Today on Talking Points Memo (TPM), Gideon Porter’12 was quoted in an article on Obama and the youth vote; Porter explains he thinks it’s imperative that his generation comes out in full force for Obama again in 2012.
The article quotes an Obama campaign spokesperson, “young Americans know what is at stake in this election.” It continues by noting HWS “College Democrats President Gideon Porter agrees with the campaign’s assessment of the situation. In 2008, Porter volunteered for the campaign while finishing his senior year of high school in New Jersey. After graduating, he went to Pennsylvania to intern for the campaign, eventually becoming a Deputy Field Director in the state.”
He is quoted, “I believe our generation must view the Obama presidency not as an end, but as the start of a fight. That fight is to get people back to work, to grow the middle class, combat poverty, and combat climate change. These things take time and we cannot afford to abandon President Obama in the midst of this battle.”
The full text follows.
Youth Of The Nation: Will They Show Up In 2012?
Josh Petri • September 21, 2011
As early as January, Time called 2008 “The Year of the Youth Vote.” Droves of young Americans got involved in the political process. In the key primary state of Iowa, then-Senator Obama rode an overwhelming 4-1 advantage with young voters to narrow victory over then-Senator Clinton. Even the youngest sub-set of voters, those under 25, gave him a net advantage of 17,000 votes; he won by less than 20,000.
Those in the key 18-29 demographic saw in Obama a man with hope for the future and rallied around him like no other candidate since JFK, a connection underscored when Caroline Kennedy cited her three teenagers influence when giving the candidate her endorsement. “They were the first people who made me realize that Barack Obama is the President we need,” she said.
No other campaign in American history was so dependent upon the youth of the nation, and for once, they didn’t disappoint by failing to show up on election day. According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University, 23 million Americans under the age of 30 voted in the 2008 election, 3.4 million more than in 2004. Turnout was measured between 52 and 53 percent, the largest number seen since the voting age was lowered to 18 in 1972. These voters overwhelmingly supported Obama, with two-thirds casting their votes for the Democratic ticket.
It wasn’t just those showing up to the polls that were invaluable however. In 2008, the Obama campaign stated that it would mobilize 6 million volunteers by election day and some thought this might have been a conservative estimate. During a campaign swing in October of 2008, Sean Quinn of FiveThirtyEight.com said that “You could take every McCain volunteer we’ve seen doing actual work in the entire trip, over six states, and it would add up to the same as Obama’s single Thorton, Colorado office.”
Richie Fife, who helped lead the Obama effort in New York, recently reminisced to Politicker NY about the massive outpouring of support among young political neophytes. “It was an amazing thing,” Fife said as he recalled going to as many as 5 different events a night at clubs, galleries, and private houses. “It was like going to an AA meeting, except it was at a bar. You would have all these people stand up and say sort of sheepishly, ‘I’ve never been involved in politics but this time I am going to get involved.’ It was almost like a religion.”
Yet much has changed since that hopeful beginning in 2008. The most recent unemployment numbers show the nation as a whole hovering around 9%, but unemployment among those 18-24 is nearly double that at 16%. Most feel that these numbers are conservative estimates-they don’t take into account those that are working only part-time, for example-and that they may get even worse before November of next year.
Since entering office, Obama has sometimes incensed supporters with his compromises on healthcare reform, a stimulus package that may not have gone far enough, and a seeming inability to deal with a rabidly hostile Congress. Which all begs the question, will Obama be able to count on the massive youth support he relied on in 2008?
There is no doubt that as a group, youth voters remain more likely to support a Democratic candidate. Polls suggest that his support is still holding strong within the demographic; a recent Quinnipiac poll gave him a 49% approval rating amongst those 18-34.
The question then lies in the enthusiasm these fresh-faced political participants have for the president.
In 2008, Ari Herstand was a 23 year-old singer and Obama supporter who credits the campaign’s numerous benefit concerts with boosting his music career. “It was an exciting time,” he told Politicker NY. “Everyone was totally amped up and energized. Spirits were high. There was this electrifying energy that night, and in general-everyone was excited to be a part of this movement.”
Asked if he expected the same sort of enthusiasm in this election cycle, Herstand replied, “It’s hard to get everyone to rally back around him this time. We see mild victories here and there, but it’s not the complete overhaul we were expecting.”
The Obama campaign would disagree. A campaign spokesperson noted the administration’s health care overhaul and pointed to the continued popularity of the Summer Organizing program as evidence of continued youth support for the administration.
The program, which was started in 2007 gives volunteers 3 days of training in field organization alongside paid campaign workers before putting them to work for the summer. Although the program is open to those of all ages, the vast majority of participants are young supporters. In 2011 there were a record 12,000 applications for 1,500 available slots.
Given that the election is still over a year away, the 2012 campaign feels that the popularity of their volunteer programs bode well for the future.
“Young Americans have already seen the tangible benefits of the progress the President has made-with the number of uninsured youth dropping significantly due to health care reform, the responsible end of our combat mission in Iraq, reforms that will prevent credit card companies from gouging consumers and by making college accessible to millions more students by doubling funding for Pell grants,” a campaign spokesperson told TPM. “From the 12,000 summer organizer applicants to the campaign fall fellows working on campuses across the country, young Americans know what is at stake in this election.”
Hobart & Williams Colleges College Democrats President Gideon Porter agrees with the campaign’s assessment of the situation. In 2008, Porter volunteered for the campaign while finishing his senior year of high school in New Jersey. After graduating, he went to Pennsylvania to intern for the campaign, eventually becoming a Deputy Field Director in the state.
“I believe our generation must view the Obama presidency not as an end, but as the start of a fight. That fight is to get people back to work, to grow the middle class, combat poverty, and combat climate change,” Porter told TPM. “These things take time and we cannot afford to abandon President Obama in the midst of this battle.”
Speaking of his experience, he adds “I would do it all over again.”