IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Why young voters won’t fall for the GOP’s student loan shell game

The GOP is trying to keep student loan forgiveness away from millions of Americans while simultaneously blaming President Biden for it. It’s a fool’s errand.


Conservative Republicans are widely opposed to President Joe Biden’s plan to forgive up to $20,000 in student loans for some borrowers.

But as you might imagine, the GOP, which has struggled to win over young voters, is having a world of trouble messaging their opposition to Biden’s plan in a way that appeals to Americans — particularly, young Americans — who’ve been saddled with financially crippling student loans. 

Thus far, the GOP’s messaging on this has been pretty impotent, relying on Americans’ gullibility or flat-out stupidity.

In essence: “Blame Biden.”

Conservative movement figures have trotted out multiple efforts to halt Biden’s student loan plan, while several Republican lawmakers have derided students with debt as lazy grifters and framed the plan as a bribe for young people. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who referred to student loan borrowers as “slacker baristas” in August, fretted over the potential to drive young voter turnout. 

“And you know, if you can get off the bong for a minute and head down to the voting station ... or just send in your mail-in ballot that the Democrats have helpfully sent you, it could drive up turnout, particularly among young people,” Cruz said on his podcast in late August.

Multiple court challenges against the plan have been batted down, including a lawsuit in which white Wisconsinites said it should be deemed illegal because it would help Black people too much. No, I’m not kidding.

Presently, however, the plan is on pause because a federal appeals court this month sided with a lawsuit backed by six GOP-led states that argues student loan payments prop up the states' economies in part and — get this — unfairly harm a Missouri loan company. Separately, a Trump-appointed federal judge in Texas halted Biden's program, saying it unlawfully usurps congressional authority.

The Biden administration has appealed the Texas decision and asked the Supreme Court to reinstate the debt forgiveness plan as the Missouri-based lawsuit is considered.

It’s a gamble to assume voters are too ignorant to see that Republicans are trying to kill the plan completely.

Conservatives have framed Biden’s student debt forgiveness as a bribe that the administration announced before the midterms to get votes, although Biden made student loan help a major focus during his 2020 election bid. And Republicans claim Biden should have known this plan was destined to fail in court … because of their purportedly airtight legal arguments. 

Effectively: “We’re not stopping your student loan forgiveness — even though we technically are. Biden is doing this.”

Right-wing media, from Fox News to The New York Post editorial board, have pushed the “blame Biden" talking point. To no avail, it seems. Democrats beat back a “red wave” in this year’s midterms, and there’s reason to believe the desire for student loan forgiveness is a major reason

And, warning to Republicans: These voters aren’t likely to drop the issue just because conservative judges say it's unlawful. Remember the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade?

It’s a gamble to assume voters are too ignorant to see that Republicans are trying to kill the plan completely. Conservatives are relying on a simpleton’s defense in the messaging war over Biden’s student debt forgiveness agenda. This defense is sure to work with anyone still capable of being duped by the old “got your nose” trick. 

Who took your loan forgiveness away? I don’t know where it went. How did this happen?

Voting-age people are less likely to be duped by this deflection of blame. 

More and more, I’m convinced the GOP sees the term “youth voters” and thinks “children voters.” That would explain why they think these people can swayed by the GOP's dubious arguments. But children can’t vote, and the young adults who do seem too smart to buy the talking points Republicans selling.