Non-Political Observations on Why I Think Many in My Generation and Younger are Voting for Barack Obama: Reason #1

First of all, let me say that I never write on politics. I just never have. The topic is obviously very important and interesting, but it just doesn’t interest me and fire me up like some of my friends and family. Second, I don’t consider myself an expert on politics. I watch the news, read a lot, follow the candidates to a degree, but not to the extent that many of you. Third, these are just some observations that I have made and have talked to others about. I’m totally open to you then disagreeing/agreeing, debating me, showing me where I’m wrong/right.

But what I really want to do is just point out a couple of things that I have noticed recently. I wasn’t sure if I was on/off base, until I started talking to others, and they totally agreed. So I realize I’m not alone in these observations then.

Here is what I’m trying to point out basically: I think many of the main reasons that Barack is so popular among people have nothing to do with politics, his policy, his experience, etc. That may be shocking to many of you, but I don’t think it should be. Hence why these are non-political thoughts.

So over the next week I’m just going to point out several reasons why. Nothing extensive. Not lots of research on this. Just some observations. Also, I’m just looking specifically at my generation (I’m 33 yrs. old) and younger generations since I have more experience in working with them and more opportunities to observe them and be in conversation with them.

Therefore, I would be curious of your thoughts, and would appreciate your interaction.

Reason #1: Openness

This is one of the biggest and most important reasons I believe. First, let’s all agree that the political machine and campaigns of all the candidates can spin anything, in anyway that they want. So though many will blame the media’s spin on why candidates appear one way or the other…let’s just admit that Hilary Clinton, John McCain and Barack Obama are all quite adept at the political game. And that what we may see is not the true reality. So let’s all agree there.

Of all the candidates Barack appears to be the most open. And by open I mean lots of things. He appears more transparent in his debates and speeches. More vulnerable. When attacked, he seems to admit to making mistakes. No matter if you agree with him or not, you don’t get the impression that he’s in the back room shredding documents. This sets him apart from the suscpiciousness that the “old guard” and its candidates bring to the table.

His campaign is also seen as a more “open system” He was really one of the first to be all over Facebook with groups and interactive forums, and Facebook is very much an open system, allowing input and feedback by others. His place on Facebook and MySpace, etc, endeared him to a generation that has felt disengaged from politics as a whole.

And have you seen his website? Wow! He just gets it in ways that other candidates don’t get. He and his campaign understand the importance of the web and social networking in making people feel connected and important. His web presence presents a much more open image than the others (I know Clinton and McCain have websites also…but not to the same degree), and that speaks to younger generations in some powerful ways.

I have experienced the power of this openness in our own ministry. Facebook for example (which I will point out in my upcoming chapter in The New Media Frontier in Sept.) is an open, non-hierarchical network that allows input from others without having to go through the traditional “gate keepers”, etc. This is very important, and I think Barack’s savvy online has allowed younger generations to look at politics in a different way, and get involved without having to go through the traditional “old guard” in politics.

Barack’s openness signifies to many a new way of doing politics and allowing those who have felt excluded to be a part of the process, no matter how small or how big the contribution is. Whether or not a forum on Facebook has a great impact is not the point. The point is that people feel empowered, especially at a grassroots level. And that is what online social networking sites are all about. They are about disabling the traditional systems of “closed systems” and “gatekeepers”, and about giving voice to communities of people. It is a collaborative effort that has excited new generations.

And if you are going to capture the younger generations, then you have to understand this view. I work in a church, and so I understand it better from a church perspective….and churches that don’t understand that younger generations are now bypassing the traditional “gatekeepers” and “red tape” of the church, are going to be in a lot of trouble. It’s happening in Church, and it’s happening in politics and it’s going to pervade other areas of life as well.

This generation (my generation and younger) wants transparency to such an extent that it may not comfortable to some generations. With Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Digg, Delicious, Reddit, Google, etc. people’s lives are more of an open book than before, and Barack and his campaign seem to understand this.



  1. by kyle. on March 3, 2008  8:08 pm Reply

    i think you've hit it right on the head. he has created an image (much more than any substance) of openness and change that appeals to young adults with their distrust of old-guard, closed-door politicians. i actually think that his inexperience works in favor with the under 35 crowd because he seems young enough to understand them and doesn't have a track record of "insider" politics to bog down his image. beyond that image, being the youngest and most liberal candidate primes him for the young adult vote.

  2. by Gabe on March 3, 2008  8:13 pm Reply

    I think our generation is definitely open to more precise discussion and debate, which does parallel Obama's personality and campaign style. As Christians though, I think our generation is also a bit too free at times on our thinking and trying to reason with God. Abortion and gay marriage are big enough reasons for me to not even care to vote this year. Open or not, it's the issues that matter.

  3. by Tyler on March 3, 2008  8:44 pm Reply

    I'm interested to read your other thoughts. I think you are right on with this one. Meet people where they are at...Barack has done this with the young voters.

  4. by Heather on March 4, 2008  8:09 am Reply

    Rhett, I think you are so right...especially the willing to admit mistakes business. He doesn't claim to know everything, or be right about everything, and that is something quite new in politics. He is open to admitting mistakes, open to getting council from experts in particular fields, and open to the idea that we may disagree with him from time to time. I also happen to like where he stands on issues, and I don't care if he is Christian, Muslim, whatever, I think he would be a good leader for our country. Super-Tuesday part II today!! We will see if Texas can pull it out... :)

  5. by Euphranor on March 4, 2008  6:03 pm Reply


    "I don't care if he is Christian..."

    How could anything be more important than whether or not our national leader is a follower of our *Lord*? Jesus Christ died and rose again to change everything, to be the king and demand all people submit to His reign. Grace makes demands on everyone and you say you don't care whether or not he recognizes and submits to the reign of King Jesus?!? Look, that may seem like a really open minded statement, but I think it is fundamentally unchristian (not you, but the statement).

    Also, politicians admitting mistakes isn't new. Reagan admitted to the Iran/Contra scandal in the 80's, Romney apologized for putting social issues behind economic issues, and Clinton for, well, many things. McCain has admitted to being wrong in several instances. Admitting you are wrong is good, but hardly reason for being president.

    Obama is the political version of Joel Osteen; Great style, troubling subtance.

  6. by Heather on March 7, 2008  3:45 pm Reply

    Well, I guess I don't care what religion he is because I don't think it has anything to do with his ability to be a good president. Also, there are a lot of religions in our country, and our president, in my opinion, should be mindful to all of them. I don't think that admitting to wrongness is a reason to be president, but open-mindedness certainly is.

    Rhett, with both of your posts I think you have done a great job articulating some of the reasons that I (and apparently others) like Obama. I don't think he is perfect, but no politician is.

  7. by Euphranor on March 10, 2008  1:58 pm Reply


    Thanks for responding. I hope you don't mind a follow up question: What do you mean by a good president? Short of a pragmatic definition (i.e. "he get's things done") it would seem that only a Christian could be, by definition, a good president since without faith (specifically faith in Christ) it is impossible to please God. Therefore I would suggest that a good president would do things that please God, which requires that she be a Christian.

  8. by Kristin on March 11, 2008  11:37 pm Reply

    Even though Heather has not responded to your follow up question, I agree with what her point is on the religious faith of the President. Just because a President is a Christian does not mean that He or She will make the best choices for the betterment of the country.
    And I have a question.. you say that it is impossible to please God without specific faith in Christ, however Jesus states that many things can be done by all people to please Him. (By clothing the naked and feeding the poor, even a non-christian is pleasing God)
    Many of our nations Presidents have been Bible-believing Christians and all of which can be argued as good or bad Presidents. We can hope that a Christian would make the best choices, but even inside of Christianity you have people with many different views who make many different decisions. Christians, as they are trying to please God, will make different choices.

  9. by Kristin on March 11, 2008  11:39 pm Reply

    ps- rhett, love the blog!

  10. by Heather on March 12, 2008  6:59 am Reply

    To ask what makes a good president is a pretty big question, but I will try. I think he or she should be compassionate, intelligent, respected by Americans and the world community, should value all life, not just American lives, honest and forthcoming, a firm leader yet willing to accept the opinions of others...I know I am leaving many things out, that is just what comes to mind this morning.

    The main thing, for me, is that our current President is a professed Christian, and I believe he has made many decisions that are not pleasing to God, quite fundamentally un-Christian, in fact. I'm not saying he's not Christian, just some of the choices he has made. But it's just a matter of opinion, eh?

    Hard to turn politics into something non-political, sorry Rhett!

  11. by Rhett Smith on March 12, 2008  1:21 pm Reply

    Heather, that wasn't me who asked the question about what makes a good president. It was Euphranor....thanks for the good question Euphranor. Thanks for answering Heather.

    Nice dialogue...I'm learning a lot.


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