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Why the 'Creepy Uncle Sam' Anti-Obamacare Campaign Will Never Work


As a general rule, the Koch brothers don't play well on Facebook.

Back in July, Minyanville enlisted the help of's Kamy Akhavan to help us sort out the nuts and bolts of Obamacare. One overriding lesson we learned was this:
[T]he success of the Affordable Care Act hinges on the participation of the young and the healthy. If this demographic opts out and instead takes the penalty, insurance companies won't be able to mitigate the cost of the "high-risk pools," and we can basically count this whole thing as kaput.
Now, as the October 1 enrollment date looms -- after the House of Representative's umpteenth failed attempt to repeal the law (the bill advanced today that would defund the Affordable Care Act is not expected to pass the Senate) -- the last weapon has been unloaded from the anti-Obamacare arsenal and, lo and behold, it's aimed right at young, healthy Americans who have the power to take it down.

(Also see: How Does Obamacare Work? 11 Questions, 11 Unbiased Answers.)

Enter the Koch brothers' newest creation, Generation Opportunity, a Virginia-based conservative splinter group that's going on a $750,000 "Opt Out" campaign tour with stops at 20 college campuses around the country. The plan is to use a crew of "brand ambassadors" to blend in at tailgating parties at football games who will somehow organically weave the pitfalls of Obamacare into conversation between student keg stands.

As Yahoo News reported, participants "will pass out beer koozies that read 'opt out,' pizza, and literature about the health care law. Some events may have impromptu dance parties with DJs, complete with games of cornhole and competitions for prizes." Students will also be asked to sign a pledge declaring that they will boycott the health insurance exchanges because "Friends don't let friends sign up for a bad deal!"

Yep, koozies and cornhole, attached to a disturbingly uncool tagline, is Generation Opportunity's six-figure plan to ingratiate itself with youth culture. One shudders to imagine the wedding DJ prompting a sing-along to "Mambo No 5" with Obamacare lyrics.

But before this show even got on the road, the campaign organizers proved how out of touch they were with the youth demographic with their "Creepy Uncle Sam" spots. So clearly an attempt at "edginess," the ad wizards behind these videos created a character that's the grabby uncle meets the Burger King mascot (you know, the one the franchise decapitated) meets Dr. Mengele meets utterly flawed logic.

Here's how the New York Times describes one ad:

One of the videos shows a nurse escorting a young woman into an exam room, saying, "I see you chose to sign up for Obamacare." It then shows the young woman in a hospital gown, putting her feet in stirrups for a gynecological exam. Then the Uncle Sam character pops up at the end of the exam table, the young woman screams, and the words, "Don't let government play doctor" and "Opt out of Obamacare" flash on the screen.
In its coverage of Creepy Uncle Sam, Time magazine used the headline "Spread Your Legs for Uncle Sam."

My problem isn't that these ads are tasteless or obscene or that they defile a patriotic icon conservatives have traditionally wrapped so tightly in the ideal of American exceptionalism. My problem with these ads is that they make no earthly sense at all.

If you're a young woman with Obamacare going in for a pap smear, why has your OB/GYN suddenly been replaced by a deranged, plastic cartoon character? How is it that a routine procedure women voluntarily receive on an annual basis has become a rapey scenario?

Adding to the ad's confusion is that, in real life, this type of preventative care is free under the new law, along with mammogram screenings and contraception. And if the woman in the ad is under the age of 26, she can stay on her parents' coverage. What exactly is the horror show for this demographic?

Ironically, women who seek abortions are in fact being forced into rape-like medical procedures, namely the mandatory vaginal probe, in certain states. These laws, too, came courtesy of Koch brothers-funded agendas.

Sure, Generation Opportunity (even the name is a spaghetti-at-the-wall buzz-phrase exercise) is dripping with enough inauthenticity, bad writing, and overall ineffective political messaging to get laughed out of the stadium parking lot on its own. But if conservative attempts at hip and humor and counterculture are any precedent, this campaign is doomed to be a three-quarters-of-a-million-dollar failure whose demise will only be hastened by teen-friendly social media sites like Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), Twitter, and Pinterest.

What conservative precedents, you ask?

Remember The 1/2 Hour News Hour, "The Daily Show for conservatives," that the Fox News Channel (NASDAQ:FOX) cancelled after one 13-episode season? Or Bob Dole trying to court the youth vote by showing up to a Rock the Vote pool party? And lest we forget Mitt Romney letting the dogs out on Martin Luther King Day, no less?

Even the cool-looking, "Jokerized" Obama posters that pop up at every Tea Party rally weren't created by a street artist recruited by the right wing. The image was made by a liberal University of Illinois student who was playing around with Adobe's Photoshop software while bored over winter break; it was then co-opted by conservatives who added the head-scratching "Socialist" caption.

Cut your losses, Koch brothers. The kids are never going to give you a win.
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