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  • Will Barack Obama Lose His Young Base?

    12/9/2010 1:37:29 PM Posted by Bryant Conger
    Obama Fans

    To be fair, he was charming. To be fair, he said all the right things. He was the Isuzu Amigo, Windows Vista, and New Coke. He was full of hype. He was the Michael Jackson comeback. Barack Obama approached politics with the grace and eye of an ambitious promoter; always looking for new audiences. Always looking for impressionable audiences.

    The president found his most energetic supporters in young people. He offered them something different, but his leadership has brought about the wrong kind of different. Now young people are begrudgingly admitting that their parents were right after all. They may not be saying it aloud, but they do not need to: their absence from the 2010 midterm elections did that for them.

    It was inevitable that young people would rally around Barack Obama. Americans under the age of thirty are the most educated generation in American history and universities are lockstep in line with the Obama agenda. Unfortunately, academia does not teach that education comes in many forms – it is not acquired singularly. It is an organic quality that is gained through age, advice, and experience.

    It was precisely this lack of experience that made young people the most loyal supporters of Barack Obama. They believed in him. He promised to transcend politics. Transcend partisanship. Transcend the limits of public office. He promised that his ascendancy would mark the moment we provided good jobs for the unemployed, halted the rise of the oceans, and ended a war to secure our nation.

    Many older voters rejected these claims. They remembered the LBJ escalation of Vietnam, the Nixon resignation, the election and deconstruction of Jimmy Carter, and the downfall of the Gingrich Revolution. Experience leaves lasting impressions.

    Young people have never experienced the failures of big government and they voted for Barack Obama by a 2-to-1 margin.

    More than 23 million young Americans voted in 2008, accounting for 60 percent of the new votes cast. The youth vote swung Florida, Indiana, and North Carolina for Barack Obama; his campaign was inundated with energetic volunteers. Students and young professionals knocked on doors, gave money, and were inspired by promises that would prove difficult for the president to keep.

    Young people were more invested in the 2008 campaign than any election in more than 20 years. This was supposed to be the first walk of the sleeping giant. It was supposed to be a turning point in American history.

    But a funny thing happened on the way to the midterms. The generation that was supposed to bring about the new progressive era fell away from President Obama. The Left put much effort into re-engaging one of the president’s most supportive voting blocs. President Obama began his midterm campaign at the University of Wisconsin. He went on to rally students on numerous college campuses before his highly anticipated appearance on The Daily Show, the first by a sitting president.

    Obama’s collegiate appearances captured some of the excitement from the 2008 campaign but his interview with John Stewart exposed his struggles re-igniting his young base; he looked detached and unexciting; he looked like a politician.

    Barack Obama’s advisers claimed that he failed to connect with young voters because he did not develop a coherent message. The president would be wise to ignore their advice.

    The millennial generation is struggling to find employment. They see family members scrambling to make ends meet. Jobs always hit home the hardest. New voters see an uncertain road ahead against a backdrop of Wall Street bailouts, two foreign wars, and litany of negative stories targeting big government programs. New voters are beginning to feel an apprehension to government that many older Americans have held for decades

    All politicians over-promise and underachieve; it is the nature of campaigning. Yet Barack Obama promised to rise above politics. He has not. Now we find an entire generation of young voters disillusioned with not only with their guy, but their government. In the 2010 midterms only 9 million young people voted, 14 million less than in 2008 and 1 million less than the 2006 midterms. Young conservatives quietly gained 14 points on their liberal peers this past November.

    Current trends do not ensure that young people will swing back toward conservatives but Barack Obama should be alarmed. If the President’s policies continue to falter, conservatives have their best opportunity since 1980 to show younger voters that their ideas, as unpopular as they are on college campuses, can not only change our country but change it for the better.

    With his approval rating among young people at 42 percent, Barack Obama will be on the offensive. He needs to prove to young people that he can deliver on the promises he made. If he does not, the millennial generation will, like other generations, develop a healthy skepticism towards future politicians peddling extravagant results through big-government solutions.

     

    • Readers' Comments

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