“Young voters say they feel abandoned” is the title of Sunday’s New York Times article about the disillusionment that followed the Obama campaign. We couldn’t get enough of Obama back in 2008. He was new. He was grassroots. He was hip and cool, and he won 66 percent of the 18- to 29-year-old-vote because he promised to enact universal health care and end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I know people who took off that fall semester to work on the Obama campaign. We were all emotionally invested in this newcomer who seemed to represent what we wanted for America. His rallies had the allure and atmosphere of rock concerts. On election night at Vassar, people stormed the quad with cigars and cheap champagne, shouting “Yes we can!” and singing the patriotic American hymns they had abandoned during the Bush years.
The reality, however, is that this infatuation only breeds angry disappointment. I never gave in to the Cult of Obama, so once I started to realize that Obama couldn’t keep his promises, I was disappointed but not infuriated. My age group, according to the NYT article, feels differently.
The president, for example, appeared on “The Daily Show” last week for the first time since taking office, and his visit did not inspire the rabid fandom of fall 2008. The show could have been a platform for reinvigorating young voters, but instead Obama used it to make excuses for why he couldn’t achieve his agenda thus far. He could only do so much because of the recession, health care reform was groundbreaking, you can’t change Washington in 18 months, etc. At the end of the show he put in a plug for people to vote in the elections, but he didn’t have fire. The audience cheered, but it also booed. When Stewart gave the president ample opportunity to hoist himself onto his soapbox, it didn’t happen.
Now that we’ve seen what Obama can’t do and the promises he hasn’t lived up to, Democrats and liberals have once again become their skeptical selves. Political apathy has crept over the Democrats, and I’m no different. I’m disheartened and disenchanted with the American political process.
In less than 48 hours the House will become Republican, and we’ll see what happens with the Senate. Obama’s two-year window is officially over, and us college students aren’t hawking the Obama tee-shirts, bumper stickers, and pins like we used to. We were young, we were naïve.
But we also shouldn’t be surprised that Obama didn’t fulfill our wildest hopes and dreams. Our choice should not be between the infatuation of 2008 and the apathy of 2010. While President Obama’s first eighteen months may have been a big let-down for some of us, the next two years don’t have to be. We can choose to be realists, or we can choose to believe that our government can work at the speed of light and with the efficiency of a supercomputer. The decision is yours.