The president, today, speaking to college newspaper editors, previewing what he will tell young voters this week: “You can’t sit it out, you can’t suddenly just check in once every ten years or so on an exciting presidential election and then not pay attention during big midterm elections where we’ve got a real big choice between Democrats and Republicans.”
The problem is that if, as Obama said, “we are the change we have been waiting for,” and the current condition of the country is the change “we’ve been waiting for,” why would “we” choose “us” again? “We” might even go with “them” even though “we” think “they” bear a greater share of the blame for the mess you’re in. According to a new CNN/Opinion Research poll, “41 percent of adult Americans say congressional Republicans are more responsible for the nation’s economic problems, with 35 percent saying the Democrats are more to blame. … But 47 percent of those questioned say the economic policies of congressional Republicans are more likely to improve economic conditions, with 41 percent saying Democrats in Congress have the better prescriptions.”
In some sense, this is really Obama’s final card to play. He desperately needs to reconstitute the flash mob that arose in that stunning way in 2008 before it dissipated like vapor. Some attribute the loss of this potentially nation-changing political force to the thinness of Obama’s message — which did seem to boil down to change for the sake of change. But that actually might do the Obama voter too little credit. What kind of immediate future does a college-age or graduate-school Obama voter, piling up student-loan debt in preparation for entering a terrible job market, see for himself or herself in ObamaNation? Enough to stimulate him to go out and vote for a congressman or senator for whom he may have no particular interest or taste, but as a secondary means of expressing his enthusiasm for the 2008 vote he cast that seems to have delivered so little?