President Obama Blames Young Voters For His Failures In Commencement Address
On Sunday, President Barack Obama gave the commencement address at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey where he laid out what was, in essence, a defense of his presidency. The address included not-so-subtle smacks at Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump as well as other Republicans for a series of reactionary positions on immigration and climate change.
But President Obama also included some strange claims in his address, such as free trade being a path to greater prosperity, and that his failure to deal with inequality was partly the fault of young people failing to vote.
In Obama’s state view, he had championed policies to tackle economic inequality—something he at one point referred to as the “defining issue of our time”—but was unable to achieve much because those who supported his policies did not turn out to vote for candidates who would help him enact them:
Look, if you want to change this country for the better, you better start participating. I’ll give you an example on a lot of people’s minds right now — and that’s the growing inequality in our economy. Over much of the last century, we’ve unleashed the strongest economic engine the world has ever seen, but over the past few decades, our economy has become more and more unequal. The top 10 percent of earners now take in half of all income in the U.S. In the past, it used to be a top CEO made 20 or 30 times the income of the average worker. Today, it’s 300 times more. And wages aren’t rising fast enough for millions of hardworking families…
Now, the reason some of these things have not happened, even though the majority of people approve of them, is really simple. It’s not because I wasn’t proposing them. It wasn’t because the facts and the evidence showed they wouldn’t work. It was because a huge chunk of Americans, especially young people, do not vote.
For a twice-elected president who came to power with a Democratic-controlled House and Democratic-controlled super majority in the Senate, this is quite a statement. Furthermore, both Obama and the Democratic members of Congress came to power in the wake of financial crisis that saw that economic elite in a historically weak negotiating position.
Not only did President Obama not seek to press his historic advantage with Wall Street and other elites to push for policies that would reduce inequality when he had the chance—he appointed Wall Street and corporate-friendly people to advise and serve in leadership roles in his administration, such as Eric Holder, Tim Geithner, and Larry Summers. Those appointments are not the acts of someone looking to make substantive change.
In one instance, Obama even reportedly told Wall Street executives that he was the only thing standing between them and “the pitchforks.” Those pitchforks would have meant tough regulations on business and wealth redistribution programs—the only things that would actually reduce economic inequality.
As the Obama presidency winds down and the results from a progressive perspective look, at best, mediocre, it appears that young voters are going to be the excuse for why a campaign based on hope and change produced mostly hot air.