In Nov. 2008, I was a sophomore in high school. Even though my classmates and I couldn’t vote, the election was a huge source of excitement for us, and every day I’d hear people in the hallways and in classes discussing that after President Barack Obama was elected, everything was going to be different. Of course, there was the occasional Republican thrown in there, but even some of them were swept up with the rest of us in “Change We Can Believe In.” When the election results came in, students and townies flooded the streets of Ann Arbor in celebration.
Whether the memory is fond or painful, we all remember that presidential election. There was tangible excitement in the air: Sen. Obama was fresh-faced and charismatic and students from across the country flocked to his campaign. Many of us were inspired by his message of hope for the country’s future, and a large number of young people even became involved with his campaign in some way — whether through small donations, social networking or campaigning door-to-door.
Four years later, however, the mood has shifted from excitement to a general feeling of frustration and apathy. We voted for Obama’s optimistic message of change, and instead got what appears to be the same old slow, ineffective political process that we had before. Before, Obama’s message excited us with the possibilities of political involvement. Today, his campaign is drier, less idealistic and, if we’re going to be honest, more and more dependent on the mistakes of his opposition.
Aside from our daily dose of the oft-mismanaged Romney campaign, my friends and classmates have been relatively silent on the upcoming election. Romney’s now-infamous speech regarding the 47 percent that went viral last week was the most excitement I’ve felt from my peers about the campaign. Even then, the general reaction on our consistently liberal campus was an incredulous “Who would vote for this guy?”
This is understandable. We’ve become so numbed to political optimism that the only things that can provoke a reaction are the frustrating, inspiring a sigh, a headshake and a return to browsing Reddit. Many potential voters are unenthusiastic about the election as the incumbent, Obama, is no longer the exciting new face on the block. For many people on this campus, his campaign strategy seems to be “Well, look at the alternative.”
However, this lack of enthusiasm is hardly reason to not use your vote in the November election. The Michigan voter registration deadline is fast approaching, so if you have any opinion at all regarding who you think will make the better leader of our country, now is the time to act. You can check your voter registration status right now at the Secretary of State website, and either register in person or send it by mail. We live in a sometimes crazy, often ineffective democracy, but it’s your vote that puts the people in power whose craziness most lines up with your views.
It’s much harder to idolize someone when we’ve seen his flaws as a leader over the last four years. However, maybe that’s for the best.
As long as we can still muster the energy to find our way to a ballot on Nov. 6, perhaps dropping some of the excitement from the elections isn’t entirely a bad thing. Politics is not the place for hero-worship — it’s the place for serious, reasonable conversations about the issues that affect all of us in our day-to-day lives. That means that we have to trade in the image of our iconic presidential candidate for a more realistic, flawed presidential incumbent who we hope is still doing his best to represent our interests. But if you’re voting for Romney, you probably don’t have to worry about having this problem. Whatever your opinion on his views, I think we can all agree that Romney is in very little danger of being idolized.
The Secretary of State will be registering voters in front of the Michigan League Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Whatever opinions, make them heard this November and make sure to register by Oct. 9.
Mary Gallagher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.