Young love is fickle. The great love affair between young Americans and the President is about to come to an end. While the 2008 election was like the rush of hormones and giddiness that accompanies new romance, the 2012 election was more like that phase of a relationship where one person says to the other “It’s not that I don’t love you, it’s just that I’m not IN love with you.” Obama still won the youth vote in 2012 because codependence is part of the college experience and because Romney wasn’t sexy enough to be the “other guy. ” That said, it’s still clear that the romance is gone. The break-up is inevitable.
Here are five reasons why:
1. The thrill is gone. Candidate Obama was a novelty when he ran as a modern, bi-racial incarnation of JFK. There was a mysticism about him that made him transcendent. His life’s story was somewhat bohemian. He was intellectual in discourse. He was cool under pressure. In essence, he was that guy on campus that was “different than the other guys.” His freshness made him attractive. Now that the Millennials have gotten used to him, the novelty has worn off.
Like a lot of young romances, it turns out that this guy wasn’t all that different after all. He’s just another smooth-talker, like all the rest. You wonder what you saw in him in the first place.
2. He doesn’t understand you. There’s nothing like falling in love. The other person is a blank slate as you try to figure out who they are and you project onto them who you want them to be. After you get to know them, however, reality never lives up to fantasy. Presidents experience the same “honeymoon” effect when they come off the campaign trail. The problem starts when they stop courting us and start trying to control us. Any political scientist will tell you that the moment a president starts to govern is the moment their public opinion rating starts to drop. In making decisions they alienate some portion of their supporters. This happened quickly to Obama on Gitmo, Afghanistan, and drones. Many people are starting to feel that way now on healthcare. For all the environmentalists who hated Bush, Obama has not only ignored the movement but he’s about to dump Syrian chemical weapons into the ocean. And gun control has gone nowhere.
So while it’s fun to fantasize about a future together, once you start making plans for each other and discover that you don’t have much in common regarding politics, religion, children, and so forth, the honeymoon is over and it’s time for a little space.
3. He was cheap. No one likes a cheap date. Candidate Obama promised romantic trips to Paris in springtime, Spain in the summer, and New England in the fall. All for free. The Millennials have learned the hard way that nothing in life is free. Obamacare was designed to stick the cost of healthcare to healthy young people in order to subsidize the costs for older, less healthy people. Young people are also learning about things like “monthly premiums” and “deductibles.” And of course, he lied about letting us keep our existing insurance. Obama is like the guy who invited you to a fancy dinner, lied when he said you could pick the place, and then asks the waiter to split the check.
With two years left to go, he better come up with some free stuff fast, or else people will kick him to the curb. How about forgiving your student loans?
4. He was a player. Candidate Obama won the election in 2008 by tapping into social media, still in its relative infancy. The approach was highly successful with young voters and gave Obama the veneer of being a new tech-savvy president. The colossal failure of the healthcare.gov website has undone much of his status as a tech wizard. Granted, it’s not like he’s the one programming the website, but it happened on his watch under the signature program that bears his name. This is something that should have happened to an old, uncool guy, not Obama. Maybe his fascination with his Blackberry was not an indication of his hipness after all, but just an indicator that he didn’t have an iPhone.
5. You grew apart. Time takes its toll on every relationship. The young people who enthusiastically embraced candidate Obama in 2008 are older and wiser. Many are now unemployed and in debt. At the young end of supporters, voters who were 18 in 2008 are now in their early twenties. The economy has not recovered much, they didn’t get a bunch of stuff for free, and frankly they’re a little ticked off. Right now they’d trade Hope and Change for a Job and Future. Watching the President eat snow cones in Hawaii, play endless rounds of golf, and speak platitudes about “stopping the rise of the oceans” was endearing at first. Now it just makes you mad.
Don’t kick yourself too hard. Part of life is making mistakes and learning from them. Obama was an attractive candidate.
And you were young.