On Friday, President Barack Obama went on MTV to discuss the things voters really care about this election season: dating, Facebook, and music.
Well, those aren't the issues all voters care the most about but considering MTV's audience it's a safe bet that those are a lot of their top issues. While there can be criticisms of such pandering, the youth demographic is markedly less enthusiastic this election. Is there really anything a president can do to enthuse young voters?
In a poll on the youth vote the Harvard Institute of Politics found that if they had to vote the day the poll was given 48% of respondents would vote for Barack Obama and only 26% would vote for Romney. Obama has always done better with the youth than Romney so youth voter turnout has been important for the president as actually getting him votes, and youth voter enthusiasm has been important in providing free labor for his grassroots on the ground campaign.
But you will really only find enthusiasm in youth voters when you look to the ideological fringes. The card-carrying democrats, American flag pinned Republicans, and the ever-present preachy Ron Paul supporters are the only really enthusiastic young voters these days. All of them will tell us this election is important and that we, as youths, should get involved because this is our future that is being decided. But in an election focused on the economy you have got to expect the youth to put their head down on the table and take a nap.
Youth unemployment is high (17.1% in July). You'd think that would lead to more engagement in politics. Perhaps, even it would lead to massive youth protests like those in Spain and Greece. But no, culturally it is hard to really blame politicians for us being unemployed. After all, we were raised with the Greatest Generation telling our parents they were lazy good-for-nothings. It's only natural we would be lazy and unemployed if we were raised by such lackadaisical parental. Plus, there is a certain choosiness when most youth choose work (and indeed why many are unemployed). They economy isn't at the point where 17% of the youth can't find work ANYWHERE. It's that they can't find a job that is suitable. So again, responsibility can rhetorically be shifted to us.
Not that rhetorically the blame ever actually is shifted to us. Politicians pander to us every chance they get, and you never shift blame to people you are pandering to. But nonetheless youth unemployment is still in the end marked as our fault. Conservatives suggesting dumping McDonald's applications on the protesters of Occupy Wall Street comes to mind.
What do we have to be enthusiastic about in politics anyway? We have two moderates running for president desperately trying to seem different from one another. The youth like clear choices and the possibility of fundamental change. For all the presidential candidates talk about two different paths, as a youth voter who isn't all that invested in the economy of now as I will be in the economy of the future both candidates are very vague about their plan on the future of the economy. Sure Romney speaks of “energy independence” and Obama talks of “green jobs” but we're smart enough to know the president doesn't have the power to totally create markets like that in the future.
So we aren't engaged. Youth unemployment isn't really taken seriously, and candidate either can't really tell us what he will do for our future anyway. So if we can't judge them on policy I guess we should just judge them on their opinion on dating, Facebook, and music.