Obama’s Campus Tour Finding College Conservatism on the Rise

As college students, people often taken for granted that we vote Democrat. You’ve probably heard the old political saw (often misattributed to Winston Churchill), “”If you’re not a liberal when you’re 25, you have no heart. If you’re not a conservative by the time you’re 35, you have no brain.” There are numerous theories as to why. Democrats have a more optimistic, open-hearted vision for America. Young adults tend to be socially liberal. They saw a lot of themselves in Barack Obama. Liberal indoctrination by college professors. The list could stretch for miles. But today’s young adults may not be pigeonholed the same way. This year Democrats’ cannot take their votes for granted.

That doesn’t mean Democrats aren’t trying. President Obama is kicking off a series of rallies on college campuses, designed to reinvigorate the young adults who carried him into the White House two years earlier.

But the message has drastically changed. Rather than ignite young adults with his hopeful brand of politics, the President is reduced to groveling. As the Washington Post reported today,

When Obama steps onto a grass quad at the University of Wisconsin on Tuesday, he will deliver a newly tailored, more personalized campaign appeal aimed at ginning up enthusiasm, according to White House and senior Democratic officials. Plouffe said Obama will remind students of the work they put into his 2008 campaign and warn them that if they don’t reengage now, “all that could be jeopardized.”

In 2008 he advocated for change. In 2010 he’s advocating for things to stay the same? Not exactly a winning message.

But it is made even more unpalatable given the general lack of change we have actually seen from Obama. It is easy to promise change, it is much more difficult to actually deliver it. And this has been Obama’s failing. As one previous Obama supporter said in a town hall recently,

“I’m one of your middle class Americans. And quite frankly, I’m exhausted. Exhausted of defending you, defending your administration, defending the mantle of change that I voted for. And deeply disappointed with where we are right now. I have been told that I voted for a man who said he was going to change things in a meaningful way for the middle class. I’m one of those people and I’m waiting sir.

Substitute “middle class” for “young adults” and you’ll understand the frustration that is being seen on many college campuses. We wanted something different. We were promised something different. We got more of the same.

More politics. More backdoor dealings. More big government. More spending. More wars. For young adults there really wasn’t much difference between the Obama administration and the Bush administration from which they were so disenchanted.

All told, Democrats have a much tougher sell this time around if they want to recapture magic with young people. Meanwhile, Republicans are beginning to find traction on college campuses. Take college sophomore Edward Dooley, who told ABC News that just two years ago he was a “Kennedy-worshipping, stereotypical Massachusetts liberal.” But now Dooley, like so many other young adults, finds that his political ideology has shifted to the right after being turned off by Obama’s “glossy ideals” and “lack of concrete policies.”

Beyond a failure to live up to promises, Obama’s support among the youth vote has been eroded by his failed attempts to jump start the economy. The recession has been especially hard on young people. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics youth unemployment was at 19.1 percent in July – the highest July rate since statistics were first kept in 1948.

Unfortunately for the unemployed the Democrats’ stimulus policies have done little to budge the unemployment needle. In fact, the only thing they have really accomplished is trillions of dollars of additional government debt, money that younger generations will be responsible for paying back.

As College Republican Chair Bob Kosek told ABC News for their story Republicans Rising on College Campuses ,

“Hope and change doesn’t put money in your bank account to buy textbooks or pay off your student loans. It doesn’t help you get a job after you graduate either, and I think a lot of students are realizing that now.”

The rampant unemployment and dismal economy that is the Democrats’ legacy of the past two years is perhaps no clearer than on the University of Wisconsin campus where Obama is beginning his college tour. As the Washington Post reports,

The students on this leafy, generally liberal campus once constituted one of the strongest battalions in Obama’s grass-roots army. Two years later, the political dynamic has changed. Across campus, stickers, signs or chalkings for any politician are scarce. The laundromat where Obama’s young volunteers once staged late-night phone banks and planned bus trips to neighboring Iowa has gone out of business .”

A one-time hub for pro-Obama students now out of business. What a fitting, if sad metaphor for this administration.

by Brandon Greife, Political Director of the College Republican National Committee