We’re Ready For Hillary, But Are We Ready to Admit It?
I remember the first time I voted for Hillary Clinton—even if it wasn’t officially me doing the voting. It was February 2008; I was thirteen-years-old, and my mom squeezed me alongside her into the curtained voting booth to cast a ballot in the New York Democratic presidential primary. My mother put her hand over my own and we pulled the Hillary Clinton lever together, casting the ballot.
I don’t begrudge anyone their political views (okay, maybe Trump supporters), but I’m surprised by many of my peers’ utter lack of support for Hillary Clinton in 2016. I’ve excitedly awaited the chance to vote for Clinton myself long before her candidacy became a certainty. Though my newsfeed is constantly filled with Sanders montages (posted by friends from all political backgrounds), I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen anything pro-Clinton pop up on my Facebook.
Not only is my social media entirely devoid of support for Clinton, my university, NYU, is as well. On the final day to register to vote in the New York State Primary, NYU swarmed with the politically involved helping their fellow students to register, and every single one of these political student-activists carried a sign for Sanders—there was not one “I’m with her” button in sight.
I spoke with three of my Clinton-supporting friends at NYU to discuss the experience of being pro-Clinton on a campus “feeling the Bern.” One, a politics major told me that her political views are often given less weight by her fellow college students: “There’s all this Bernie idealism and it gets ranked on this higher level than Hillary pragmatism, but that’s not the way I see it.” My friend studying women’s rights at NYU, spoke of a hierarchy among student-voters, explaining, “There is an element of social capital to it. Being a supporter of Bernie right now, at a liberal university, there is a certain amount of fitting in that that entails.”
Recently, one of my classmates wore a Sanders t-shirt to my Jane Austen class. It was baggy and white, with a large photo of Sanders taking up the entire front—1990s baby-announcement, or bat mitzvah t-shirt style. I sat there in class looking at that Sanders shirt and wondered, would it be weird if I wore Clinton’s face on a t-shirt?
I’m not the only one who has thought about the social consequences of outward support of Clinton lately, in fact, a friend of mine also majoring in politics at NYU expressed a similar sentiment: “I feel like I’m this staunch conservative to them [young Sanders supporters] and I feel awkward expressing my support for Clinton. I don’t mean to offend anyone here. Some people get a little vicious when they hear that I support Clinton.”
Another friend told me, “You support Hillary then that means you officially become conservative. And its frustrating, too, because a lot of the people who support Bernie, and use the rhetoric of her [Clinton] being basically a bad person, they don’t know that that framework was laid by the conservatives for decades.” She added, “It’s just a little scary to be vocal about Hillary on campus.”
There was no Democratic primary the first time I voted in 2012; therefore, I’ve never found myself in a situation in which my political views have differed much from my (Democratic) peers. However, as I looked at Bernie Sanders’ face on that t-shirt in class, I wondered if I wore a Clinton shirt, would people think I’m conservative? This threat of being labeled conservative—no matter how absurd—has certainly silenced much of my support for Clinton on social media, and at NYU.
Many of my peers support Sanders in part because he considers himself to be a political outsider, not a member of the establishment like Clinton. However, Clinton made a valid point when responding to these establishment allegations during a debate in February: “Honestly, Senator Sanders is the only person who I think would characterize me, a woman running to be the first woman President, as exemplifying the establishment. It’s really quite amusing to me.”
I agree with Clinton, and I’d argue that if the vast majority of young liberals are voting for the supposedly anti-establishment candidate, isn’t the truly revolutionary choice to go against this majority (amongst young people) and vote for his opponent?
Just as Sanders’ revolution-rhetoric is his cool factor, I see Clinton’s gender as being objectively cool, too, and I often wonder why more young women do not seem to agree. I often feel the need to validate my support of Clinton by referring to her policy, but I’d be lying if I said that her gender doesn’t play a significant role in my support. I’m a young woman about to enter the workforce: what could be more reassuring than seeing a woman in the highest of this country’s leadership positions?
I recently attended a Hillary Clinton rally in Brooklyn. I had considered skipping the event since none of my NYU friends support Clinton, and therefore, refused to tag along, but at the last minute I decided to go anyway, on my own. Unsurprisingly, as I looked around the crowded event space in Sunset Park, I did not see a room filled with my college student friends and peers, as I would have at the Sanders rally in Washington Square Park.
However, in the accumulated four hours I stood waiting in line for the event, I passed the time talking to three women ranging in age from sixteen to around fifty, and two men in their thirties. As I listened to Hillary Clinton speak, I realized that it’s an asset to Clinton that her most fervent supporters are not all students like myself — she draws a far more diverse crowd than Sanders, and I’m glad I spent an afternoon meeting people I would not otherwise have had the opportunity to interact with.
After seeing all the Clinton t-shirts in that room, I realized that no matter how homogeneously Sanders-supporting NYU is, I certainly will not be alone on the streets of New York when I wear the “Yass Hillary” t-shirt arriving in my mailbox this week.
Rosie Gilroy is a junior at NYU Gallatin concentrating in long-form journalism and women’s studies. She’s passionate about women’s rights, and studying global feminisms.
April 15, 2016