout voters to sign up for insurance—something much more complicated than going to the polls—will require tremendous work.

And here’s Jonathan Cohn, writing at The New Republic last spring:

Administration officials say they’ve developed a sophisticated strategy for persuading young consumers, partly by applying the data-analysis techniques developed during the presidential campaign. “If there’s one thing we know how to do,” says a senior administration official, “it’s reach young people.”

To win votes, the Obama folks had to persuade young people to perform an act that had essentially no direct costs. In this case they need to get young people to put down money — for a product that is less valuable to them than it has been in the past, when a lot of them didn’t buy it. The website’s problems are not the only reason that this latest campaign isn’t going so well.