Now, in Charlotte, their group was representative of Obama’s youth support again: smaller, more realistic, more established and more fractious.
Some of the original members had become political insiders. Others had come to resent politics altogether.
The story of Generation Obama is the story of a key coalition in the 2012 presidential campaign. Many young voters were drawn into politics by this president, but now he is having trouble retaining their same level of support. It is a problem the Obama campaign has come to refer to as the “enthusiasm gap.” His staff is not so much worried about young voters favoring Mitt Romney, it is worried that the Obama volunteers of 2008 will turn into half-hearted voters and that the voters of 2008 will not bother to vote at all in 2012.
Obama continues to maintain a large lead over Romney with voters who are 18 to 29, but at no point in Washington Post-ABC polling of this race has he reached his level of support from 2008, when he was backed by 66 percent of young voters. Now, according to Post-ABC polling, about as many 18- to 29-year-olds hold “strongly negative” as “strongly positive” views of his work in office.
For the original members of Generation Obama, their response to the president is both more personal and more nuanced. His legacy is their legacy, they said. Like the president, they have grown older. Like him, they have wrestled with the hard gap between expectations and reality.
“There is a point where your idealism runs against the realism of politics,” said Jeremy Goldberg, 36, one of the co-founders of Generation Obama. “A lot of us have come to that point. That can drive you, but it can also demoralize you and make you tired.”
Goldberg started the group in 2007 over coffee with some friends, few of whom had ever been involved or interested in politics. They had watched Obama speak with his wife, Michelle, at a $100 fundraiser in New York City, and they wanted to help spread his ideals. They met every few weeks, hosting small parties for young professionals and sketching strategy on white boards in borrowed office space. Soon, their steering committee grew to 50 people; the Obama campaign started to solicit their advice; and the singer Ben Harper played at their fundraisers, calling Obama the future “greatest leader in the history of America.”