We live in a time when some of the hottest shows on television are “reality TV.” The funny thing about that term is that hardly anybody really lives like the Kardashians (thankfully) and there aren’t many of us whose personal friends include the sort of folks you see on Duck Dynasty. For years, we’ve felt somehow empowered by voting for America’s next music star on American Idol.
So when the country voted for what I always like to refer to as the first American Idol president, Barack Obama, it really shouldn’t have come as a huge surprise how things would go. Obama was cool and exciting. He said things lots of people wanted to hear. The problem was that he really didn’t have the experience or temperament needed to match all those words with any tangible results.
Young voters were particularly taken in by his charisma and cool. They wanted to believe all he was saying, and they were genuinely inspired by his words. That’s why the Harvard University Institute of Politics poll released today is so interesting. It indicates that America’s youth are finally realizing that just because they will something or someone to be wonderful doesn’t necessarily make it so.
Digging into the poll’s data reveals a population of young people disillusioned with their leaders and their future. For example, Obama’s approval rating stands at 41% which is 11 points lower than a year ago. Forty-seven percent say that they would vote to recall the president. That number is even higher among the 18 to 24-year-old crowd. Fifty-two percent of them would vote to remove the president from office if they had the opportunity today. Even more worrisome for the president (if that’s possible), a whopping 57% disapprove of ObamaCare and less than one-third of them plan on purchasing health insurance in the ObamaCare exchanges.
For me, the dynamics of all of this are interesting. When I was young, we were disillusioned by a horrible economy and depressing world events. Then we elected Ronald Reagan and began seeing things turn around. That encouraged and inspired us. Even in the face of an economic downturn later, that basic positive feeling that things can always get better helped carry us through as we began our careers and families.
I fear that this upcoming generation is experiencing their lives opposite of our own. They began with optimism and excitement only to be let down now. Consequently, instead of looking eagerly towards the future, they worry about paying off enormous college loans, finding jobs, and more immediately buying health insurance most of them really can’t afford.
To go from that sort of unrealistic high to a clear low normally has the tendency to produce cynicism and bitterness in most people. That’s certainly not what we want or need as the central tenet of the next generation, particularly as they begin to face the tremendous national challenges that await them.
Reagan was great because he both inspired and produced results. Unfortunately, Obama can often talk a good game but if ObamaCare is any example, his “results” sadly speak for themselves.
Let’s hope that somewhere out there in America is our next Reagan. For the generation of Millennials who clearly feel let down and discouraged, we certainly need such a leader now more than ever.