In 2008, the U.S. witnessed a blitz of young people involved in the political process, a demographic which by and large catapulted President Obama into the Oval Office. As many posts on Blue Virginia have either implicitly or explicitly touched upon, some (if not a lot) of this voter enthusiasm has dissipated among the “youth generations.” This is in part a result of the politics of pragmatism, a political strategy that left the Obama vision of “Change” and “Hope” behind for a pragmatic assertion of “it’s the best we could do.” There are, of course, a multitude of disparate reasons that could be cited.
The end result has, however, been unequivocal: a comprehensive sense of apathy, disillusionment, and frustration on the part of the youth generations (those under 30). When political conversations are initiated in my own circle of friends (rare as it might be), a pervasive sense of negativity and frustration becomes readily apparent, with blame being directed in all directions of the political sphere.
The Democratic Party, then, had an opportunity to retain an entire demographic. Instead, like a corporation that has lost the confidence and loyalty of its one-time faithful customers, the Democratic Party will have to spend a good deal of political, economic, and individual capital to bring this segment of the US population back into the fold.
I cannot help but feel, however, that a large chunk of the youth generation has been turned off to politics indefinitely. Maybe a renewed “political sense” will grow with age, but maybe not. Especially among those first-time voters who were energized by President Obama and the Democratic Party and then subsequently let down in the years that followed, there is a sense of hopelessness about the ability of individuals to make a substantive difference in Washington, D.C. But this sub-group of the youth generations is certainly not alone in feeling helpless and frustrated.
If the youth generations have generally become a cohort of political invalids, what does this signal for the future of U.S. politics in particular, and U.S. society in general? If the youth generations have generally become completely turned off to the political sphere, how will this affect future generations of republican citizens? These and related questions need to be asked now because among the youth generations, what it means to be a citizen in a republic has never fully been articulated with the adequacy necessary to foster this most valuable piece of our societal puzzle. Once this exercise in political theory is finished, maybe then we can begin to regain the confidence and energy of the youth generations that has been lost.