My apartment looked out onto the main lawn of campus. As Obama sealed the election, Georgetown exploded with pajama-clad “Hope” devotees, sprinting from their dorms, blowing off term papers and literally running to the White House. Which, I might add, is quite an ambitious run. There was a conviction in the air that only one candidate was ever really running for president in 2008. The election was just making things official.
What was it about Obama? A sparkle of sorts. The way he struck terror in the hearts of the Republicans. Young and charismatic, practically oozing coolness.
Millennials overwhelmingly voted for Obama in 2008, backing him by more than a two-to-one ratio — 66 to 32 percent, according to numbers from Pew. It was rather simple really; Obama was a next-generation candidate who emanated charm and seemed to embody the American Dream as it was taught by our Boomer parents growing up. For millennials, it was a chance to vote for someone like them; younger and more enlightened than their parents, with a vision of a tolerant, more innovative American future. Moreover, it was the chance to be part of history, voting the first African American president into office.
Obama was able to carry their vote again in 2012 because Republicans failed to grasp the fact that our nation is destined for a more socially liberal future. For millennials, it was all relative. Obama had always been “better” than the opposition in that respect. His brilliance lay in his ability to engage voters, tap into their emotions and captivate them with what’s to come. He had a knack for depicting the opposition as not allowing our dreams to come true. For someone who campaigned on a platform that touted tolerance and change, he was quick to cast blame and drive wedges through the nation in order to further his agenda. A decisive strategy surely, he consistently managed to position himself against the slight minority, thus retaining his edge. It’s all the Republicans fault.
The shimmer wore off soon thereafter. Our problems are rather straightforward; we are saddled with massive college debt, many are virtually unemployable, and we lack any real political representation for our age group. Obama hasn’t helped millennials much with these, and hasn’t been effective on the few political issues my peers actually care about, namely gay marriage — which he embraced, but only eventually and reluctantly — abortion, and their wallets.