Andrew Clark: Why college students lost faith in Obama

A little under two weeks from Election Day, several things seem to be becoming fairly obvious. The majority of the American people have decided that President Barack Obama and the Democrats’ expensive big-government policies are egregious. The economy is not recovering.

But let’s zero in on something that might carry a bit more salience for us on campus – what exactly happened to Obama’s young student supporters?

A new Associated Press-mtvU poll shows that only 44 percent of college students across the country approve of Obama’s job performance. In May of 2009, his support was at 60 percent. These numbers now put college students in line with the national mood about the president. And let’s be honest: At the campus town hall last week at GW, the audience members looked less than excited, or at least nothing compared to the energy seen around campus in 2008.

I referred to this phenomenon of falling support last fall – although now it seems much more pronounced – as the “Obama hangover.”

Young voters did not rally around Obama and the Democrats in that election in support of his liberal, big-spending economic policies. Rather, Obama’s campaign represented something markedly less policy-oriented, a departure from the socially conservative nature of American politics that educated young people saw as retrograding back to their ideals. The election of a black president signified a final condemnation of the racist elements of our past; a progressive Congress would intelligently discuss issues like global warming on the merits of science and not petty ignorance; a less religiously oriented administration would help America move into the 21st century. Above all, Obama’s commitment to a post-partisan, calmer and more cordial Washington would take Americans away from the divisive politics of the past two decades and move us into a new century, one where we can begin to solve our problems.

The overarching theme of Obama’s campaign – the post-partisan one – has failed miserably. The Democrats took advantage of the national mood to launch a lurching, left-wing economic agenda that Americans, from the start, had little appetite for. This may have pleased our more liberal friends, but some young people questioned if they really signed up for what Congress was feeding them. Yet, those on the left could hardly be celebratory, for while their economic agenda was unfolding, their frustrations over the escalating war in Afghanistan were mounting.

Political partisanship has reached a fever pitch in Washington, where Americans’ relationship with government is being hotly debated and aggressively changed.

On top of all of this, the number one issue on voters’ minds, the economy, has been a damper. Obama’s economic policy has not worked. Young people, ever wary of graduation, student loan payments and job hunting, are becoming increasingly frustrated and disappointed by a government that is failing to fix the situation, without seeming to care.

This, of course, isn’t all Obama’s fault. But Obama has done little to prevent this mess from happening. If the president is relying on young people to propel him to victory again, he needs to look at the smoldering rubble that will be his party Nov. 3, and begin to govern on the principles that our generation expected from him to begin with.

-The writer, a senior majoring in political communication, is a Hatchet columnist.

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