Obama and the Youth Vote

Every presidential campaign in the history of American politics has been built upon a characteristic platform — a definitive set of values, beliefs and qualities that the candidate is hoping to embody and sell to the voting public. Abraham Lincoln ran on unity and abolition. Franklin Delano Roosevelt promised to fix the Great Depression. Lyndon B. Johnson promoted a Great Society and Reagan pushed for a balanced budget.

Granted, not all were successful. Amid the vicious carnage of election season, many have tried and fallen in the race to the Oval Office. Some were crippled financially, others overwhelmed by negative attacks and a few by their own poor judgment. However, above all else, the lack of a convincing electoral platform remains as perhaps the greatest obstacle between any candidate and the presidency.

The principles that one chooses to stand behind are therefore the cornerstone to any campaign. Foreign policy, economics, religious rights — these are but some of the core issues upon which most presidential hopefuls will have to take a defining stance.

And yet I say “most” because this year, that does not seem to be the case.

For although the threat of Iran, rising oil prices and the debate of contraception have surely stirred some conversation into the political pot, the outcome of this election has never really been in question.

With Rick Perry’s “oops” moment, Michele Bachmann’s homophobia and Herman Cain’s shameless Pokémon references, the Republic primaries have been — to the embarrassment of the GOP — one of the most entertaining and indecisive political contests that the nation has had to witness.

And even now, as the list of candidates has finally been dwindled down to but a handful over the past few months, there yet remains a rich and seemingly continuous supply of Republican mishaps and absurdities upon which the media is able to feed on.

With Mitt Romney’s awkward attempts to connect with the middle class, Rick Santorum’s inability to separate church and state, and nearly everything that has to do with Newt Gingrich, the battle for the Republican candidacy has become a contest, not for a chance at the White House, but rather to determine who will ultimately end up losing to Barack Obama.

Because this year, the president does not seem to require romantic notions of “hope” or “change we can believe in.” There is no need for record-breaking fundraisers or Nobel Prize-earning rhetoric.

Because this electoral year, Obama could quite frankly run on “normal” — a platform of regularity — and still come out on top.

Put aside for a moment the fact that under his first term, we witnessed the demise of terrorists and dictator regimes like Osama bin Laden, Moammar Gadhafi and Kim Jung-Il. Forget for a second that he has withdrawn all American troops from Iraq, as promised, and that he has helped nurture the economy back from one of the worst recessions in history. And just for the time being, let us pretend he didn’t repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” reform health care, or save the American auto industry.

What you are left with is still the first black President of the United States, a POTUS who holds question-and-answer sessions on YouTube and Google Plus, fills out his own March Madness bracket, and sings a pretty decent Al Green. He also prefers 3-on-3 basketball over golf, invites average Americans to dinner, and slow-jams the news with Jimmy Kimmel and The Roots.

The fact of the matter is that even with his long list of impressive accomplishments, one of his greatest strength as a leader and his biggest advantage for re-election is still the fact that he is, without a doubt, the most down-to-earth commander in chief that this country, or even the world, has ever seen. This distinction is made even more apparent with the sheer lack of normality in the socially cumbersome antics of his GOP adversaries.

His ability to connect with the ordinary citizen, to truly sell the “I am one of you” motif and at the same time stay in sync with contemporary culture and technology, is what differentiates President Obama from the blubbering multi-billionaire he will face and inevitably destroy in the debates to come, and what also sets him apart as the new golden standard of modern American politics.

In an age when the youth vote is rapidly on the rise, with the addition of one of the most bizarre Republican primaries ever to grace the channels of news media, normality has joined the likes of strong domestic policy and decisive immigration reform as an important component in any competitive candidate’s platform. And in this respect, Barack Obama has proven, throughout the course of this year’s presidential election, that he stands uncontested.

Benjamin Hong is a second-year biological sciences major. He can be reached at bshong@uci.edu.