I am often struck by the conventional wisdom that sprouts instantly on television after, say, a Supreme Court decision on health care. Conventional thinking is like angel dust to reporters who in the immediacy of an event have to say something that by the end of the day is repeated often enough during the 24/7 news cycle that it becomes fact.
So it is with the “intensity argument” that is supposed to give the Republican campaign of Mitt Romney a much-needed boost in the arm. Trailing in every state that is supposed to be competitive in a supposedly close election, Romney, it is thought by the conventionalists, received an injection of energy sure to change the dynamics of the campaign. I am not convinced. I doubt more can be done to increase the anger-level of the virulent anti-Obama camp. In contrast and perhaps as important is the fact that three million young Americans up the age of 26 can stay on their parents’ insurance policies. Add to that perhaps as many as five million grateful, anxious parents and anyone can begin to see that the intensity argument does not flow in one direction only.
Where these seven million or so individuals live is another question but these households comprised of Democratic, Republican and independent voters might think twice about voting for a man who wants to jeopardize their insurance coverage. These households might now be spurred to intensify their own engagement in the presidential campaign. How the Obama campaign identifies those who live in the eight or so critical states and sets about to engage them is another story. And it is part of the same story of how the Obama field marshals turn the energy of the 800,000 Dream Act kids into an intense, strategic HispanicLatino strike force.
The Dreamers, like the insurance kids by the Court, were given a new lease on life by President Obama’s recent decision on immigration and could be motivated to help. A President Romney on day one could end their dream of American citizenship overnight. They cannot vote, of course, but they can surely help in other ways. Obama only gave them temporary respite. The work is far from finished. The Dreamers can best help by influencing their neighbors who can vote to get to the voting booths in November, and the Dreamers could even help register eligible voters not yet on the rolls.
Both sets of “kids” contain many who have been heretofore uninvolved but are smart enough to figure out that something of real and direct value is at stake. Perhaps now enticed, they can make up for the lack of intensity that is said to be prevalent among young voters who rallied to Obama’s side in 2008 – a suspicion that itself might be confected by conventional wisdom. And perhaps these newly interested young adults can sprout something real: A tangible impact on local and state races.
Assuming the worse and given the social networks that exist within the insurance kids and the Dreamers, the Obama campaign has a real opportunity to convert the intensity that flowed from the Court’s decision – in a way other than that suggested by conventional wisdom.