Scott the Republican Hipster can't face the camera for this
Let's begin with the obvious: Republicans have a young voter problem
. In terms of presidential elections, the numbers are stark: Barack Obama won young voters by 34 points during the 2008 election. In the 2012 re-election campaign, the numbers weren't as stark—the margin was only 24 points the second time around—but it was still an electoral thrashing. And while conservative strategists hope against hope that this phenomenon is merely the product of a star-crossed love affair with President Obama, the underlying reality is one of more electoral permanence. Young voters, simply put, are more aligned with Democrats on key issues:
Nearly seven in 10 millennials (68 percent) support same-sex marriage, a marked increase even from a decade ago, when 44 percent backed it. Fifty-five percent of millennials say illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay in the United States and have a chance to apply for citizenship. Fifty-six percent of millennials say abortion should be legal in all or most cases. On each of those issues, millennials’ views come far closer to the Democratic Party’s position than where the Republican Party — and in particular, its base — finds itself.
And, on the right role for government to play in people’s lives, a majority of millennials (53 percent) favor a bigger government that provides more services, while 38 percent find a smaller government with fewer services more appealing. That’s almost exactly the opposite of the other generations Pew tested; all three of them — silent, baby boomer and X — preferred a smaller government.
Republican spinmeisters know they must reverse this trend if their party is to be viable, especially as the electorate becomes more minority than it is now. But the latest effort by the Republican National Committee leaves much to be desired.
Go below the fold to see more about the new campaign.
This new ad campaign features a Republican hipster. But not an authentic hipster, no. More like a hipster who is trying so hard to be a hipster that he must have flunked out of hipster spy school but wishes he were still in the game. He's fully decked out with glasses, a beard, a leather jacket, and most importantly, a god-awful t-shirt with red stripes that has zero chance of ever selling out and going mainstream so he can claim he bought it before it was cool.
I feel pretty lucky to have a job. So many people I know are unemployed. It's like their lives are stuck in neutral.
So I get ticked off at politicians who say they want to help the unemployed and then vote for regulations that make it impossible to hire anyone. Listen, you can't help the unemployed by hurting the people who could employ them.
I'm a Republican because my friends need a paycheck, not an empty promise.
I shouldn't have to check my bank account before I fill up my car. Sooo much of my paycheck ends up going to gas. We haven't even talked about my heating bill at home. So when it comes to energy policy for this country, I'm for everything—solar, wind, shale gas, oil, whatever. I'm a Republican because we should have an all of the above energy policy.
Now, I have to give the Republican Party credit for even making this effort, but let's be honest: These things are awful. They're not even ironically awful like a cleverly mismatched pair of shoes. From the outfit, to the narration, to the gaze that's obviously looking at cue cards that are further off-camera than Marco Rubio's water bottle and totally ruining an otherwise decent man-on-the-street vibe, the executions here are unintentionally bad. But the content? It might not seem possible, but the content is even worse.
Republican strategists seem to have this funny notion in their head about why my generation simply does not vote for them: They think that it's not the policies that turn us off, it's the packaging. They think that Democrats win our votes mainly because Barack Obama is cool and shiny and neat; that when his coolness is no longer on the ballot, our brainless votes will once again be up for grabs by whichever party offers us the shiniest advertising bauble. So what do they do? Find some wannabe hipster in an excruciating shirt to mouth words at us about job-killing regulations and shale gas.
And this is where you should start to wonder about the real purpose of these ads. The people who are making these ads have seen the polling: They know that a majority favor a bigger government that provides more services, and yet the ad speaks generally about regulations that make it harder to hire people—as if this were a well-established narrative of my generation, instead of just the opposite. And furthermore, when was the last time you ever heard someone of my generation use the term "shale gas" this side of an anti-fracking protest? Alex Pareene at Salon says it best:
And that’s why Scott is a Republican: Because they support an “all of the above” energy policy, which Scott sums up as, “solar, wind, shale gas, oil, whatever!” I mean, increased domestic energy production doesn’t necessarily lower fuel prices in the U.S. because it is a worldwide market, and “all of the above” is actually the energy policy of both parties, but, you know, “whatever,” as the millennials say. “LOL,” they sext one another. “Let’s frack some shale gas, YOLO.”
So what's going on here? It's honest-to-god possible that Republican strategists really think that one condescendingly employed hipster will be able to sell us on the virtues of deregulation and shale gas where so many other Republican and corporate ad campaigns have failed. Or, just maybe, the ads aren't designed for my generation at all. Let's picture a different scenario instead: You're a Republican strategist, and you have some reassurances you need to make to your older, white, corporate mega-donors. You know that the younger generation wants absolutely nothing to do with the candidates you support, and you know that your mega-donors know that too. You know that your mega-donors are worried about your long-term viability if you don't do something about that. So you need to convince them that you have a plan. You need to show them that you have a strategy to win over these young people, something that's different from the usual political ads that simply haven't worked. But you also know that you can't change your message from the deregulation and oil extraction agenda that your big donors support.
So what do you produce? Something that looks different to them, something that looks creative. An ad that features someone who looks like what an older corporate stooge would think a hipster looks like, all while being very careful to reinforce the trickle-down economic message that will hold open the wallets of the wealthy. Something that won't actually reach younger voters, but something that will convince the big donors that you're making tangible progress. Something that is less stereotypically awful than other ill-fated conservative efforts to woo young voters, but only just. Something that puts artisan bread on the crap sandwich and hopes nobody notices what's still in the middle.
Something that isn't so bad it's good. Instead, something that's just awful enough to be pathetically cynical.