Fifty-one percent of young people went to the polls and voted on Election Day in 2008. This is considered exceptional because, traditionally, elderly people vote in larger numbers than any other age demographic.
I wonder if young people will turn out in similar numbers this year.
The “can-do, one-person-can-change-the-world” spirit associated with youth is still there, but is it there in sufficient numbers to re-elect Barack Obama?
Perhaps there’s a certain risk with elevated expectations. Some young people surely wish there had been more progress in the past four years, especially those who are attending or graduating from college.
While young adults are certainly more astute than to believe that one chief executive can snap his or her fingers and solve all the country’s problems, I think some of them believed in 2008 on a “great man” concept of history rather than a more complex model.
The separation of powers is an idea that has been drilled into our heads ever since our first history class. Yet, we tend to forget its real impact.
If the president’s party has control of the House and Senate, he’s more likely to accomplish his goals. There’s nothing wrong with having lofty ideals, but success or failure still comes down to counting noses.
Do you really think the 1965 Voting Rights Act would have been passed if President Lyndon Johnson’s party, the Democrats, had not controlled both houses of Congress? Even then, LBJ was on the phone a great deal, using his best arm-twisting technique on Southern representatives and senators.
Some voters in 2008 placed all their hopes on Obama thinking he would lead us to an oasis of harmony and decency. They didn’t anticipate the backlash, some of which is based unquestionably on race.
Civil rights activists wondered who would keep the movement going after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., died. Rev. Ralph David Abernathy seemed like a competent, loyal No. 2 man, but was he good enough to inherit King’s mantle?
When people talk about how much they admired King, how many of them mention Abernathy, Andrew Young, Hosea Williams and the other lieutenants who helped him, let alone his wife, Coretta?
We rely too much on the savior model. Our societal problems are so overwhelming and so deeply rooted that, in our most desperate moments, we wish, like little children, that Mommy or Daddy would make all the bad things go away.
We want a megahero who has super powers, but is just like us; a brilliant orator who can talk on our level; a self-sacrificing soul who finds opportunities to spend quality time with the family while saving the world.
We don’t want much, do we?
Maybe Election Day is a chance for each of us to become the superhero we expect each and every President of the United States to become.
Perhaps that’s experience has taught the two demographics of voters most likely to go to the polls, the geezers and the boomers – you have to be your own hero, and we’ll never stop needing heroes.