March 18, 2014

JAMES TARANTO: A Celeb Is Not a Cause: The kids are all right. ObamaCare’s not so hot.

Obama’s 2008 campaign scarcely deserves to be called a “cause.” It was more a cult of personality. “His entire political persona is an ingeniously crafted human cipher, a man without race, ideology, geographic allegiances, or, indeed, sharp edges of any kind,” observed Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi in 2007. “As far as political positioning goes, his strategy seems to be to appear as a sort of ideological Universalist, one who spends a great deal of rhetorical energy showing that he recognizes the validity of all points of view.”

His slogans were vapid even by the standards of political sloganeering: “Yes, we can.” “Hope and change.” “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” He was often called a “rock star”–a celeb, not a cause. It’s as if the Beatles came to America in 1964 to run for president rather than to sell records, and got elected on slogans like “Let it be,” “Please please me” and “I want to hold your hand.” Half a century later, the Beatles’ tunes have an enduring appeal to their once-youthful, now-elderly fans. Had they been forced to face the exigencies of governing, it’s unlikely a Lennon-McCartney administration would be remembered much more fondly than Johnson-Humphrey is.

Obama might have made a serviceably good president had he proved to be administratively competent and ideologically modest instead of the other way around. His personality-based campaign of 2008 diverted attention from his ideological ambitiousness, which expressed itself most forcefully in the enactment of ObamaCare. But while “health-care reform” in the abstract can be characterized as having been a “cause,” what Americans, and especially young Americans, are rejecting now is something different: a product, one that is both shoddy and overpriced. . . .

Because ObamaCare prohibits insurance companies from charging different premiums according to sex, and because women tend to use more medical services than men–a disparity that is greatest among younger policyholders–the “gender averaged” premium increase is greater for young men than for young women.

That means young men are the most disadvantaged by ObamaCare’s price controls–and, as a corollary, that they are the group on which ObamaCare’s solvency is most dependent. And the hip Mainers think the way to appeal to them is with male nudity?

Obama supporters have a quaint faith in the power of marketing. They don’t seem to grasp that persuading people to vote for one politician over another–essentially a cost-free proposition–is a far smaller order than persuading them to purchase an expensive product, especially one that offers a poor value for their money.

Indeed.

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