'Creepy Uncle Sam' doubles down on Snapchat! Is he scaring Millennials from Obamacare? (+video)
The Creepy Uncle Sam ad campaign has taken conservatives' anti-Obamacare message to Millennials. Polls suggest young Americans might be open to the message.
Peter Grier is The Christian Science Monitor's Washington editor. In this capacity, he helps direct coverage for the paper on most news events in the nation's capital.
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Will he and his creator, the conservative political nonprofit Generation Opportunity, successfully convince Millennials they shouldn’t sign up for insurance via President Obama’s signature Affordable Care Act? The final answer to that won’t be clear until March 31 of next year, the deadline for 2014 enrollment, if then.
But Creepy Uncle Sam’s weird vibe does appear to have irritated Mr. Obama himself. At a White House Youth Summit devoted to the ACA last week, the president said “believe it or not, there are actually organizations that are out there working to convince young people not to get insurance.”
“Now think about that. That’s a really bizarre way to spend your money,” said Obama, presumably referring to the wealthy donors who fund those organizations.
In case you’ve never heard of him, Creepy Uncle Sam is a large-head costumed actor similar in appearance to a college sports mascot. But the frozen expression on his enormous face is ... creepy. There’s no other word for it. As we’ve previously said, he looks like a freaky, patriotic garden gnome.
And Generation Opportunity has employed him in ads creepy enough to be controversial on their own. In one, a young woman is set to have a gynecological exam, when Creepy arises from between her legs snapping a speculum. “Don’t leg government play doctor,” reads the video’s tagline. “Opt out of Obamacare.”
In October, Creepy starred in his own mini-Halloween movie, which ended with him making some kind of triumphant guttural roar over a stash of candy extorted from frightened Millennials.
On Dec. 5, Generation Opportunity dropped a new Creepy ad, titled “Not a Game.” It features a panning shot of a hospital while a female voiceover talks about why Millennials are opting out of Obamacare, interrupted by periodic buzzing.
At a crucial point the voice says her generation is not doing the ACA because, “We have not lost our [expletive] minds.” Her swearing is bleeped out by the buzzing sound, which turns out to be caused by Creepy Uncle Sam playing – and losing at – the old board game “Operation.”
Another ad released last week noted that Creepy will be on Snapchat, where users can share pictures and videos that self-delete after 10 seconds. But it’s not clear how extensive an audience he’ll reach on the site, which is popular with a young demographic, given that users have to request images from particular sources. Millennials that will sign up at creepyuncle.sam may already lean towards Generation Opportunity’s position.
Right now Millennials don’t appear convinced they can gain from Obamacare coverage, given its botched rollout. A much-covered poll released by Harvard’s Institute of Politics last week found that solid majorities of the Millennial generation disapprove of the president’s health reform package, whether it’s described as the “Affordable Care Act” or “Obamacare.” Fewer than 3 of every 10 Millennial poll respondents said they will definitely or probably sign up for coverage through an ACA exchange marketplace.
“Those are not numbers that suggest a population that’s poised to fall in line, do its civic duty, and fell warm and fuzzy in the process,” writes right-leaning New York Times columnist Ross Douthat.
The question will be whether that attitude persists. As a new Gallup survey has found, when it comes to Obamacare, younger Americans know the least. Thirty-seven percent say they are “not familiar at all” with the law’s specifics.
And it’s possible that Millennials just won’t really know what they’re going to do on health care until confronted by the hard deadline of next March, after which they’ll have to pay the IRS a fine if they don’t have health coverage.
Many may remain on their parents’ plans, notes political scientist Jonathan Bernstein on his “A plain blog about politics.” Others don’t realize that state-based exchanges and HealthCare.gov are related to the ACA at all.
“I don’t think the poll tells us anything about what young people are going to do when they get to that point of seeking insurance,” writes Mr. Bernstein.