Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/washington/news.aspx?id=127179
Story Retrieval Date: 5/18/2013 7:00:44 PM CST
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama might owe his election to an unprecedented turnout of the 18- to 29-year-old set, but he’s yet to impress the young voters on the other side of the political spectrum.
In his nearly 100 days, Obama hasn’t proven to young conservatives and Republicans that he’s completely committed to the promise of hope, change, and compromise he touted on the campaign trail.
“Right now, the issues confronting America are so big that we need to get out of the partisan game,” said Sean Conner, the chairman of the DC Young Republicans. “Obama has shown multiple times that he’s falling short on the conversation on bipartisanship.”
Conner, 25, called on Obama to “dial down the politics coming out of the White House” at the hands of Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Senior Advisor David Axelrod.
“They are two of the most partisan politicians we’ve ever had in the White House,” Conner said. “I hope that after the first 100 days we get to doing the people’s business and not political business.”
From the bailout plan to the Hugo Chavez handshake, young conservatives point to a number of blunders that have led to widespread Republican discontent. Jake Wolfe, the treasurer of the George Washington University College Republicans, called Obama’s first few months “probably the worst 100 days of a presidency in history” and called the president’s attempts at reaching across the aisle a “total façade.”
“On every issue, he has created controversy and negatively impacted the country,” Wolfe said.
As the assessments come in on the early days of the Obama administration, Republicans remain skeptical.
“The first 100 days have been somewhat disappointing,” Conner said. “This is not the hope and change most people voted for in November. It’s more politics as usual.”
What’s next for young people not caught under Obama’s spell?
Post-election, young people right of center aren’t admitting defeat. They’re regrouping, re-strategizing and reshaping their image.
“Barack Obama tapped into something in young people, but not everybody believes in Obamunism. Not all young people are in favor of that,” said Christopher Malagisi, the 27-year-old president of the Young Conservatives Coalition, an advocacy group formed the day after the election to help engage young conservative leaders.
“Once people know a little bit more about what it means to be a conservative, we hope they’ll come to our side,” Malagisi said.
Young conservative and Republican leaders plan to use some of the same tactics that got Obama elected last year for their own outreach campaign – mainly social networking and new media technology.
“In 2008, Obama used new media to create an army of young Democrats. We could easily do that, too, if we can use the same tools,” said Andrew Clark, 20, a student at George Washington. “If the Republicans had done a better job of reaching out, the gap would have been smaller.”
Conner expects young people of all political motivations to get involved in the political process in future races, and the Republicans expect to get a bigger chunk of the enthusiasm next time.
“I see a desire among young people to help guide the direction of this country,” he said. ‘We’re doing the business of the people. We’re still supporting our country. We’re just not in the majority.”
The next big battle for the GOP? Recruiting more young right-wingers to engage in the debate on an upcoming health care overhaul bill.