For the last couple of months, I've heard various stories that Obama is losing the younger voters who turned out in record numbers in 2008. They're disillusioned, they're frustrated, and they feel like Obama is just another politician.
These voters are fickle and may not understand how disastrous a Republican White House and Congress will be, so it's vital that Obama win them back, right? This morning, I figured out an incredibly simple way for him to do just that: be the president he told them they were voting for.
This morning, Greg Sargent linked to this pair of related stories:
Obama telling top donors he’s in a weaker position than in 2008: The president’s team is trying to galvanize top Dem donors by telling them that despite his rebound since the 2010 elections, his reelection prospects are far more difficult than they appear, another sign that his team is trying to shift into full campaign engagement before the 2012 GOP primary gets moving in earnest.
Obama working hard to win back young voters: Relatedly, Peter Wallsten has some very interesting reporting on Team Obama’s under-the-radar efforts to win back the young voters that were pivotal to his 2008 victory, a mark of how much damage two years of governing may have done to Obama’s brand among one of his core constituencies, and of the importance of rekindling their excitement heading into 2012.
After I read those stories, I saw this, from Ezra Klein:
What would the Obama campaign think of the Obama administration?
The Obama campaign was only three years ago, but it had strong opinions on this sort of thing. “To lead the world, we must lead by example,” Candidate Obama said in October of 2007. “We must be willing to acknowledge our failings, not just trumpet our victories. And when I’m President, we’ll reject torture - without exception or equivocation.” But now we find there is both exception and equivocation -- and the administration is purging those within its ranks who publicly say it should be otherwise. This is a moment in which both those who serve in the administration and those who support it need to ask whether the Obama administration is keeping sight of its values now that it holds power. The tradeoff between security and moral purity is always more difficult for a president than a candidate, but as we saw in the Bush administration, the pendulum can swing too far towards security, in a way that does little to make us safer and erodes who we are. Crowley’s firing is a sign that that may be happening to the Obama administration.
I put all of those stories together, and like a bolt of lightning, realized how Obama can get back all the voters he seems to have lost: Barack Obama needs to be the president he told them they were voting for.
This isn't just ideological, starry-eyed liberalism here (not that there's anything wrong with that); there is a practical reason for this: in a Citizens United world where GOP governors are gutting unions as fast as they can to make Obama's reelection even more difficult than he's made it for himself, we have to use the one weapon we have that the plutocrats and oligarchs can't take away from us: our numbers. There are more of us than there are of them, and even if they have more money than we ever will, we have greater numbers.
We care about net neutrality. We care about marriage equality. We care about staying out of "stupid" wars. We care about ensuring that the least among us have a chance to find their way out of poverty. We care about climate change. We care about a woman's right to be in charge of her own body. We care about how hard it is to get a job. We care about how hard it is to get a job that pays fair wages. We care about being able to afford college. We care about having affordable healthcare. We care about being a nation that does not torture, ever. We care about closing down Guantanamo Bay. We care about the fundamental right to a speedy trial. We care about our personal privacy.
In other words, we care about all the things Candidate Obama told us he cared about, too.
If President Obama can find it in himself to care about the Democratic base and the young voters who turned out for him in record numbers in 2008 care about as much as he seems to care about Wall Street and finding "compromise" with the GOP*, his reelection should be a cakewalk. And, hey, maybe we'll be so fired up and ready to go, we can pick up some seats in congress, too.
We don't have as much money as the Koch Brothers, that's for sure, but we outnumber them by the thousands. That has to count for something ... but Obama can't expect us to work hard for him if he won't work hard for us.
I'm not a political expert or anything, but I'm pretty sure that if your entire campaign is about changing things after 8 disastrous years, and you explicitly outline how you’re going to correct the civil rights abuses of the Bush administration, maybe the folks who worked their asses off to get you elected are going to be a little unhappy and disillusioned when you do pretty much the opposite. So how about it, President Obama? Are you ready to be the president you told us we were voting for? Get us fired up and ready to go!
*Compromise in this case means giving the GOP everything they want and getting nothing in return.