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Mike Johnson '11: The lost power of Barack Obama

Look out!  Obama is everywhere. He stares at us from our computer screens every time we browse a news Web site. His name rings out from our televisions whenever we turn them on. The front corner of the Ratty is inundated with countless news reports of him and his shorts-wearing wife. Yet his poll numbers slip, his critics redouble their efforts and his ambitious agenda seems bogged down in the mire of Washington D.C. bureaucracy.
Pundits everywhere declare "the honeymoon is over," and I begin to wonder where the magic went.

It went on summer vacation. It's no secret that, statistically speaking, the biggest supporters of President Barack Obama in last year's election were we, the voters aged 18-25, some of us voting in our first election and others making up for previous elections. Young voters were electrified by the young senator from Illinois, and saw in him a changing of the guard, a man who would represent the generational shift from Baby Boomer to Generation X. 

All things considered, we weren't wrong about him.  In his first months in office, he reversed some of the more — let's call them "conservative," for lack of a better word — policies of his predecessor, and has made a genuine effort to be bipartisan with his economic and health care reforms.

In spite of all this, however, the love is gone. No more youth activists march in the street; no more useless yet inspiring Facebook groups exist.  Instead of powering the president to a smoother, more elegant reform process, the youth of this nation pat themselves on the back, sink back into the very apathy of which we're accused and watch Obama go down with the ship.  After November, we all said "Mission Accomplished," not realizing the irony.
After months of debate in the House and Senate and across the country, the President appears to have moved toward the center. The simple fact that there are 535 people in Congress precludes extremism. Obama seems to have realized that there is more to health care reform than just what the far left wants. Despite the Joe Wilsons of the world, the right does bring something to the table.

Unfortunately, the President carries the burden of an overwhelming majority in both houses of Congress — it seems there can indeed be too much of a good thing. Those in Congress farther to the left than our President keep chomping at the bit to unleash their crazy onto the American people, and it seems he is withering under the constant pressure to get something passed.

The evaporating youth movement has left a vacuum our elders have gleefully filled, consistently spitting out their dated and stale ideas. Until the youth of the nation, the ones who will benefit the most from health care reform, come out and pledge their support, the president can turn only to those who are closest at hand, the ultra-left, who want to use their Congressional muscle to strong-arm the reform debate.

If that happens, reform is doomed.  No one can govern alone in our system — that's the genius of it. For health care, especially, there is no duality of Democrat vs. Republican — there's a spectrum of support and criticism, ranging from the Blue Dogs to Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter. It's undeniable that we need health care reform.  Too many people are sick with no way to get help, and it's our responsibility as a country to help them.

The far left cannot push through their expensive, overwhelming plan; they simply don't have enough votes, no matter what they claim. So if Obama is pressured into following his leftist cronies, we can kiss the dream of universal coverage goodbye for another decade, or longer. That decade will be our decade, and it's our choice whether or not we want to be insured for it.

So it's time we broke out of our funk and started getting active again. With the laziness and relaxation of the summer fading away for the next nine months or so, it's time to focus our energy on being productive. Reform doesn't happen from the top down, and when we agreed to vote for the man who realized that, we implicitly promised we'd be there to help. We're the ones who have the most to gain from health care reform, and conversely, the most to lose from its defeat. In a few short years, this will be our nation.  It's time we take hold of our future, and ensure it's one in which we want to live.

Mike Johnson '11 was unanimously elected president of the Brown Apathetics. He can be reached at michael_johnson(at)brown.edu.




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