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Young Voters: Idealism in 2008, But None in 2012

by Dan Gorman | University of Rochester

F Posted in: Election 2012, News and Politics P Posted on: October 26, 2012

From now through Election Day, NextGen Journal is spotlighting the direct perspectives of young voters nationwide. This article, from Dan Gorman at The University of Rochester, is part of that series.

Obama Rally College Park Image courtesy of White House photographer Pete Souza, via Flickr.

My Interest: 

The idealism I felt in 2008 has not returned in 2012. Back when President Obama first ran, I genuinely thought politicians would endeavor to change Washington, D.C., after the disastrous Bush administration. Unfortunately, four years of partisan gridlock, ludicrously coarse and idiotic public discourse, and political polarization proved me wrong. I cannot help but be a bit pessimistic about American politics. So no, I am not exactly engaged with this election.

My Involvement: 

I already mailed in my absentee ballot. I may not be 100% engaged, but I still want my vote to count. To be fair, people argue that individual votes don’t count in New York, since the state usually goes Democratic in the Electoral College. However, I would like to point out that New York was once solidly Republican. Voting blocs don’t last forever, and they change on the basis of individuals going to the polls. So I tell my friends here in New York that they must vote, because the state won’t remain a blue state without people voting blue.

As for volunteering, I doubt it at this point. I was a summer organizer for the Obama campaign in 2011, but I was neither very good nor very passionate about the job. As I said earlier, the four years of gridlock have been disappointing, and I found while working on the campaign that I am more suited for studying politics in an academic setting than actually working in politics.

My Vote:

I voted for President Obama. Now, to be clear, I don’t consider him a flawless president. He was a bit too aloof from Congressional matters during the 2010 spending debate and the 2011 debt ceiling fiasco. Additionally, he should have focused on job creation (perhaps through a WPA-type organization) to the exclusion of everything else, including health care reform. If the job market improved, he would have been extraordinarily popular, and then health care could be addressed in a second term. Lastly, I think the issue of leaks from the White House needs to be addressed. Who knew what, when?

Still, I think Mr. Obama has been a rather good president. His health care plan, while poorly timed and flawed in regard to cost control, is a major step forward. His (tentative) embrace of gay marriage is nothing short of revolutionary, and his support of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act is extremely laudable. He officially ended the Iraq War, started a drawdown on Afghanistan, and perhaps may have made diplomatic progress with Iran. Through strike teams, he has done more to cripple al-Qaeda than the Bush administration did in eight years. Finally, Mr. Obama has restored a sense of genuine intellectualism to the White House, something greatly lacking during the Bush years. I think these are reasons enough to merit a second term for President Obama.

My Issues: 

I care immensely about the environment and sustainable energy. One quibble with the Obama administration I forgot to mention is his mixed record on energy. Where is the massive boost for hydrogen power and other renewables? By this point, climate change and the impending end of mineable oil are virtually scientific certainties. I am hopeful that, if the Republicans stop being so obstructionist in the next four years, and if the Democrats win enough votes to claim a popular mandate, there will finally be real progress on shifting away from oil. “Drill, baby drill” is not the answer.

I also hope to see the costs of health care and college addressed, in some manner. With any luck, the Defense of Marriage Act will be struck down, and gay couples can start receiving federal benefits. Lastly, I want to see a clear vision for NASA’s manned space missions.

My Campus: 

 The University of Rochester is not a hugely political campus. We have several student political groups – Democrats, Republicans, Students for a Democratic Society, etc. – but they don’t have a huge public profile. (The groups are also laudably civil toward each other.)

On the whole, students here dislike Congressional gridlock. Reflecting our reputation as a science school, many students hope for real progress on climate change and renewable fuels. Economically, students seem split between Republican and Democratic strategies, yet everyone hates debt. Socially, students seem moderately liberal; gay marriage is generally seen as a non-issue. Being at Rochester gives me hope that politics will be more civil in the future.

Dan Gorman Dan Gorman Dan hails from downstate N.Y. and is now a junior at the University of Rochester, studying history, music, and religion. He was a national finalist for the 2012 U.S.-U.K. Fulbright Summer Institute. In his spare time, he enjoys doing the Lindy Hop, reading, singing, playing his cello, challenging his friends to Call of Duty tournaments, and traveling.

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