Four years ago I asked a 21-year-old colleague, a self- proclaimed apolitical, why she was so hellbent on voting forBarack Obama.
“You had Ronald Reagan,” she explained. “The first president I’ve really known is George W. Bush. My generation grew up being told that the U.S. is number one — that we are the best in the world — and now it feels like that’s slipping away. I think Obama can get us back there.”
I wonder what she is thinking today, with the nation $5 trillion deeper in debt, and with an 8.1 percent unemployment rate.
Kristin, my former colleague, was part of the much heralded youth vote in 2008. Her rationale for supporting Obama sounded almost exactly like the reason so many of my generation flocked to Reaganin 1980 and ’84. Reagan‘s and Obama’s political philosophies could not be more different, but their optimism was contagious to young minds and souls, mine included.
But the positive energy Obama exuded effortlessly in 2008 seems forced today, and more than a few people are curious to know how that will affect turnout among young voters. A 54 percent underemployment rate for recent college graduates isn’t engendering confidence in his leadership qualities among that demographic, either.
Obama for America, the president’s re-election team, is well aware of this dynamic, and it is working overtime to try to rekindle the excitement young voters felt for Obama in the heady days of 2008.
I cringed when I learned that Scarlett Johansson would be speaking at the Democratic National Convention toward that end. It didn’t bother me that she was being recruited to pump up the youth turnout. I was afraid I would have to add the starlet to my list of Hollywood celebrities who go out of their way to insult Republicans.
My fears over Johansson were for naught, it turns out. The über-lovely actress glowed with fairness in her remarks. She told young Americans that it is clear whom she supports for president — Barack Obama — but that it was up to each of them to decide for him- or herself whom to support. Be it for Romney-Ryan or Obama-Biden, for Pete’s sake get out and vote.
The rest of this column is available at Newsday. Thanks for reading!