Every once in awhile, a succinct phrase puts everything in perspective. In his final debate against incumbent Jimmy Carter in the 1980 presidential election, Ronald Reagan made a simple, yet devastatingly effective statement. He asked that when we vote, we ask ourselves, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” The answer to almost everyone in the country was, “no”.
In 2010, Sarah Palin spoke to the National Tea Party Convention and asked a similar question that resonates as much now as it did in 2010, “How’s that hopey, changey stuff working out?” The answer then as now: not very well.
According to The New York Times, President Obama may be in serious trouble. As I’ve discussed recently, the donations are drying up for the Obama Campaign. But equally devastating to his re-election bid is the lack of enthusiasm amongst young voters that proved to be so integral to his 2008 campaign. Using terms like “pointless” and “discouragement”, the New York Times article paints a bleak picture for Obama.
The article claims that Obama is still in the lead for voters under 30. However, in the age range of 18-24, the potential voters in and graduating college, he will face some real challenges. In 2008, this group was integral to the Obama Campaign. However, now the Obama Campaign is only leading Romney by 12 points in this group. If we look at only whites in this group, Romney and Obama come out about even; this is bad news for a campaign that, last time, relied so heavily on record voter turnout for minorities as well as voters under 30.
While Obama is still the favorite, low voter turnout amongst younger voters has always been a problem for candidates, and so the 12 point lead, being a fraction of what it was in 2008, does little for Obama if they do not vote. In fact, 30% of the voters polled under 30 had not yet decided what political party they will belong to.
Director of Polling at Harvard Institute of Politics John Della Volpe noted,
“The concern for Obama, and the opportunity for Romney, is in the 18- to 24-year-olds who don’t have the historical or direct connection to the campaign or the movement of four years ago. We’re also seeing that these younger members of this generation are beginning to show some more conservative traits. It doesn’t mean they are Republican. It means Republicans have an opportunity.”
As younger populations typically have low voter turnout, the strategy for Republicans doesn’t have to be one designed to compete heavily with Obama. It can be to marshal resources and pay less attention to the younger group, as many simply will not vote, period. Like in Blackjack, sometimes, the right strategy is to do nothing and let the dealer bust.
There is a reason why Obama has lost favor with the younger crowd. Those 18 to 24 years of age are being hit the hardest by this recession. With a 23.5% unemployment rate for the group, nearly 1 in 4 have no job. When we account for underemployment, we see 54% of people between the age of 18 to 24 are in precarious financial positions. Those who were too young to vote in 2008, but can vote now, see the devastating effects of a poor economy. Those who had voted for Obama in 2008 are, largely, no better off, thus answering the question, “How’s that hopey, changey stuff working out?”
In fact, things are so bad for this age group, Time Magazine discussed a survey that found that 85% of college graduates return to live with their parents after graduation. Yikes! With an unemployment rate of 23.5% and a rate of 85% of students returning home to live after graduation, it is plain to see that the harsh reality of socialist failings has devastated a generation of Americans. With that many down-and-out college grads, it’s easy to see why they may not be as thrilled with he who had promised “hope” and “change”.
What a let down it must be to those who engaged in the political process the first time, only to discover that the charismatic Senator that promised to turn the establishment on its head has not only produced nothing of value, but has made things worse. Like so many charismatic personalities have done before, Obama rode into office with a promise to dismantle the old regime and the old ways of doing things. But here we are, four years later, and those who helped to get him elected are the ones most marginalized.
The ones that bought the “hope” tee shirts, emblazoned with Obama’s divine image, and the ones that made annoying YouTube videos to promote the young Senator with more style than substance, are now in a position to answer the question, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” With 85% living in their old rooms at mom and dad’s house, one could logically say that they’re exactly where they were four years ago. And that’s the problem.