Have the youth given up on Obama?
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December 30th, 2011
09:03 AM ET

Have the youth given up on Obama?

Editor's Note: Brad Chase is a partner with Capitol Media Partners, a Los Angeles-based communications and public affairs consultancy.

By Brad Chase - Special to CNN

In 2008, the youth vote helped sweep Barack Obama into office.  Americans 18-29 spread the word on social media, energized fundraising and went to the polls.

In 2012, the youth vote is moving on and throwing those omnipresent “Hope” bumper stickers and t-shirts in garbage bins.

Not because of apathy.  Not because another candidate generates more enthusiasm.  Not because of his character.  Not because they think voting is pointless.  The 18-29 vote is up for grabs in 2012 because youth can’t afford cars to put bumper stickers on and those t-shirts are worn out from too many days sitting on the couch unemployed.

The sobering reality:  just 55.3 percent of Americans between 16 and 29 have jobs.  And earlier this year, Americans’ student loan debt surpassed credit card debt for the first time ever.

Rather than develop a lasting initiative to help young unemployed Americans, the President launched “Greater Together” – a campaign tool that offers community forums rather than jobs.  Rather than provide a bailout to those crushed by the burden of educational loans, his student debt relief program was pathetic – only reducing interest rates by a measly 0.5 percent.

No wonder less than half of Americans 18-29 approve of Obama.

It’s no surprise the President is ignoring millenials.  They’re too poor to donate to his campaign this election cycle.  Older Americans are 47 times richer than the young – a striking generational gap in prosperity that has widened from a 10 to 1 ratio when Ronald Reagan was running for reelection in 1984.  At the same time, Obama is ringing up donations from older voters.  In the first 10 months of 2011, he attended 58 fundraisers – twice the number President George W. Bush attended during the comparable period before his reelection.  That’s overkill when the GOP candidate is still TBD.

Millenials haven’t embraced any of the GOP candidates yet, but there’s a huge opportunity for the eventual nominee to swoop in and win over the youth vote.  They have a short memory, filled mostly with three difficult years under President Obama’s economic stewardship.  The Center for the Study of the American Electorate reports that the youth vote won’t come out strongly this time around, but there’s little doubt the voting bloc is up for grabs to the first candidate who offers up viable policies – not themes and slogans – to address their issues.

To win the youth vote in November, a Presidential candidate could start by:

Creating a limited student debt forgiveness program:  It would be impractical and foolhardy to create complete debt amnesty.  Instead, erase all federal student debt for those with more than $30,000 in federal student loan debt and cut the bill by 10 percent for those with debts under that threshold.  That still leaves students accountable – no free rides – but it eases the crushing burden on millions of millenials.  H.Res. 365 by Rep. Hansen Clark (D-MI) was a well-intentioned (albeit pie-in-the-sky) call for debt relief and it’s a good starting point for future efforts.

Controls on Predatory Lenders/ServicersMost students need their parents to co-sign loans and then take care of the bills themselves.  But private loan servicers like American Education Services (AES) have no oversight and resort to bully tactics to threaten students’ parents with credit rating ruin as little as five days after a bill comes overdue for the first time.  Not even credit card companies are that ruthless.  There’s nothing more humiliating and stressful to students or parents than getting harassed for short-term delinquencies.  There’s no need for a Credit Protection Financial Bureau, just more oversight on predators like AES.

Allowing Student Loan Discharge in Bankruptcy:  In 2005, bankruptcy law changed to specifically exclude private student loans from being discharged in bankruptcy proceedings.  Young adults don’t want the headache or stigma of going bankrupt, but sheltering private lenders at the expense of recent graduates is wrong.  H.R. 2028 will restore pre-2005 terms – support for the bill would be huge in generating millennial votes.

The ancillary benefit of student debt relief is a stimulus to the economy.  Older Americans might say that giving money back to the young is an invitation to run up debt again, but millenials have watched their parents get underwater with mortgages and credit cards – it’s the pot calling the kettle black to deny young adults their own bailout.  The stimulus will come in the form of solid and responsible purchases:  a first couch, a first bed, a first set of dinner plates.  This isn’t reckless spending, it’s the type of economic stimulus that Obama’s much-touted stimulus should have been.

Without the youth vote in 2008, the President would have lost North Carolina and Indiana – a 26 delegate swing equal to nearly 10 percent of the 270 electoral college votes needed to win.  The 2012 election promises to be closer and the swing of the youth vote could be enough to tip the balance.  It’s time the President did some soul searching on his feelings toward the youth vote.  And he better do it soon, because the GOP candidate is waiting in the wings and won’t hesitate to take the youth vote.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of Brad Chase.

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Topics: 2012 Election • President Obama • Youth

soundoff (996 Responses)
  1. petemg

    I do not care how one group of people feel about Obama. I just want the public to be well informed this time when voting.

    December 30, 2011 at 11:14 am | Reply
    • MediaStudent

      I would be nice wouldn't it? Call me skeptical, but I don't think it will happen.

      December 30, 2011 at 11:18 am | Reply
  2. TheLeftCoast

    Just to be clear ~ Obama took over a train wreck three years ago, and :
    1) staved off the next worldwide great Depression
    2) saved the financial industry from collapse, and made money for the government doing it
    3) saved the US auto industry, and made the planet greener.

    I shudder to think where we would be now if McCain/Palin had been running this circus for three years ! THINK, people!

    December 30, 2011 at 11:15 am | Reply
  3. TAK

    "just 55.3 percent of Americans between 16 and 29 have jobs". Is this author a moron? 16-22 year olds should be in school, not working! Counting grad school ("what's that?" says the teabagger) you can extend that to 25 or 26. When more young people have jobs that indicates a problem. It shows they need to work to pay for school or have given up on school altogether.

    December 30, 2011 at 11:15 am | Reply
    • Mike in Pekin

      First, you are assuming that everyone goes to college. The fact is, only about 1/2 of the jobs available require a 4 year degree. Many well paying jobs require either a shorter technical school, apprenticeship, or on the job training. However, we have been brainwashed into thinking that a college degree equals more money – Tell that to the social worker with the Masters Degree making 40K a year with 80K or more in student loan debt, while the Truck Driver pulls 50-60K with no student loans. Second, many young people work while they go to school. Those who don't are the exception, not the rule. If only 55% of this group is employed, that is a troubling statistic. Employment in this age group should be more like 70%.

      December 30, 2011 at 12:00 pm | Reply
  4. NudeTruth

    Everyone I know who voted for obama now see the folly of their way, they are now going with the only rational and logical choice, Ron Paul.

    December 30, 2011 at 11:18 am | Reply
    • JoAnn

      Obama's follies
      Killed Bin Laden, Saved American Auto Industry, Created the conservative version of the Health Care Plan, PREVENTED THE GREATEST DEPRESSION, And fought for the Middle class when republicans wanted to give more freebies to the super rich while cutting on Social Security and Repealing Medicare....

      December 30, 2011 at 11:59 am | Reply
  5. Juan In El Paso

    Yesterday there was a story about how Obama has the Latino vote 2 to 1 and today a story about how he has lost the young vote! I'm betting the assumption that us youth, I'm a 25 year old latino, will stay at home rather than vote is completely incorrect. I for one, who voted for Obama more as a vote against McCain and Palin, will vote for any GOP over Obama. I'm think many more will do the same.

    December 30, 2011 at 11:21 am | Reply
    • GOP Rules

      Please do vote so we can have a president who will chase more of your clan back to Hispanicland

      December 30, 2011 at 12:02 pm | Reply
  6. the_dude

    All obama had to do is help the middle-class and he would have a legion of loyal followers. But he didn't help, instead he declared war on the middle-class in order to help his rich friends. One and done obama....later.

    December 30, 2011 at 11:21 am | Reply
  7. Walter

    The "youth" that have given up on Obama have done so because they don't feel like they got all the freebies they expected from Obama. Endless job opportunities, student loans being forgiven, etc., etc. Any group that thinks whomever they elect will give them everything they want is bound to be disappointed.

    December 30, 2011 at 11:22 am | Reply
  8. Jeff

    Presidents control nothing. Why is this SO HARD for people to understand? Mr. Obama did as he was told by the elites. As did Bush, as will future presidents.

    December 30, 2011 at 11:25 am | Reply
  9. Reality1

    "Have the youth given up on Obama?"

    Only the sane ones.

    December 30, 2011 at 11:27 am | Reply
  10. Dan

    The young are far too idealistic to vote Republican. Obama was able to win them (and minorities) over with his idealism, but has lost them because of the reality of the job markets. America's young, minorities, and liberals in general, will do their usual bit this election, that is, they will become apathetic, fail to vote and blame Republicans for everything.

    December 30, 2011 at 11:30 am | Reply
  11. Enlightened

    Obama's goal is to change the USA into the USSA (Union of Socialist States of America). A vote for Obama is a vote for Big Brother. Please go read George Orwell's 1984 before you vote.

    December 30, 2011 at 11:30 am | Reply
  12. Draxta

    I believe Obama did the many new young voters a big favor. The fact that so many registered in the name of “false hope” has been a major wake-up call for this group of new voters. The two party system is a failure and that failure is only exacerbated by an incompetent president.
    And yes, here it comes…Ron Paul is the only hope for correcting the problems this country has been suffering from for so long. Let these young voters recognize what really needs to be done to correct our country and get it on the road to real prosperity. Those who think that Paul is a nut cake will condemn our country to four more years of the same old garbage; be it Obama or someone from the GOP.

    December 30, 2011 at 11:30 am | Reply
    • REG in AZ

      Ron Paul is no hope but only a disaster waiting to happen. His contrast to the other candidates is his only attraction as the others prove unworthy ... but his Libertarian philosophies, his advocating doing nothing about most everything and his aggressively pushing for "smaller government", while likely to reduce spending, taxes and the deficit, are totally irresponsible and would result in further exploitation by those with advantage, failure of government to meet responsibilities and literally the advancing of world crises. Not a good choice only an alternative bad choice.

      December 30, 2011 at 11:46 am | Reply
  13. Hot Carl

    Absolutely. Blacks voted for him because he was, well, BLACK. Guilty, self hating whites voted for him to show that they could vote for a black guy. He won because 2 groups of people had something to prove.

    December 30, 2011 at 11:30 am | Reply
  14. Gino

    If Obama's smart,he'll give up on the youth.

    December 30, 2011 at 11:31 am | Reply
    • Mr. Turner

      Ya man, he can just continue covering up for the plutocrats and the Goldman Sachs crew in his office. I'm so excited our country is in good hands!!!!

      December 30, 2011 at 12:20 pm | Reply
  15. REG in AZ

    The youth, as are all of us, are totally frustrated with the status of American politics and with the absence of any real representation for the majority (99%). However, voting still has to be considered our only (along with public demonstration) form of seeking fair representation. What has happened is that "the few" (1%) with their power, influence and money have been able to overtly and covertly aggressively con the people and manipulate public opinion leaving the politicians to cater to "the money" for support and to neglect the majority- Examples: the manipulation of the Evangelistic Christian, the Swift-boat propaganda, the Tea Party movement and the Republican / Tea Party constant stubborn blocking and arrogant faulting of all efforts while protecting the interests of "the few". If the people can reject the subterfuge and avoid being conned, duped and used, then they still have the power of the vote.

    December 30, 2011 at 11:34 am | Reply
  16. pisan

    Maybe we should be careful of what we ask for this time. Neither party can undo this mess, it will take at least two decades to create a strong economy with at least 3 presidents. I have stopped paying my debt just survive not proud of that decision but I would rather eat than make the banks richer. Look at the world, every country has problems and the citizens have taken to streets now its here in the U.S. why? because we have learned to live beyond our means.The young should lead but with knowledge of history and not emotion,promises and idealism . If we all share the bad times should we all not share the good times? The division of have and have not is wider than it has ever been in my life time and it is growing beyond control. Remember most of us are still able to care for ourselves for now in 3 to 5 years homeless citizens may jump 20%. in short enjoy the good times the worse is yet to come

    December 30, 2011 at 11:34 am | Reply
  17. willy

    I know everyone wants their kids to go to college so they can have an edge on the job market. We are told over and over that if we have more graduates we will compete better on the world market. Now, most will go to college and yet we are still hiring people from overseas instead of Americans because industry keeps crying "we can't find enough qualified American people for this job". Students and colleges need to open their eyes and take harder more useful degrees instead of taking the easy way out. I'm spending my 401K to send my kids to college so they can be managers at a restaurant. Honest honorable work but a four year degree is not needed for those occupations. All these loans are ridicules!

    December 30, 2011 at 11:42 am | Reply
  18. Heather

    Ron Paul is considered too extreme by the middle-of-the-roaders and he will be crucified on the race issue (or at least the Obama camp will try their best to do that ... question is, will it work this time?). But he's the only one who can clean house. Fact is, yes he WILL eliminate jobs - government jobs mostly. Ever worked for the government? Most people who've never been there would be APPALLED at the waste, the dead wood sitting in cubicles doing nothing all day long. I worked for NASA, a relatively get-up-and-go government environment, but it was amazing how wasteful it was). Ron Paul will do the necessary "root canal" and get us back on track as a nation. A nation, yes, where people may be raking their own lawns instead of hiring cheap illegals to do it, and cooking their own meals instead of eating out every night, and supporting their own children instead of relying on the "baby-mama" to get government aid.

    December 30, 2011 at 11:43 am | Reply
  19. Roger Ogilvy Thornhill

    Dear CNN: "Millennials" has 2 letters n. And while I have given up hope of that the English language will survive Twitter-esque manglings, I haven't given up on Obama.

    December 30, 2011 at 11:46 am | Reply
  20. John E

    CNN, I like how your recommendations for the president are to bribe them by helping them with student loans. How about just offering them opportunity, dare I say... hope??? That is the real reason he has lost the youth vote. He offered hope. He did not deliver and he continually attacks and belittles people who don't believe the same things as him politically rather than trying to be a president for ALL Americans. People want good paying jobs, not handouts.

    December 30, 2011 at 11:52 am | Reply
  21. JohnK

    I would not object to working off a student loan or while on unemployment doing community work; cleaning trash from roads, parks, school grounds, lakes or seashores, feeding and attending the elderly, filling potholes, working at community homeless shelters, repair or renovate poor and elderly housing, picking crops, delivering food and clothing for the needy, and these are just a few opportunities that through networking can lead to better jobs or self employment.

    December 30, 2011 at 11:54 am | Reply
  22. Ian

    I'm still backing him. At least I know what I'm getting. Were some promises not met? Of course. Just like every other person that has taken office. It took more than 4 years for the U.S. to get to the state that it is in now. It's going to take at least 2 terms before we start seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

    December 30, 2011 at 11:59 am | Reply
  23. Micah-J

    The ONLY candidate that the youth are identifying with is Ron Paul. Its because they want REAL change. They are tired of Obama constantly going back on his word. Broken promise after broken promise....

    RON PAUL 2012

    December 30, 2011 at 11:59 am | Reply
  24. SixDegrees

    In short, yesterday's youth vote has figured out that they were lied to, that only their vote mattered and not their issues or concerns, and that a politician's promises are utterly worthless. Welcome to the real world, and congratulations on taking your first tentative steps into adulthood.

    December 30, 2011 at 12:00 pm | Reply
  25. Mark

    I'm paying off my student loans right now from both undergrad and grad school. With hard work, smart spending, resisting the temptation to buy a new car, and wise choices, I have recently taken my remaining student loans below the $30,000 mark and am looking to hit the next landmark in the first half of next year: less than $20,000 to pay. So CNN is suggesting that Obama should "erase all federal student debt for those with more than $30,000 in federal student loan debt" as a ploy to get more votes? Seriously? This author is suggesting that President Obama should reward those that haven't worked as hard as me, haven't spent as wisely as me, all for gaining some votes. So because I have been as diligent and responsible as I have, I get rewarded by seeing my bill shrink by $2,000 (or less) while others who haven't been as responsible get to see their student loan debt "erase" to zero.
    How is this fair? How does this teach responsibility to young people? And this is all a ploy to get votes! I sincerely hope President Obama does not listen to this bone-headed suggestion by CNN.

    December 30, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Reply
    • willy

      In a sense, you have just described the welfare state that Obama craves. Those who are more successful get punished while those who do not get rewarded. It is why communism fails.

      December 30, 2011 at 12:15 pm | Reply
  26. jake

    I'll be voting for the first time in 2012

    OBAMA 2012!

    December 30, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Reply
  27. Ryan

    Obama promised he would change my underwear and find me job and he hasnt even tried. Im still sitting at home unemployed sitting in fecal matter. We need a real go getter

    December 30, 2011 at 12:08 pm | Reply
    • NudeTruth

      The manifestation of OWS is what obama promised, "Hope" for some pocket "Change" while you, and possibly your entire family, is homeless and unemployed.

      December 30, 2011 at 12:38 pm | Reply
  28. whoknows

    I ask and ask again – what were Obama's credentials when elected to the Senate by Illinois (my home state). At various events I've met many people who have worked with him as "community organizers" in his heyday years in Chicago, and I ask them, "I've wondered – what exactly did Obama organize – what were his crowning achievements as a community organizer", and I'm met with deer-in-headlight gazes in response. "Uhm, well, I'm not sure exactly...we all worked together and it was really great...he's such a leader". I ask, "but what exactly was accomplished – I really want to know. Did he get 20 kids out of gangs? Change zoning to improve a neighborhood? Renovate depressed housing? I mean, what did he DO?" Nobody knows. People who worked side by side can't even answer the question. I ask time and again, never get an answer except that he's a "great leader". My conclusion – the Emperor has no clothes.

    We elected excitement over substance. This isn't about whether he's democrat or republican to me – it's whether he's qualified, and he's simply not. He doesn't know how to do the job. He has potential, but he hasn't come to a boil yet and it was naive of him to think he could handle the job.

    Many people pointed out his lack of substantive experience. Yes, he was a Senator but never got beyond the tag of "freshman", and at that, he was one of the least experienced elected even as an incoming freshman. On the Eve of running for his second term he's still blaming the previous administration for his own failures. He does not understand business – no shock, he's never worked in business. He doesn't understand how money works. He doesn't understand the industries he wants to regulate or the people he wants to help. His intentions are golden, but he doesn't have the goods. We can't wish him into success – we need to get serious as a country.

    The reality is that we all must sacrifice. The Republicans are being rediculous as well in towing the line on not raising taxes on the wealthiest of Americans. They are begging to pay more. But that doesn't mean that we can take what more we bring in and start spending more – we HAVE to stop spending. Now what – free student loans and so on? How about just extending deferments. Who's going to take up the slack if we cap loans at $30,000? That's less than one year of college – we're going to forgive 75% of people's loans? I don't think that's reasonable – and I'm the single parent of a 17 year old kid who is going to school on loans. I am about to go to grad school myself – but a 75% rate of forgiveness on our loans? These kids aren't going to be out of work forever – this is a temporary situation, that calls for temporary relief.

    December 30, 2011 at 12:08 pm | Reply
  29. rj

    Whole article is about the debt trap. I still don't get how tuition rates go sky high even for private schools. If enrollment in a private school increases by 5% and they don't rely on state funding, yet tuition increases are closer to 8-9%. Its hard to get. I know after a while you can't keep increasing before it costs you more to just stop. Maybe a study should be done for state schools and realize the state will always cannabalize its part because our society promotes short term fixes instead of long term. Long term fixes upset people's plans and damage business at the long term expense of the country. This country should focus on its agenda more but not atlas shrugged style. That's how the germans did it.

    December 30, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Reply
  30. David Edwards

    Yes, I have given up - My GOP can not beat this guy, Other than the confused Mitt, we have a bunch of snake oil sellers, dark skin hatiers, and liers. If they lie now, what is going to stop them from lying while in the white house?

    December 30, 2011 at 12:10 pm | Reply
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