When summer ends, millions of adorable toddlers will head off to school for the first time. Each one will be as unique as his or her little fingerprints, but every kindergartner across the country will have one thing in common: They've never known an America that didn't have a black president.
Their parents, though, in their late 20s or into their 30s, have. Someone, say, 34 years old today will have been born in 1980, just before Ronald Reagan took office and the United States set off on a expansive boom. That person will have lived through the go-go '90s, when the Internet was just emerging, the economy was exploding and the housing bubble hadn't yet burst.
Even into the early 2000s, despite the terrorist attacks that brought this country to its knees, that 34-year-old found job after job, moving up the ranks, earning enough for a nice apartment, then a single family home, and finally, enough to start a family.
Those days are gone under President Obama. Being born just 10 years later, in 1990, changes everything. Those kids are now 24 — and most likely, living with their parents and still looking for that first decent job. When historians look back, they will dub them the "Lost Generation," and they will be the first to hit their 30s still holding a mediocre job — if they can find one at all. Instead of being on job three or four or five, with the pay raises each employment change would bring, they'll be years behind every generation that has come before them.
As for politics, that 24-year-old, like all those tiny kindergartners, as an adult knows only Barack Obama as president. When they were just 18, they were wowed by, as Vice President Joe Biden said of his then-opponent, that "mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean." And BHO talked a good game: He was here to run a post-partisan America, take us all to the Promised Land, and even stop the rising seas.
But six years later, millennials are living in their parents' basement — a staggering 34 percent of those age 18-34 have moved back home. What's more, they're likely attending community college (tuition at four-year institutions has risen roughly 1 billion percent) and slinging burgers at the local dive.
In 2008, the first year those kids could cast a ballot for president, they were stoked about marijuana legalization, supported gay marriage, opposed the Second Amendment, wanted all illegal aliens to become Americans. So they looked past Mr. Obama's thin resume of actually running anything and just assumed everything would work out for the best. They took him on faith.
But that faith was broken, shattered really, and now, they're adrift. New polls show great disillusionment among the younger set, and all Americans, too. Nearly 60 percent now believe the American Dream is out of reach (63 percent said that most young people will grow up to be worse off than their parents, according to a CNNMoney poll). Just a quarter of Americans think the country is on the "right track," according to the latest NBC poll.
The horrors are even frightening the New York Times, which this week wrote a piece headlined: "Why Teenagers Today May Grow Up Conservative." Of course, they make sure to blame George W. Bush for much of today's woe (as well as bash Reagan), but they also worry about the newest millennials to come of age in 2016.
"Think about people who were born in 1998, the youngest eligible voters in the next presidential election. They are too young to remember much about the Bush years or the excitement surrounding the first Obama presidential campaign. They instead are coming of age with a Democratic president who often seems unable to fix the world's problems," the article said.
The world's problems? He can't fix America's problems, and has all but given up trying to, now traveling the country to cast blame on Republicans, playing pool or golf or darts or something. But the New York Times says that tactic is getting old:
"The case will become harder to make with each passing year if living standards do not start to rise at a healthy clip for most households — which has not happened since the 1990s. This dynamic is likely to be Hillary Clinton's biggest weakness, either as a candidate or as a president. Talking about the Clinton-era 1990s boom — as she'll surely do, to distance herself from today's economy — will go only so far with voters too young to have any memories of the 1990s," the paper wrote.
If Republicans fixate on social issues again, they will lose again. But young voters are ripe to be picked up in 2016. They voted with their hearts last time, not their minds. But this time, they'll be voting with something even more powerful — their wallets.
And they'll be voting for the "Hope and Change" that would come with moving out of their parents' basements.
• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @josephcurl.