Election 2012: Room for Debate – Were We Wrong About Obama?

Election 2012: "Four years ago, Barack Obama sailed to victory thanks in large part to the support of college students. Has President Obama lost his zealous young supporters? And, if so, what can he do to win them back?" - NYT (Cover image: Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

NYT: Room for Debate

By Sara Haile-Mariam

Barack Obama was never supposed to be president, and the young people who supported him were warned that his election was impossible. On his urging, they organized, collectively tipped the scales in Iowa, made reliably red states winnable and ultimately elected Barack Obama as the 44th president.

Candidate Obama promised a transformative presidency. Despite his election, young people remain shut out of the process with their criticism negated as naïve and counterproductive.

They are a generation who rejected conventional wisdom to support him in the face of unemployment and student debt, climate change and unrealized notions of equality, only to watch his administration strive for what’s “possible” within a broken system. While they serve as beneficiaries of many of his policies, and prefer him to his Republican challengers, the sense of defiance fundamental to the Obama campaign has been lost and with it, the excitement once generated by Obama himself.

For this generation — my generation — it’s not enough to win the future when the present is unsustainable.

Candidate Obama’s vision relied on the premise that while government cannot solve all of our problems, it should be able to help. Our disillusionment is grounded in the terrifying realization that today’s politicking makes government ill-equipped to do even that. It’s exacerbated by the discomforting suspicion that maybe we were wrong about Obama.

President Obama must become the leader we’re nostalgic for, one who was candid in his convictions and enlisted us to disrupt the status quo even when faced with likely defeat. His consistent aversion to conflict — to vocal and passionate persistence — suggests that he’s abandoned what once made him different.

President Obama’s very presence in office undermines the assessment that some things just can’t be done. His administration needs to embrace the same level of audacity that he campaigned on in 2008.

Sara Haile-Mariam, a recent graduate of New York University, is a former communications associate at the Center for American Progress’s youth division Campus Progress and a 2008 Surrogate for the New York Obama campaign. She is on Twitter.

Join NYT’s Room for Debate on Facebook and follow updates on twitter.com/roomfordebate.
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Related Election News:

Talking Politics with Reporter Fanna Haile-Selassie

Fanna is a reporter for WSIL-TV, an ABC Network affiliate serving southern Illinois, western Kentucky, and southeast Missouri. She joined WSIL from Rochester, Minnesota, where she worked as the political, crime, and courts reporter at KTTC for more than three years. Fanna has been honored several times for her work by the Minnesota Associated Press and the Minnesota Society of Professional journalists. She studied Broadcast Journalism at the University of Missouri.

Watch: Talking Politics with Fanna Haile-Selassie (WSIL News 3, ABC)

1 Response to “Election 2012: Room for Debate – Were We Wrong About Obama?”


  1. 1 Obama’s Third State of the Union Address: Fanna Haile-Selassie Reports at Tadias Magazine Pingback on Jan 25th, 2012 at 3:34 am
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