Obama Lectures Young Voters on Political Apathy

The Democrats election strategy takes a decidedly abrasive turn.

By Jamilah King Sep 29, 2010

It’s campaign season, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that President Obama is reaching into his bag of reliable tricks to rekindle the optimism that got him elected. Yesterday he held a massive rally at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. The Washington Post reports that it was an mostly an effort to corral a base of young voters who enthusiastically made the difference at the polls two years ago. And in a gathering that held 20,000 strong, was replete with a musical guest appearance by Ben Harper and throwback 2008 campaign slogans, Obama chided voters for being too lazy.

The biggest mistake we could make right now is to let disappointment or frustration lead to apathy and indifference. That is how the other side wins. And I want everybody to be clear, make no mistake: If the other side does win, they will spend the next two years fighting for the very same policies that led to this recession in the first place. The same policies that left the middle class behind for more than a decade. The same policies that we fought so hard for to change in 2008. …

You know what the other side is counting on this time around? They’re counting on you staying home. They’re counting on your silence. They’re counting on amnesia. They’re betting on your apathy, especially because a lot of you are young folks.

It’s an ingratiating position on Obama’s part, but one that he’s become especially fond of lately.

In a recent Rolling Stone interview, fashioned specifically to target younger voters, the president beat the apathy drum again.

"People need to shake off this lethargy. People need to buck up," Obama told Rolling Stone in an interview to be published Friday. Adding that change is hard, the president scolded that "if people now want to take their ball and go home, that tells me folks weren’t serious in the first place."

Not exactly the all-inclusive, "Yes, We Can" mantra from the 2008 campaign trail.

While President Obama’s dip in popularity certainly has a lot to due with the nation’s dismal economy and Congress’s inability to move even relatively conservative legislation through its ranks, there’s not clear evidence that voters, especially young ones, are growing apathetic. Voters under the age of 30 came out in strong numbers for the 2006 and 2008 elections, and while that’s certainly due to a Democratic resurgence of sorts, the president hasn’t always given young voters reason to be amped up for his cause.