Greg Campbell is an obscure writer for the Fort Collins, Colo. But on Oct. 26, he penned what serves as the perfect window into the mind of many Barack Obama supporters. Campbell attended an Obama rally with his 11-year-old son, Turner. Turner was excited by Obamas typical American Dream stump speech. Campbell himself was excited not by Obama, but by his sons reaction: For me, (Obamas message) sunk in because I could see it through the eyes of an 11-year-old.
We have reached a dangerous point in American politics when parents take their voting cues from 11-year-old children. But Campbell isnt alone. Americans left and right have paid homage to Obama for getting the youth involved. In fact, young voters barely surpassed their 2004 turnout percentage -- voters aged 18-29 comprised just 18 percent of the electorate, as opposed to 17 percent in 2004. Nonetheless, there is a feeling that youth led the way in this election. A new generation looks ready to engage in American democracy -- and not just on Election Day, gushed the Christian Science Monitor on Nov. 10. Encouragingly, this generation actually wants to interact with government, politics, and public service.
And Obama is looking to capitalize on that youth support. Obamas sophisticated online network is geared toward mobilizing teenage minions. Obamas proposed civilian national security force is directed toward calcifying support for him into support for his political program. And Obamas national service requirement is an attempt to turn young people into government employees.
There is no question that the Barack Obama Movement was led not by elder statesman, but by college students and twentysomethings. This election cycle provided Generation Y a chance to assume unearned moral superiority over their elders by promoting a black president. It also provided Generation Y a chance to live out the precepts of their public school educations, which focused on changing the world, as well as diversity and tolerance.
Heres the big question: Why in the world should we be excited about young Americans defining our politics?