Law Grad Has Tact

[UPDATE: Law grad is also not a White House plant according to the Chicagoist. Kudos.]

So boring was the Republican National Convention that President B.H. Obama took to Reddit to talk to the masses. Even the title hints at a regal entrance, “I am Barack Obama, President of the United States.” Hear me roar, Simba.

Interestingly, the first question was from a person claiming to be a graduate from a top law school, which I have no reason to disbelieve. I bring it up because this person asked his or her question quite tactfully.

I am recent law school graduate. Despite graduating from a top school, I find myself unemployed with a large student loan debt burden. While I’m sure my immediate prospects will improve in time, it’s difficult to be optimistic about the future knowing that my ability to live a productive life — to have a fulfilling career, to buy a house, to someday raise a family — is hampered by my debt and the bleak economic outlook for young people. I know that I’m not alone in feeling this way. Many of us are demoralized. Your 2008 campaign was successful in large part due to the efforts of younger demographics. We worked for you, we campaigned for you, and we turned out in record numbers to vote for you. What can I say to encourage those in similar situations as I am to show up again in November? What hope can you offer us for your second term?

The writer is saying three things:

(1)  BIDER.

(2)  I and people like me BIDERed for you in 2008, and, well, BIDER.

(3)  Why should we (including me) vote for you when we’ve been BIDERed?

Except he or she said them tactfully in two ways, which makes the difference. Had the author said “You said I wouldn’t be Gen Screwed, and I’m still Gen Screwed. WTF?” B.H. Obama would’ve ignored him or her. Second, the author framed the question in a way that the President couldn’t ignore. It wasn’t confrontational as in, “Why should I bother voting for you?” It was “I’m on your side, and I’d love to help, but why should someone who’s been BIDERed vote for you?”

The tactfulness is important because politicians have many rhetorical tools at their disposal for avoiding tough questions. They can elect to answer unasked questions, they can lie, they can ignore the questioner for being “angry,” and they can relay false or misleading facts—in short, you can’t really checkmate them. The best you can do is make them feel like an idiot for not answering you.

The President replies:

I understand how tough it is out there for recent grads. You’re right – your long term prospects are great, but that doesn’t help in the short term. Obviously some of the steps we have taken already help young people at the start of their careers. Because of the health care bill, you can stay on your parent’s plan until you’re twenty six. Because of our student loan bill, we are lowering the debt burdens that young people have to carry. But the key for your future, and all our futures, is an economy that is growing and creating solid middle class jobs – and that’s why the choice in this election is so important. The other party has two ideas for growth – more taxs cuts for the wealthy (paid for by raising tax burdens on the middle class and gutting investments like education) and getting rid of regulations we’ve put in place to control the excesses on wall street and help consumers. These ideas have been tried, they didnt work, and will make the economy worse. I want to keep promoting advanced manufacturing that will bring jobs back to America, promote all-American energy sources (including wind and solar), keep investing in education and make college more affordable, rebuild our infrastructure, invest in science, and reduce our deficit in a balanced way with prudent spending cuts and higher taxes on folks making more than $250,000/year. I don’t promise that this will solve all our immediate economic challenges, but my plans will lay the foundation for long term growth for your generation, and for generations to follow. So don’t be discouraged – we didn’t get into this fix overnight, and we won’t get out overnight, but we are making progress and with your help will make more.

Since you skipped that blockquote, I’ll summarize:

(1)  I empathize [whether you believe him is your choice.]

(2)  You can be on your parents’ healthcare plan […long into an age when in past decades you would’ve had two kids by now.]

(3)  IBR solves all problems. [I won’t be president in 2032 when all your loans are canceled and you have to pay taxes on them, so it’s a political problem I don’t have to deal with.]

(4)  Democrats will create the “middle class”; Republicoids won’t. [Not that you have much of a choice.]

(5)  I will somehow create manufacturing jobs [Without lowering the dollar’s value, not that it will give you a law job.]

(6)  Clean energy [Yay!]

(7)  Even more, cheaper college education [More credential inflation, education-job mismatch that worsens the questioner’s problems in the first place.]

(8)  Infrastructure, science, and sensible spending cuts and tax increases [Probably not enough.]

(9)  Stay the course; it’ll be a long, hard slog. [Translation: Please God give me a Democrat-controlled Congress. Please, please, please … Fuck.]

The last point is really the crux of the Obama reelection campaign: inertia. And last time I checked we’re going pretty slow.

So kudos to you top law school graduate. I don’t dish out compliments too often, but you managed to keep from getting angry or petulant long enough for the president to take you seriously. Too bad the election won’t be about your future.


  1. I’m not in as much of a bind as the author of the reddit question, but to paraphrase another democratic president, I feel his pain.
    It seems we have reached a point in this country’s history where, if you don’t have significant money to donate to a candidate, you don’t matter. They will pay you lip service to the extent necessary, but money makes policy, across the board. Mass movements are inert, although the tea party is able to maintain the illusion of being a real mass movement insofar as their agenda aligns with the likes of the Koch Bros.
    It’s truly bleak and I don’t know how it’s going to get better without first getting worse.

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