How California Will Sell Obamacare: Celebrities, Reporters, and Targeted Ethnic Appeals
Democrats market policy the same way they market candidates: leveraging the power of the media to make targeted ethnic appeals. When it comes to selling Obamacare to Californians, the plan involves $90 million worth of outreach augmented by partnerships with celebrities, the entertainment industry, and "select" reporters who are presumably eager to help with the roll out.
The Statewide Marketing, Outreach & Education Program is a 127-page document (pdf) which outlines all of the approaches that will be used over the next 2-3 years to market Obamacare to Californians. The key line in the document appears near the end, "People like people like them." This simple statement of group/racial affinity is the framework for the targeted ethnic appeals outlined in the rest of the plan. In fact, the document makes it plain that a key strategy will be "Ensuring that testimonials represent the diversity of California, culturally, linguistically, and regionally."
What this comes down to are attempts to rope celebrities, the entertainment industry and friendly reporters into the earned media effort to promote Obamacare. Some of this is fairly straightforward, such as the comprehensive outreach via Univision which includes radio personalities like El Piolin (mentioned on page 105).
Other appeals seem more ad hoc. A few celebrities mentioned by name as likely willing to do something for the effort include Rosario Dawson, Eva Longoria, George Lopez, and Jessica Alba (for Latino outreach) and Stevie Wonder (for outreach to blacks).
In addition to specific celebrities, there is a longer-term project to involve Hollywood on a national scale by inviting TV producers to include health insurance story-lines in their entertainment shows. The plan even includes the idea of creating an entire reality show around the topic:
During this build out phase, individuals from California’s robust entertainment industry will be approached at the most senior levels to engage in California’s effort, to enroll residents in coverage, many for the first time. A number of popular television programs and personalities such as Grey’s Anatomy, Modern Family, the Biggest Loser, Dr. Oz and others will be approached and pitched to incorporate story lines or mentions of health care reform that would reinforce campaign messages and would air in Phases III – VII (August 2013 – December 2015 timeframe). In addition, we would explore approaching select reality television producers to create a new reality television program revealing the trials and tribulations of families living without medical coverage.
Some of the outreach plans outlined in the document seem stereotypical in their approach. For instance, outreach targeting African Americans will include a bus tour called "The Groove Mobile" which will visit public housing to "spread the gospel" of health exchanges. The Groove Mobile's tour will then be "pitched to local news outlets as well as Black Entertainment Television."
Meanwhile, the plan to reach Asians with the message of health exchanges may include outreach at Karaoke bars or sponsoring a booth at Hot Import Nights, a car show that the document identifies as part of the "Asian Import Car Club Scene."
But celebrities and event outreach are just part of the picture. Another important part of the plan is using the news media to help spread the message by identifying individuals (people like them) in every media market who can be given media training to "tell a compelling and heartfelt story on why the marketplace is needed in the state." Nothing like a heartfelt, carefully rehearsed story to get the word out.
The document also mentions the potential for "integrated blogger outreach" to political bloggers in the state. Other plans to co-opt the media include an Editorial Board Tour (no word on how groovy it will be) to meet "select editorial writers at the major metropolitan daily newspapers." No doubt the "select" editorial boards will be made up of progressives inclined to echo whatever the marketing campaign tells them.
Similarly, the campaign will include "Deskside Briefings" with journalists "to learn what information individual journalists may require." Some of the "key journalists" will even get private meetings with the campaign's executive director. In short, journalists eager to promote the program will get special access and special help.
National reporters won't be left out. Because of California's size and importance, the marketing campaign includes plans to hold conference calls with "select reporters and journalists" and even arrange special interviews when needed. Again, the definition of "select" is left to the imagination, but it's probably synonymous with "Obamacare fans." If Ezra Klein hasn't gotten a call yet, he will soon.
If all of this seems familiar, it may be because it's so much like the campaign for President we just experienced. There too, the President used celebrities (the same ones in fact), friendly journalists, and ethnic appeals (Pimp with a Limp) to pull together a winning coalition of people to whom he has promised government help. This is the Democrats' model for success and, after November's results, there's no doubt it works.