When I was 17 years old, I committed voter fraud. I lied about my age (my 18th birthday birthday being in Decemeber, and the general election in November) so I could participate in what seemed then to be the most important election EVER IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD. Remember this was the election where Proposition 2, a landmark animal cruelty bill, and Proposition 8, one of the most highly contested equal rights Amendments in modern history, were up for referendum…oh, and I guess some people voted for that Obama guy too.
If I sound flippant about the Obama election now, I was far more so in fall 2008. Obama, an institutional, centrist Democrat who supported Henry Paulson’s $700 billion TARP handout, campaigned on the promise of “clean coal” as a Illinios Senator and presidential candidate, and equivocated on social issues, including his support of gay marriage, marijuana prohibition, etc. from the outset of his candidacy. Obama’s campaign slogans of “HOPE” and “CHANGE”, which moved many supporters, Millenial or otherwise, to tears on the campaign trail, left me feeling more “cool story, bro” than “get out the vote!”.
However tepid my feelings are regarding Obama’s politics, I strongly feel he’s gotten a bad shake from a liberal constituency (particularly young voters) who feel cheated by a candidate who promised revolutionary political change, but whose legislative pace has proven to be more of the tortoise than the hare. Obama has worked exceedingly hard to pass substantive legislation, including unprecedented appeals to immovable Republican foes, and vigorous public campaigns for key initiatives such as his ‘Jobs bill’. But ironically, Obama’s concilliatory efforts to appease staunch Republican foes are the very thing that have weakened his appeal to young leftists the most; voters who are eager for a strong, progressive leader willing to make unilateral decisions regarding important political and social issues.
Hmmm…a charismatic leader willing to make unilateral decisions, opposition be damned? Sounds like what liberals, and many Millenial voters, want is a black, progressive George W. Bush, sans the nepotistic oil baron father and laughably muddled speeches.
Many people’s, especially young, passionate, (and frankly naive) young people’s, expectations of their political leaders are unrealistic. Sometimes they’re contradictory. Almost always they’re complicated, and in Obama’s case, they’re all three, all the time.
I don’t know whether Obama will “win” the college vote this November. Young people in royal blue California, particularly the anarcho/deep green hipsters I hang out with, aren’t really the most reliable pulse to dial into if you want to understand the collective political will of United States 20-somethings. Most of my friends are too pretentious to vote anyway, or are too busy reading “Infinite Jest” to read their voter pamphlets. However, I can say that I strongly disagree with Lawrence’s characterization of Millenial voters in one area: young people don’t give a shit about the “economy”. Young people don’t follow the jobs report, or understand what Romney’s role at Bain Capital was comprised of (I do, but I just spent the last two hours writing this forum post — I’m weird). If Obama wants to reach the hearts and minds of America’s youth this election, I would tell him to stick to social issues. Blast Romney for beating up gay kids at his preparatory school, pat himself on the back for finally unequivocally supporting gay marriage, drum up class sentiment by pointing to Romney’s tax return and awkward classist statements, and continue to portray the Repbulican party as the “Party of Aristocratic Misogynists 4 Free Markets and Global Inequality”. That should do fine.