[First published on skepolitical.com on 5/26/12]
Go ahead and read this short op-ed in the LA Times about how young people, disillusioned with Obama, are looking for ways to be political outside the normal avenues of politics. The second paragraph really rings true for me:
Obama seems to have transformed the cohort of 18- to 29-year-olds, a whopping 66% of whom preferred him over John McCain, from passionate voters who thought Obama really did offer change they could believe in, into people feeling, in the words of veteran political analyst Charlie Cook, “disappointment and disillusionment.”
I recently became too aged to fall into that demographic, but I guess I’m still young enough at heart to sympathize. For me, I had been looking forward to the end of Bush’s tenure for years. I believed in democracy, and so I felt somewhat responsible when my government arrogantly condescended to other countries, engaged in torture and indefinite detention, and violated various civil liberties of its domestic population. This is not to mention aggressive war in Iraq and the concomitant atrocities. Probably worst of all was the insane levels of secrecy that shielded government criminality from accountability. To some extent, I became ashamed to be a part of it. Then Barack Obama showed up promising to change all this. Sure, he had the uncomfortably vague slogan of “Hope and Change,” onto which anyone could project their particular hopes. However, he really did make specific assurances to ameliorate all the fundamental issues of Bush’s term that I was so concerned with. On top of that, a worldly and dark-skinned American President couldn’t hurt our image abroad.
I was naive. The pandering began on Day One with the Obama’s inclusion of the anti-Gay Rick Warren in his inauguration. Obama has been as bad or worse on all the most significant concerns I had with Bush, except that he is slightly better on war and torture. For a while, our image abroad did improve, but it has plummeted again as a result of Obama’s aggression. It’s embarrassing to be proven naive. For me, this embarrassment has been a driving force behind learning more about how politics and the world works, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. I’m also sure I’m not the only one who decided to look for alternative ways to empower myself and assert my values. The LA Times op-ed is a good, concise, documentation of how this has played out nationwide. For me, this has been manifested in trying to educate myself as fully as possible about the workings of American government and power structures, discussing and influencing my friends, listening and contributing to independent media, and writing in this blog. I think the primary solutions are to work for a more skeptical culture while still fighting today’s battles through movements like Occupy Wall Street.
On Tuesday, May 22, Neal Conan interviewed Neal Gabler, the author of that op-ed, on Talk of the Nation. (It’s twelve minutes.) The first caller had been even more naive than I was, having expected not just a return to the rule of law but the advancement of truly progressive policies. For me, this seems secondary, and I view the inclusion of divisive progressive ideology in the Occupy movement as a potential weakness. The second caller described efforts that he has seen people making, such as engaging in local activism where their efforts were more likely to realize tangible gains. The third caller seemed to still be under the illusion that working within government was the answer, blaming Obama’s failures on a recalcitrant congress. He is working on congressional campaigns in Texas. It makes me feel that I should be doing something more than just blogging and tweeting.
By the way, I was going to start off this post with the following statement. ”Barack Obama’s Hope and Change campaign in 2008 inspired young Americans as never before.” This is a statement that seems right, but I don’t really know if it’s true. Fortunately, before I began the post, I caught myself. I know that people have a tendency to assume that they live in extraordinary times (this bias does not seem to be documented), and so my inclination to make a such a claim set off my skeptic alarm bells.