Democrats panicked by third-party candidates drawing support away from Hillary Clinton are ramping up their attacks against Gary Johnson and warning that a vote for a third party is a vote for Donald Trump.One example?
Liberal groups are passing around embarrassing videos of Johnson and running ads against him warning about his positions on issues like climate change that are important to young voters and independents.
NextGen Climate, the group run by liberal billionaire and environmental activist Tom Steyer, is on the ground in eight battleground states with a message that is almost exclusively aimed at reaching the millennial voters who are energized by the issue of climate change.The digital ad is not bad, though I don't understand why it leads off with the economic cost of climate change, which isn't intuitively obvious and, if you're trying to be virtuous, would seem to be a secondary consideration:
Last week, the group threw six figures behind digital ads mocking Johnson as a climate change denier and warning millennials that climate change will cost them trillions of dollars.
But it doesn't matter, and it doesn't matter that Paul Krugman and others have tried to remind voters about the Randian harshness of the Libertarian platform. Just as young skeptics refuse to believe Hillary Clinton every time she says something they agree with, they refuse to believe Libertarians every time they say something they disagree with. (The latter also seems true to a large extent for Trump.)
Months ago, it might have seemed as if the young would be alarmed about the possibility of a Trump victory. But people have a herd instinct that leads them to agree on narratives, and the message young skeptics have agreed on en masse is that Trump's a fascist but Clinton's a liar, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ -- what difference does it make if you don't vote for the one person who can beat Trump? Also, there's the insane belief that Congress will restrain Trump's worst impulses, so it's no big deal if he wins. See, for instance, these tweets from a local public radio reporter who watched the debate with a pro-Sanders millennial who's undecided for November:
(I can only guess that this belief comes from the millennials' experience of the GOP's eight-year effort to shut down the Obama presidency, an effort that's been successful in many ways. I assume they see it through the filter of mainstream media reporting that blames it on "gridlock" or "Washington" rather than Republicans and so, I guess, they assume that all Congresses shut down all presidents.)
The Clinton camp can try to tarnish Johnson, but a lot of the young are just lost this year -- if some are dissuaded from voting third party, I'm betting they just won't vote. Gallup says the interest of the young in voting this year is down significantly:
... the 65% of Democrats saying they will definitely vote is well below their average for the prior four presidential elections (77%), whereas the 76% of Republicans saying they will definitely vote is only a bit lower than their prior average (81%).The Clinton campaign can be criticized for its youth-outreach efforts, but really, the young people who've been holding out all this time are, I assume, lost to Clinton -- they're not coming around. We can complain about all the GOP endorsements Clinton is touting (today it's former Virginia senator John Warner), but moderate Republican women, at least, seem to be persuadable (and Clinton's message about Trump's awfulness does seem to be reaching them somewhat, especially when Trump's behavior confirms it, as it did in Monday's debate.) This is disheartening (even a new pro-Hillary ad starring Michelle Obama seems aimed at moms, not young Obama fans), but it's understandable. The skeptic kids are stubborn. They're dug in. They won't be budged.
... One reason for the decline in Democrats' intent to vote could be the depressed percentage of young voters this year saying they will definitely vote -- now at 47%, down from 58% in 2012 and from a peak of 74% in 2008.
In contrast to the 11-point drop since 2012 in young adults' voting intention, there has been a seven-point decline among 35- to 54-year-olds and virtually no decline among those aged 55 and older.