Euphoria subsides, indifference a risk for campaigns
by Mykel Vernon-Sembach
The presidential election of 2008 brought forth an onslaught of enthusiastic young voters whose political spirit was ignited by none other than today’s president, Barack Obama. Voters came in droves to voting booths to perform their civic duties. While most of the younger generation felt they had gone above and beyond the call of Uncle Sam, many volunteers at poll sites around the nation would argue these first time voters were more of a nuisance than as a productive age group. It has been four lackluster years since President Obama’s call to arms and political enthusiasm among the 18-to-29 year old voting group has quickly fizzled out like a sparkler on the Fourth of July. Many argue Obama’s “change” died when he failed to achieve his campaign promises and these student voters will easily sway toward the Republican party come this next presidential election. However, it was President Obama’s slogan along with several other factors that led to this one-time inflation of young voters.
Primarily speaking, the largest argument is that Obama’s “Vote for Change” translated into “vote for me.” This presented the illusion to naïve voters that political change is as simple as changing clothes. So when “change” did come around, many first-time voters were extremely downtrodden and unimpressed by the rather slow and uneventful process through our nation’s government. Luckily for Obama, MTV encouraged their own “unbiased” campaign called “Vote or Die,” endorsed by countless celebrities. This encouraged a mindless following by the MTV audience straight to their nearest polling sites, where they immediately consult the poll volunteers with questions like, “What box do I check for Obama?”
On top of the underlying claims by both “Change” and “Vote or Die,” the Internet put forth its first steps toward clickactivism, where a Facebook status would be added toward the vote count at the end of the election.
Both of these slogans, while effective, were only a short-term solution to inspiring new voters to a very shallow concept of how politics actually work.
In addition to these campaigns illustrating a false image of political change, they implied the idea that voting could completely eliminate 200 years of offensive history that we like to call “racism.” For many young’uns, voting an African-American into the Oval Office of a first-world country known for its extensive slave trade through the nation’s growth is like purchasing pardons from the Church to absolve sin; translated, it is illogical. Additionally, the thrill of participating in a historical event such as voting for the first African-American president certainly stoked the political fires of many voters under the age of 30.
Of course, there is always the issue of bandwagoning where voting at a high school age is still a popularity vote and matching ideals are desired more than a quality (or competent) Head of State. Voting was like a viral new trend through 2008 that were made tangible through clothing styles, images and ideals to illustrate the seemingly cultured perspectives of acne-faced teens during their early 20s.
To expose how faulty the young voter foundation was in 2008, the entire voting process was quickly spun into a consumerist perspective that allowed underage “political activists” to embrace a stance through bracelets, t-shirts, posters and bumper stickers, suddenly became synonymous with a ballot. Companies quickly advocated the consumerist by providing free product offers with proof that the customer had voted. This resulted in many underage voters walking through asking for “I Voted Today” stickers to receive, for example, a free drink at Starbucks.
With the incumbent 2012 presidential election just around the corner, many of the young voters (now four years wiser) are disenchanted with not only Obama, but with the voting process altogether. Four years ago, many believed it was the start of a sudden surge of a new voting demographic for years to come. Yet “Vote for Change” never educated our newest citizens on the importance of voting beyond presidential elections. Unless either party comes out with a new t-shirt design, there is very little reason for our nation’s youth to vote.