On Tuesday night, students at universities across the nation — including USF — stormed their campuses, marching in the streets, cheering, shouting and crying.
“Change” was coming.
Now, the students who voted president-elect Barack Obama into office — and those who didn’t — have ideas as to what that change should be. Health care, education, the war in Iraq — virtually every platform and campaign trail promise has a concerned constituency behind it.
Obama’s ability to connect with voters between the ages of 18 and 30 helped his campaign, said political analyst and professor Susan MacManus, but how much consideration he’ll give young voters’ “wish lists” now that the ballots have been tallied remains to be seen.
“I am interested to see to what degree the Obama campaign tries to keep those communication channels open,” she said. “Are they going to ask for young people’s support? Will they ask young people to volunteer? For their thoughts? Does he continue to tap this young, youthful generation that’s very supportive of him?”
Democratic strategist Steve McMahon told the Associated Press that the only people Obama owes anything to are those who elected him, which includes the university-storming college students who turned out en masse to vote Tuesday. In fact, the youth vote accounted for at least 60 percent of the increase in voter turnout during this election, with about 23 million of the overall voters under age 30, reported CIRCLE, a nonpartisan group that researches young people’s political engagement.
CIRCLE also reported that 3.4 million more young people voted in this year’s election than in 2004, resulting in about 52 percent of all voters between the ages of 18 to 29 hitting the polls — a turnout that hasn’t been seen since 1972.
The turnout may have been due to concern over an issue that affects students regardless of their party affiliations or life situations: the nation’s withering economy. By many political analysts’ measures, it’ll also be Obama’s greatest challenge.
“It’s one thing to make promises and another to deliver,” said professor Darryl Paulson, who specializes in campaign and election politics. “The country doesn’t have the resources to make everything happen. He has decisions to make. Does he increase the deficit or taxes to fund his projects? Does he disappoint the many who voted for him by saying we just don’t have the resources at this time?”
The morning after Obama was named the nation’s 44th president, the Dow Jones dropped 480 points, slipping further Thursday before seeing gains Friday.
“I’m in support of him raising taxes if that’s what it takes to get stuff done,” said Andrew Hoy, a music composition major. “I don’t think people trust the president, and that’s what’s killing the economy more than taxes right now.”
Another big concern for students is the war in Iraq, which chemical engineering major Carolina Lopez said she feels goes hand-in-hand with economic concerns.
“We’ve spent so many billions on the war instead of here,” she said.
Stephanie Yates, a chemistry major and McCain supporter, said she’s not as worried about what Obama does first in office as whether Obama will rush to action and make decisions too hastily.
“I want to see change but not too quickly,” she said. “Especially with the war in Iraq. I don’t want him to pull out the troops too fast and end up creating a larger problem.”
Though some students said they were interested in seeing Obama’s first acts as president, others said they didn’t believe he would take care of the nation’s problems immediately.
“With every president, they all make promises they can’t keep,” said Chris Leker, a biomedical sciences major. “You take the good with the bad.”
As a result, some have said Obama shouldn’t feel a sense of obligation to appease anyone.
“I think presidents get themselves into difficulties because they have to be liked by everyone,” Paulson said. “You should engage in projects because you believe in them, not because you want someone to favor you.”
Moveon.org, for example, states the antiwar organization has provided 933,808 volunteers and $888,572 to the Obama campaign, and the Associated Press reported that the organization’s postings of such efforts send a message to the Obama campaign: In exchange for the White House win, keep the war in Iraq at the top of your agenda.
Despite the help these organizations provided, some students felt they shouldn’t have more pull than the average voter.
“These groups may have got more people to vote, but that’s what we’re supposed to do,” said Angela Davies, a psychology major. “If Obama helped them, he’d be favoring certain groups, and that’s not fair.”