Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, or President Barack Obama? Who should young people vote for in 2012?
A recent poll conducted by Harvard's Institute of Politics suggests that President Obama's approval with millennials is slipping, and a number of media outlets are suggesting that hipsters and young people are over the Obama hype. Among Democratic circles, there's a growing fear that the generation that was so pivotal to Obama's 2008 victory will stay home in 2012, or even worse, shift their allegiances to Ron Paul or Mitt Romney.
Like nearly all of my friends, I proudly jumped on the Obama bandwagon in the leadup to the 2008 election. And, like most of my friends, I've been disappointed that President Obama has governed like a technocrat, not the inspirational leader we all hoped he could be. But, unlike many of my liberal friends, I'm sticking with Obama in 2012, and here are the three reasons why:
First, Obama has accomplished a whole lot more than we liberals give him credit for. Democrats and progressives tend to have a glass-half-empty mentality, in which we dwell on the disappointments rather than celebrate the accomplishments. We thus tend to forget that facing some of the most adverse circumstances imaginable (two wars and a near Great Depression), President Obama has accomplished an incredible amount. In a 2010 interview with Rolling Stone, President Obama noted, "I keep in my pocket a checklist of the promises I made during the campaign, and here I am, halfway through my first term, and we've probably accomplished 70 percent of the things that we said we were going to do … So I think that it is very important for Democrats to take pride in what we've accomplished."
Internationally, Obama has deftly managed the complexity of U.S. policy through the Arab Spring, killed Osama bin Laden, reset our relations with Russia, ended the combat mission in Iraq, banned the use of torture, restored respectability to the United Nations and the G-20, and successfuly (until now) contained a nuclear Iran. Would we like to see Guantanamo closed, troops out of Afghanistan, and peace in Israel-Palestine? Of course, but note the number of positives.
Domestically, President Obama has passed historic health care legislation, restored the financial system so that it functions, set up a Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, expanded national service more than ever before, reformed the student loan program, passed Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and protected our national security. Would we have preferred higher wages and less unemployment, more movement on immigration and education, and less infringement on our civil liberties? Most certainly, but again, there have been a lot of victories. We tend to dwell on the high unemployment rate as an indication of President Obama's failure on the economy, but keep in mind that the President's two signature pieces of legislation, health care and financial reform, haven't even fully taken into effect.
Second, what's become clear since President Obama took office is that the state of the economy and the state of Washington were even worse than we knew in 2008. The depths of the Great Recession were $131 billion worse the orginially reported, and the country's unemployment numbers could have been 10-15% higher than we thought in 2008. On top of that, Washington is absolutely broken. It's easy to give up on Obama because he was supposed to change Washington, and we've seen more of the same. But that view places all the blame on Obama, but not on Congress and the Republicans. The delays, cloture votes, and obstruction that has taken place in the Senate has been unprecedented. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) famously openly stated that Republicans' priority is to defeat President Obama, rather than to legislate. Approval ratings of Congress have reached historic lows because both parties have put short-term political gain over what's best for the country in the long-term. Against this backdrop, President Obama's accomplishments are even more notable.
Finally, President Obama quite simply has a better long-term vision for the country than Romney or Paul. He has had difficulty articulating that vision since taking office, and at times that vision gets clouded by the game aspect of politics. But, if you ask Republicans what they stand for today, their only agenda on the economic front seems to be tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans (which will cost $700 billion dollars) and spending cuts. But, will giving an average $100,000-per-year tax break to people making a million dollars a year help to rebuild the middle-class, promote growth, and improve job numbers? I believe that the Democrats' signature domestic policy goals – infrastucture spending, green energy initiatives, investing in education, a new energy policy that doesn't rely on fossil fuels, regulation of the financial industry, laws to protect workers, and taxes to boost the middle class – will pave the way for a better economic future. Don't forget under which president and party we got into the economic crisis in the first place.
President Obama most certainly needs a better team of domestic and economic advisers for 2012, and he needs to pick better strategic battles with Republicans and rise above the partisan fray in his second-term. And, liberals need to do better to celebrate Obama's achievements and work harder to push him in a more progressive direction for the next four years. But, President Obama is the only choice for young people in 2012, and I'm most certainly voting for him again.
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