Within hours of being released from full-time missionary service, I was sitting in my living room watching what appeared to be a Barack Obama music video on YouTube.
Turns out, my first-glance analysis wasn't too far off. ABC News reports that back in February, the Black Eyed Peas' will.i.am released "Yes We Can," a music video that puts some of Obama's most hope-inducing rhetoric to music. The video is shot in black and white, and it features an onslaught of celebrities rocking out to the candidate's now famous speech. Of course, you already know about this video. Because as of Oct. 29, it had more than 15 million plays on YouTube.
Now, as a typical Mormon twentysomething, I consider myself at least moderately conservative in most of my political and social views, and I usually favor the Republican candidate. But as I watched this video, I found myself trying to rationalize the stirring of my usually conservative soul.
"Yeah, I might disagree with some of his policies but he's inspiring," I thought. "This country needs a president with a soundtrack!"
One of my brother's friends, Ethan, was present and he unintentionally disrupted my train of thought.
"He's sweet isn't he?" he said, motioning toward the computer screen. "Your family actually got me into Obama."
This statement rather unsettled me. Indeed, it seems like many of us conservative Mormon college kids are "getting into Obama." But are we getting into him because of his politics, or are we getting into him like our indie roommates got us into Death Cab for Cutie? ("They're cool, man.")
How many young Mormons are joining the ranks of the Obamacans, and what's driving them? To find out, I talked to Jaque Roberts, founding member of BYU Students for Barack Obama.
She confirmed my observation that there is a growing pro-Obama movement among young Mormons — even at BYU, and even among conservative Republicans. When she transferred from Westminster — a liberal arts college in Salt Lake — she was intent on starting what she referred to as an "Obama club" at the Y. Naturally, she worried that the traditionally anti-liberal zoobies might chase her off campus with torches, pitchforks and Jamba Juice. But she gave it a shot anyway.
At first she said virtually nobody attended the meetings. But after a series of stunts, including an impassioned speech she delivered from atop a chair at a BYU Democrats meeting, her little club ballooned.
Now she says their frequent meetings draw up to 50 devoted attendees, and the BYU for Obama Facebook club boasts 239 members and counting. They've campaigned in Nevada, Texas, and Wyoming, and it's not uncommon to see backpacks at the Y covered in Obama pins.
Jaque dismissed my conjecture that Obama's perceived cool points are winning over young Mormons. (Seriously, who would you rather have DJ a YSA dance, Obama or McCain?) However, she did say that BYU students appear to be taken by how different he seems from other politicians. She says they're especially drawn to the fact that he doesn't sound too much like a parent — or a grandparent, for that matter.
"He listens to people more than he talks and tells people what to do," she said. "Which is refreshing."
After all, who wants to vote for their dad in a presidential election? (Well I guess some people do.)
Even in my own apartment, where all five of us are socially conservative advocates of small government, only one of us has decided to vote for the Republican candidate. Two of the roommates are firm Obama supporters, one is voting Libertarian, and of course, we have an undecided. Could it be that our little townhome provides an accurate microcosm for young LDS voters nationwide?
Some may find this trend disturbing — others will find it refreshing. All I know is that a couple nights ago I watched the lone McCain supporter fill out an absentee ballot as he sat on his bedroom floor. At that moment, it didn't matter to me whom he was voting for. Watching a well-informed roommate follow his conscience as he cast his first vote in a presidential election made me proud of our little generation.
Here's to hoping that all of us do the same come Election Day.