The Collegian
Sunday, February 25, 2024

Obama-mania: Coming soon to a college near you

Richmond College '10

College campuses across the country have long been recognized as providing an opportune environment for a more left-leaning ideology to thrive. Young students go off to school and find themselves isolated in an environment quite separate from the rest of the world. Many times (though clearly not always) their parents foot the bill when it comes to tuition costs, room and board and general living expenses. This set-up can create a utopian bubble that causes students to be cut off from the day-to-day difficulties and concerns of non-student life. College go-ers usually are less concerned with issues such as foreign policy and the economy and more in tune with social movements and the environment. In turn, such an atmosphere oftentimes manifests itself in a highly concentrated bloc of more liberal political thinkers. As a caveat, in most election years college students are generally unmotivated to become involved and do not take the time to register and vote. Then came 2008. This year has changed everything. College kids have begun registering in droves in order to have their voices heard come November. Why? It's a two word answer: Barack Obama.

Barack Obama has enjoyed popularity amongst youths that is unprecedented in American history. A study by the Harvard University Institute of Politics compared Obama head to head amongst young voters with both Hillary Clinton and John McCain. Obama led Hillary in youth support 70 percent to 30 percent. McCain fared slightly better in a hypothetical match-up with Obama leading 53 percent to 32 percent. These are incredible numbers when you consider that the race has been so tight through the duration of the summer. Many pundits have tried to analyze and understand why Obama enjoys such success with younger voters. Some have suggested that students identify with Obama's message for "change," "hope" and "vision" better than the cold, hard, problem-solving strategies of John McCain and Hillary Clinton.

Is this an accurate conjecture? It is of course always dangerous to generalize with large groups of people concerning a single issue. Without a doubt there are young voters who are actively engaged in politics and have given due time to understanding and analyzing the issues that face our country. On the flip side, there are many (maybe even most) that have not taken the time to do so. It is not a fluke that voters have suddenly started registering in greater numbers in the same year that Obama decided to run for president. There is a definite connection. Young people can identify with Obama. He represents a movement, and college students naturally gravitate to a movement. Maybe it is a harkening back to the glory days of the '60s when students could concentrate their efforts on protesting Vietnam. Since then such a national movement has been harder to find. In today's world, students can look at Obama with wide and starry eyes and hail him as the Second Coming of the Messiah. He has energy and charisma and is "different" from the "normal" Washington politician.

As with anything worthwhile in life, however, the devil is always in the details. Coming back this year to UR, I have noticed that excitement over the coming election is soaring. Obama supporters have a strong presence on this campus like many others. Many of the supporters vehemently proclaim their love for Barack. Unfortunately, when asked why, they have trouble extending their arguments past a simple regurgitation of his vague, rhetorical platitudes. Again, this does not pertain to all Obama supporters. The number it does pertain to, though, is concerning. As we hit the home stretch let's hope that those students who are following his "vision" blindly will focus their support. Such fervent cheerleaders need to change their slogan from "Yes We Can" to "Yes We Understand." Voting for Barack Obama is an acceptable democratic choice. Voting for Barack Obama without being able to explain why is not.

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