Something big happened this week that you may have missed if you watch only MSNBC and listen to NPR. The Harvard Institute of Politics released a study showing that millennials are abandoning President Barack Obama and his signature piece of legislation, Obamacare, in startling numbers. It reported that a plurality of voters between 19 and 29 years old would like to see Obama impeached — even though 66 percent of that same age group supported him in 2008.
It’s no coincidence that a majority of millennials who overwhelmingly supported Obama in 2008 now would like to see the president removed from office. According to the Harvard study, “Millennials are losing touch with government and its programs because they believe government is losing touch with them.” Sen. Obama promised a fresh approach to Washington, one that brought everyone to the table, including our youth. Five years later, the president’s signature piece of legislation, Obamacare, is not what we were told it was, and young people are being shut out of the process to fix it.
One thing you may have heard on MSNBC or NPR over the years is that this president has a problem with communicating his policies and not, in fact, with the policies themselves. Regarding Obamacare, there is no press conference or campaign slogan that can better communicate the troubling effects of the health care law than the millions of policy-cancellation notices sent out over the past month to families across the country.
To manage his eroding support among these millennials, however, Obama did the obvious thing — he called for a White House Youth Summit to bring young people in and address their concerns. A handful young people will visit the White House to hear from administration officials about how Obamacare truly isn’t all that bad, and although very little policy discussion will occur, there will certainly be a beautiful group photo taken in the East Room that will be posted to Facebook captioned, “Remember? President Obama really does like young people!”
If Obama wanted a real dialogue about the concerns of young people from all sides, why did the White House reject the highest elected College Republican in the nation from attending this youth summit? Alex Smith is a second-year law student and chair of the College Republican National Committee, and she represents the voices of more than 200,000 College Republicans from roughly 1,800 campuses across the nation. She is young, college-educated, well-informed, respectful and opinionated — clearly not the material the White House was looking for at this summit.
It’s no wonder our generation strongly distrusts this president, who campaigned on openness and inclusion. At the same point in his presidency, George W. Bush’s approval ratings were higher than Obama’s are now, and here’s why: iI addition to the distrust and misinformation perpetuated by Obama’s administration, the negative effects of his policies cross party lines. People of all ages, ethnicities, political ideologies, income levels and occupations are hurt by policy cancellation notices as a result of Obamacare. Add to that a growing NSA surveillance program and American citizens being targeted by unmanned drones, and Obama is on track to becoming the most unpopular president in modern history.
So what can we millennials do about our president’s increasing disregard for our concerns? While a plurality of young people support impeaching the president, the reality is that Obama will likely complete his second term. Ehat we can do is expect more from Obama and not be satisfied with feel-good summits or fun hashtags. Expand your news sources, and challenge your peers on issues such as the real impact of Obamacare. Stop yourself from repeating Rachel Maddow talking points, and step back to think harder about how skyrocketing health care premiums will affect you and people like you. If we millennials have any hope of ever taking a seat at the policymaking table, we must start holding Obama accountable for his policies and broken promises.
Shawn Lewis is a former president of Berkeley College Republicans and current California Senate Fellow.