It has been a tough year for America’s youth. We liked Barack Obama. It may not be the best reason to vote for someone, but the fact remains, he was the coolest politician of our lifetime. Throughout the campaign he made it a point to speak directly to us. In return, we made him a walking, talking viral video and carried him into office. More than a year later many young adults find themselves out of work, dissatisfied with the direction of the country, and left with plenty of time to wonder what happened to the change that was promised.
Part of the problem was that the campaign left people expecting a revolution. Things much deeper than the simple color of his skin sent the message that he was going to be different. It was that much more of a surprise then that business continued as usual in the White House. But from the youth perspective, the most disturbing part of the continuation of a tired status quo, was that Obama seemed to forget about young adults. As Erica Williams, policy and advocacy manager for Campus Progressives explains ,
“While we were still largely supportive of the administration and the president, we were a little disappointed in the compromises that had been made, the lack of engagement between the administration and young people,”
The lack of engagement has become the clearest on the issue of job creation. A new report by Reuters shows that only 26 percent of American teenagers aged 16-19 had jobs in late 2009 – a record low since statistics were first kept. Moreover, “the disconnection rate – Americans aged 20 to 24 who were neither in school nor working – jumped to 28 percent last year from 17 percent in 2007.”
The staggering unemployment figures threaten to create a lost generation among America’s youth. Being squeezed from the top by experienced middle-aged workers and from the bottom by the constantly refilling ranks of graduating classes, young adults have been desperately looking from a quick response to the job crisis. As Edward DeJusus, President and Founder of the Youth Development and Research Fund, said ,
“In a society where the world has become increasingly fast-paced and technologically progressive, it is imperative to not only involve today’s youth in the future of job creation, but also to recruit their efforts. “
There is a growing notion that Obama has failed to involve today’s youth in how to create more jobs. It is no surprise then that there is a parallel trend in which young adults feel that the country is headed in the wrong direction. As Rasmussen polls show, the number of 18-29 year olds who believe the country is headed in the right direction has dropped by 20 percent in just four months while the number who believe we are going in the wrong direction has increased by 20 percent.
Young adults are suffering. We need jobs. We also need a President or a party who is will make our concerns a priority. As Pete Levine of the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement explains the importance of young adults, “[The recession is] a more formative experience than anything any politician is going to do. If it turns out that we’ve already seen the worst, that’s one story. If it lasts for years, it’ll also be very influential.” Republicans would be wise to listen. Barack Obama was able to capture young adults in 2008 based on a promise, Republicans can win their vote forever by including them in a plan to improve the economy.
– Brandon Greife, Political Director of the College Republican National Committee