Editorial: Campaign issues underlie Obama appearance

Editorial Board

Nothing can dash the hopes of winning political office like political realities.

The landmark national election of 2008, which saw the election of Barack Obama as the first black president, also saw the largest voter turnout in the under-30 demographic since 1960. Approximately 131 million Americans overall turned out to vote, which was about 5 million additional voters over the previous presidential election in 2004, most of whom were comprised of minority demographics.

Lots of folks have cranked the numbers since then, from the Census Bureau to nonprofit political think tanks like Brookings, and the general consensus is that more than three-quarters of registered voters aged 18-29 actually did vote. CivicYouth.org claims that 87 percent of college students voted in 2008.

For all intensive purposes, virtually everyone who was of traditional college student age voted in 2008.

President Obama had an historically fantastic grassroots campaign that was rivaled only by Republican challenger Congressman Ron Paul. Obama’s campaign was based on the cliches of “hope” and “change,” but ultimately was about an idealization of the American political process that appealed to a lot of disillusioned Americans who were sick of war and runaway government spending.

But what about this year?

A recent Gallup poll suggests only 58 percent of registered voters in the 18-29 category intend to vote, down about 20 percent from 2008.

Maybe that’s because this is the lamest campaign, totally, like, ever. So far this year, the Obama campaign has made a patchy record of getting back to us. Interestingly, on a conference call with college journalists after his appearance here, no Iowa State Daily journalist got a chance to ask a question of him. Four years ago the slogan was “Hope and Change,” and today it is a stale “Forward,” no matter how disorganized or haphazard that movement may be.

The electricity of his campaign is gone. Thousands of students packed Central Campus on Tuesday, but the fact is that he is now forced to campaign on uninteresting micro-issues. What else can we call speeches about Pell Grants and student loan interest rates? Ideals and policy are almost never the same, and ideals are much more motivating than the minutiae of specific policy proposals.

To be sure, he may defeat Mitt Romney in November. If he does, though, it will probably be by default: Romney as a person fails to inspire many people, and his rhetoric fails to unite big ideas with eloquent words that sound good. On the other hand, Obama himself fails now to do that.