Editorial: Will we believe in ‘change’ again?

By Staff Editorial

The energy on campus was undeniable — like a Super Bowl victory.

When Barack Obama ran for… The energy on campus was undeniable — like a Super Bowl victory.

When Barack Obama ran for his first presidential bid, Pitt students voted in record numbers and some waited two hours to cast their ballots on campus. And when he won, students stormed Forbes Avenue, blocking traffic and screaming “O-BAM-A, O-BAM-A.”

About 75 percent of people who voted in Soldiers & Sailors and Posvar Hall, the main polling locations for Pitt students, favored the Democratic candidate over his main Republican opponent, Rep. John McCain.

Obama organized a grassroots campaign like none the nation had ever seen. He tapped into the student psyche — running on a message of “change we can believe in.”

Students clearly drank the Kool-Aid.

But will we drink it again?

Do we still believe in “change”?

Will young voters turn out for him again in 2012, when he’ll definitely run for re-election?

If the rest of our readers think as we do, they’d agree that the president has a huge task in front of him. He built his 2008 campaign on his ability to connect to voters, to visit people in their small towns and on their college campuses. He marketed himself as a unique candidate who would bring a fresh voice to the Washington establishment in a time when the economy and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were the dominant issues. He also brought the health care debate to the forefront.

But when Obama became president he, by definition, became the establishment. So his old campaign tactics will no longer work.

If Obama wants to be re-elected, he’ll likely have to capture the key youth vote — in 2008 he received 66 percent of the 18 to 29-year-old vote whereas McCain received 32 percent of it, and the other age groups were decided by remarkably smaller margins, according to CNN.

So far, we’re not impressed with what we’ve seen from Obama. The president announced his candidacy in a strange video posted on his campaign site yesterday. Once touted as a man who would make Washington more transparent, he didn’t even appear in the video except for a single photograph of him giving a speech.

So to Obama, we’d like to offer some advice. We hope he’ll ditch the celebrity visits to campus and the flashy poster signs and focus on the part of politics that really matter — the policies.

As students currently pursuing an education, we feel a special tie to labor unions, specifically the ones that advocate for students, such as the teachers’ unions in Wisconsin or the AFL-CIO, whose chairman recently supported students here at Pitt. We’re hoping Obama, and any other candidates vying for our vote, will support these issues as well.

Next, and perhaps most important in our minds, are the interlocking issues of health care and unemployment.

We give the president credit for working with other legislators to help the unemployment rate drop to the lowest it’s been in two years, but 8.8 percent is unacceptably high. What’s more troubling was an article in The New York Times a little over a week ago that reported that the unemployment rate is even higher among college graduates under the age of 25, at 11.2 percent.

With fears of unemployment come fears about health coverage. We’d be lying if we told you that we didn’t find comfort in the idea that Obama’s health care proposals allow us to stay on our parents’ health insurance until we’re 26. Because the latest Rasmussen poll told us that 58 percent of people favor repeal of that reform, we’re looking for someone to advocate for us.

So here you are Mr. President.

Address these issues, and you might convince us there’s more than just a hope for change.