Those Obamacare Rape Ads Are a Scam on Conservatives

I suppose I have to talk about the creepy anti-Obamacare ads that everyone, or at least all the liberal bloggers, are talking about today.

Look, folks: this is a very obvious scam.

This is not about stopping the ACA.

This is about money.

Oh, for the donors, it’s presumably about stopping Obamacare.

But for the people putting together the ads, unless they are incredibly stupid and naive, it’s almost certainly about raising money from those donors. And, perhaps, making a name for themselves (or a bigger name — I’m not looking to see who is responsible) within the conservative movement.

These ads could not be better designed to do one thing: to get condemned by liberals. Thus impressing easily scammed conservative marks, who tend to really believe that if liberals hate something, it must be terrific and effective.

This campaign is not designed to convince young people to “opt out” of Obamacare. It’s part of a “campus tour” supposedly designed to convince those young people to go without insurance, but that’s transparently a fraud; traditional-aged college students, the ones who are supposedly being targeted, aren’t really the customers that matter (it’s their older brothers and sisters…yes, some traditional-age college students may purchase their own insurance under ACA, more than was the case before, but it must be a fairly small group).

No, there are real efforts to undermine the law — harassing the “navigators,” pressuring the NFL and others not to publicize it, and more — but this campaign isn’t one of them.

Will it have any effect on actual consumer behavior? I doubt it. But it is worth noting that if it does “work” at all, it’s going to work on the people who respond best to the affect evoked by the ads: in other words, people already primed and ready to hate Obama(care), people already primed and ready to hate the government of the United States, people primed and ready to suspect the very worst of the program. And do note: the way it “works” is by convincing them to go without health insurance.

So basically: if you’re a rich conservative who isn’t very smart about how you give your money, this ad is designed to pick your pocket. If you’re a non-rich conservative, you might get duped into some foolish behavior, but that’s just acceptable collateral damage. For everyone else, it’s an occasion for (to be fair, entirely justified) outrage, I suppose, but basically it’ll come and go without any real effects.

Hey, I know: we’re not supposed to question motives. I believe that. So I’ll say again: it’s possible that these ads are not a scam, but a real political campaign undertaken by seriously naive and stupid operatives. Just as it’s possible that the people doing the “defund” campaign sincerely believe that a government shutdown threat would achieve that, as opposed (as Jamelle Bouie and others pointed out) just finding it an effective money-raising tool). I have to admit, however: that’s not what I think is going on.

[Cross-posted at A plain blog about politics]

Jonathan Bernstein

Jonathan Bernstein is a political scientist who writes about American politics, especially the presidency, Congress, parties, and elections.