The alienation of Obama’s youth army
In 2008, an estimated 70 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 25 voted for President Obama. Without grassroots support, the president might not have been able to garner the popularity that pushed him to victory over John McCain. In just two and a half years, President Obama has alienated the very people who helped get him elected, a fact that may prove to be a detriment to his reelection campaign.
Last Wednesday, July 6, President Obama held his first Twitter town hall meeting, where he answered questions from Twitter users. Just as Tim Pawlenty may have thought citing Lady Gaga songs would gain him street cred among young Americans, President Obama likely saw the Twitter town hall as a precursory step in his quest to woo new voters, and his 2008 supporters. From drug policy and defense to the economy and jobs, the president has disappointed Americans and even alienated many of his supporters.
When American citizens voted for President Obama, they thought they were voting for a new foreign policy, especially with regard to how the military is used. Obama, however, largely continued the preventative and preemptive war doctrine of the Bush administration, much to the chagrin of his supporters, moderates, and even some on the right. After Obama involved the United States in a third Middle Eastern war without adhering to the War Powers Resolution, or the Constitution, the disillusionment of his base became painfully apparent. Obama’s justification for the Libyan War relies on a flimsy interpretation of the word “hostilities,” a redefinition that a third grader would repudiate.
Every time President Obama takes unedited questions online, marijuana legalization consistently ends up as one of the most popular topics. In October 2009, the Obama administration rationally decided that the Justice Department would not pursue sick people using medicinal marijuana as criminals, as long as those individuals were adhering to state laws. After a year and a half of protecting patients from brutal government raids and harsh criminal punishments, the Federal government has begun a string of raids that offend our most basic sensibilities as Americans and human beings.
Outside of the arguments for medical marijuana, we increasingly find support not only for decriminalization, but also for outright legalization of recreational marijuana use. In October 2010, Gallup found that a record-setting 46 percent of Americans support marijuana legalization, compared to 61 percent of those aged 18 to 29. The $1 trillion War on Drugs has ruined the lives of many Americans without significantly reducing drug use. In addition, it fails to address the root causes of drug abuse, and treats casual users as criminals and addicts.
While President Obama has done a lot for the LGBT community, his stance on gay marriage is particularly troubling. Since becoming a candidate for president, Obama has said that he believes gay marriage is wrong, but that the government should impart same-sex couples with the same rights as other Americans. If this sounds familiar, it’s because it sounds and feels like the separate-but-equal philosophy of the Jim Crow South.
In May 2011, Gallup found a majority of Americans now favor legalizing gay marriage for the first time in history. Among citizens aged 18 to 34, 70 percent believe gay marriage should be legal, up from just 54 percent in 2010. The issue of gay marriage presents the president with a grand opportunity to earn some support from his base, young Americans, and new voters. In addition, support for gay marriage would allow President Obama to take advantage of the massive buying power of the LGBT community. Most importantly, legalizing gay marriage and ensuring equal treatment for members of the LGBT community is just the right thing to do.
Overall, Americans generally support social insurance programs like Social Security and Medicare, especially because workers directly fund them with every paycheck. Any benefit cuts will not fare well among young voters, especially considering the low levels of tax revenue are partially to blame for baseline solvency projections. Although tax revenue as a share of GDP is at its lowest level since 1950, a fact that eludes even savvy voters, some continue to vie against eliminating tax expenditures. When the government allows lobbyists and corporations unfettered access to politicians, the tax code ends up riddled with unfair tax advantages, loopholes, and economic disincentives that hurt the American people. In order to lure young voters and past supporters, the president must address these issues in an open and straightforward manner without nixing the less-than-ample social contract and safety net.
President Obama will not win in 2012 without support from young voters. While this does not mean that 2008 Obama supporters will vote Republican, there is a chance they might stay home.