As a millennial who first got to vote as a freshman in 2004, was faced again with a daunting choice as a graduate in 2008, and is now an underemployed young professional, I think I can speak to the general uncertainty, fear, and lack of clarity that comes with choosing either candidate tomorrow.
While I found Paul Ryan’s debating skills to be laced with the tenacity of Tracy Flick in the movie Election, and also on par with the stunted growth of a high school politician, he did say one thing that stuck with me. Twenty-two-year-olds are now looking up at faded Obama posters in their parents homes' childhood bedrooms wondering, “what the hell happened?”
There was so much hope, so much audacity of courage that it was next to impossible to fulfill so many promises. Obama’s epoch rise to Savior-in-Chief was almost biblical in scope and, as it turns out, in literal accuracy as well. He faced a crumbling economy and devastating unemployment and four years later those numbers have not turned around quite as promised.
Furthermore, he faced an incredibly hostile Republican Congress that did everything they could to block his reforms. The task of putting people back to work and fixing the health care system was doubly difficult and it took toll on his presidency — as he came up short in many Democrats' eyes by making too many concessions. So the words of Ronald Reagan now echo in the heads of millennial voters and across the mouths of political pundits, “are you better off now than you were four years ago?”
The economy is the most important issue for millenials because we don’t have time to worry about the other political superfluities. If job benefits are virtually non-existent, with limited health care, shrinking 401Ks and social security becoming obsolete by the time milennials turn 65 (forty years from now), then many of the promises of each candidate for a happy retirement and savings plans fall on iPod-plugged ears.
For most 20-somethings, paying off student loans, finding affordable housing and a job that meets the basic requirements of functioning as an adult (paying rent, car, and whatever is left over for lifestyle needs) is the priority — as these things are next to impossible without parental assistance or racking up massive credit card debt.
In this case, all signs point to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney who promises to turn the economy around, bringing about a safer and more productive world for all. His resume shows that he’s more than capable of turning such defunct organizations as Staples and The Winter Olympics around so why not the economy? Well, the U.S. economy may prove a greater beast to tackle than Romney’s greatest coups he achieved while working for Bain capital.
While the startling statistic of 7.9% unemployment upholds the chastisers of Obama’s greatest naysayers, who say he promised to get it down to 5% by Election Day, greater forces are at odds that have created a stagnant flow of jobs particularly in the labor industry. In fact, the economy has turned around since Obama took office during the greatest economic slump since the Great Depression and jobs have been created. According to the New Yorker, in 2009, 133.6 million people were employed. Last month, the figure was 133.8 million. For the first time since Obama assumed the presidency more people are employed. This isn’t necessarily a huge plus for economic success and triumph. However, Obama’s foes will have a tough time saying he did nothing during his first term to turn the economy around.
Furthermore, Romney's ostracizing of 47% of the electorate could be the nail in the coffin of his electoral aspirations. However, what he stands for, as a member of the 1%, is far more damning: a wealthy white guy that made a killing in private equity by bankrupting businesses to benefit his investors. His overt unwillingness to help the 47% and dismiss them as a lost cause is of more concern for those looking for leadership. If empathy is what millennials are looking for, Romney may have burnt that bridge with his hidden camera back room donor dealing.
Likeability is always key in an election — sometimes it just simply boils down to “who would you rather have a beer with?” Obama is known for his beer summits among foreign and business leaders to relieve tension. Romney doesn’t drink under strict Mormon code. Of course, the nuances of politics are far more complicated than a beer. But for milennials, it may come down to just that.