Youth Voters and the 2012 Presidential Election

In my mind one of the most fascinating periods in modern campaign history is undoubtedly the spring and summer of 2007. The entire country was engrossed in following the candidates crisscross Iowa and New Hampshire. Congressional and party leaders were lining up in droves behind their chosen nominee, and you couldn’t go a few hours without hearing something new about the campaign trail. I even remember worrying that some uneducated voters would think that the election was that November, and not the one after.

Fast-forward four years to 2011 and you wouldn’t even think that the presidential campaign season has started if you didn’t live in Iowa, New Hampshire, or within the D.C. Beltway.  Part of it has to do with the fact that the media isn’t engrossed in covering the campaign the way it was four years ago. Having the Democratic nominee already set probably also helps. Personally I believe that the populous has just become apathetic, especially towards the current crop of declared candidates. None of the key players are really that exciting. The candidate pool boasts several has-beens (former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich), Mormons whose religion just doesn’t seem to sit well with the evangelical base of the party (former Governors Mitt Romney of Massachusetts and Jon Huntsman of Utah), and ultra-conservatives pining for the Tea Party vote (Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and Texas Governor Rick Perry).

All of this truly scares me. Not as a Republican, not as a political operative, but as a proud member of the millennial generation. I saw two-thirds of my peers vote for a president in 2008 that ran an elaborate PR campaign based around the words “hope” and “change” rather than discuss anything substantive on the trail. It also didn’t help that Barack Obama established himself as a true rock star by taking a break from campaigning in July 2008 to tour Europe, or by breaking tradition and accepting the Democratic nomination for President at Invesco at Mile High Stadium in front of a giant Parthenon-esque backdrop rather than at the convention site.

On the surface what’s not to like about Obama’s programs designed to help the millennial voter? One of the oft-overlooked parts of the comprehensive healthcare reform package of 2010 was that it provided Americans under the age of 26 the opportunity to stay on their parents’ or guardians’ healthcare plan regardless of their circumstance. Obama’s administration has also worked diligently to help take some of the burden off of college graduates by eliminating student loans for those who go into public service upon graduation. But all of these new programs have resulted in trillions of dollars added to the federal debt and a massive bloating of the federal budget that we just won’t be able to afford in years to come. And what my peers often forget when they lobby for things like universal healthcare and expanded welfare benefits is that we will be the ones paying for all of this when were in our middle age—and laden with college tuition for our children, mortgage payments, and the need to put aside money for our eventual retirement.

I kept telling myself that we could right this wrong, that we would retake Congress in 2010 (we almost got there) and hold onto both chambers while winning back the presidency in 2012. Yet the more I see the GOP field in action the more I wonder why we are giving Obama a second term. I can’t see the youth voter flocking around Santorum, or Bachmann, or Gingrich any more than they liked John McCain in 2008. We need a Republican who will help us find jobs and buy our first homes now but will do all this without mortgaging our future with high taxes and no social security funds.  We need someone who respects our views on issues such as gay marriage and gun rights. I don’t know who this candidate is—or even if one exists—but unless the candidates start catering to their youngest voters Obama will certainly have no problem winning over this demographic next November, and in turn, retain his current residence.

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