I fear that because of their laser focus on D.C. political-process wrangling, the Obama administration will continue to overlook issues and policies that most affect young adults. Without high-energy motivation, U.S. college students historically don't show up to vote. And that would be devastating to Obama's 2012 prospects, just as it was for Democrats in the November 2010 elections.
The student vote was crucial to Barack Obama's 2008 victory. Wrote the student newspaper of Carnegie-Mellon University about Obama's election:
"... students who cast a vote in Tuesday's presidential election (or mailed in an absentee ballot) were part of the largest ever group in their age bracket to support a single candidate, and the second largest youth voter movement in American history...
"Sixty-six percent of young voters cast their ballot for Barack Obama, the largest-ever showing for a presidential candidate in this age group. Young people preferred Obama to John McCain by a two-to-one ratio, according to a survey of young voters conducted by Declare Yourself, a nonpartisan initiative dedicated to youth voters...
" 'Young people absolutely made the difference in this election,' said Erika Johansson, a project coordinator for Declare Yourself. 'Without them, he would have lost the election.'... oting increased in comparison to the last election by particularly large margins in precincts on college campuses."
At the beginning at 2011, the issues students and young voters most care about have been largely ignored, or poorly handled, thus far by the Obama administration, including:
- Unemployment. College students are commonly graduating, often laden with debt, only to find no jobs. "The job market for recent college graduates is the bleakest it's been since 1983, forcing a generation that has basked in possibilities to contend with dwindling prospects," reported the Washington D.C. Examiner two weeks ago. Businessweek reported at length a few months ago that College Grads Flood U.S. Labor Market With Diminished Prospects.
- The DREAM Act. College campuses across the nation were roiled by the failure of The DREAM Act to be passed by the Senate on December 18, 2010. And student populations, not just Latino students, suspect that President Obama's hands-on support for the bill was tepid, weak-kneed.
Per a Princeton University study released two months ago, students from immigrant families comprise a larger than ever percentage of elite college students. "... we find that nearly one-quarter (23 percent) of students were either first-generation immigrants (born outside the United States to at least one foreign-born parent) or second-generation immigrants (born inside the United States to at least one foreign-born parent). By race, about two-thirds of Hispanic students and roughly nine-tenths of Asian students were first- or second-generation immigrants."
The percentage of immigrant-family students attending state schools and community colleges traditionally is far higher than at elite private universities.
- The Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. War-making is never popular on college campuses, but continued U.S. occupation of Iraq and on-going U.S. fighting in Afghanistan are close to incomprehensible to young voters nationwide.
Wrote a Firedoglake blogger about her teenage son lamenting Obama's broken promises, "By promises, he meant improving the economy and increasing jobs, as well as winding down the war in Iraq and getting out of Afghanistan. From his perspective, the war in Iraq has been forever; he can't remember a time when we didn't have troops there."
President Obama's dismal standing with college students was summed well by the Florida International University student newspaper:
"An Associated Press poll conducted last month which surveyed 2,027 randomly selected undergraduate students ages 18-24 showed that currently 44% of students support President Obama and 27% are unhappy with his overall performance.
" 'I feel there was a lot of hype about him, but he has failed to make significant change,' said Juan Ledesma, a junior at the University. A general loss of fervor for the 'change' campaign has ensued among many students. "He had us riding on his hope and change bandwagon, but he didn't pull through,' said Nick Hart, a junior majoring in psychology. 'There's been no change, just more of the same.'
"Frustration with Obama's handling of the economy, the progression of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, social reform befitting this generation's openness, health reform, importunate unemployment and the continuing existence of Guantanamo Bay, has dimmed collegiate approval for President Obama."
The steeply increasing cost of attending college wasn't even mentioned above, but weighs heavily on all college students and their families. "Faced with rising college costs and a struggling economy, families are paying for college by digging deeper, borrowing more and tightening their belt," reported FiscalTimes.com five months ago.
For Barack Obama to be reelected in 2012, not only must the President's approval rating among college students increase very substantially, but students must once again be excited by the promise of his candidacy... excited enough to flock to the polls in support of his agenda.
Without a sea change attitude among students, harsh reality is that Barack Obama will be a one-term president. I dearly hope the Obama administration is taking hard notice, and making the necessary adjustments to please its student-led political base.
So far, I detect only presidential focus on inside-the-beltway politics, which is a guaranteed one-way ticket back home to Chicago for Barack Obama.