Every four years a wave of political excitement seems to crash onto college campuses across the United States. The prospect of a new president flashes on every TV screen and Facebook feed, and this semester the election seems to be on everyone’s mind. Unexpected candidates, historic candidates, and new messages of social change are capturing attention on campus.
“This election could potentially change the course of American history depending on how it goes,” commented Bernie supporter Barbara Taylor ’18.
There’s no doubt about the historic significance of this year’s election. Either Democrat candidate would be a groundbreaking first for our country, either first woman president or first Jewish president, but there is a large divide forming between their supporters: a dichotomy riddled with emotion for many.
“The election is defined a lot by anger at the political system and establishment as it is now,” said Aaron Metheny ’18, another Bernie supporter.
Anger seems the only way to describe it — with the growing popularity of Donald Trump, the anger of people in the US becomes more visible. Even Bernie supporters show a large amount of frustration for how the current political system is being run. Much of this anger at the system seems to be pointed at Hillary Clinton.
Everyone has an opinion on Hillary Clinton, whether adamantly against or overwhelmingly for her, and it seems Swatties are split down the middle. Why do emotions run so high once Hillary enters the conversation? Why aren’t people having the same guttural reactions toward Bernie? Where does the road split between Bernie supporters and Hillary supporters?
“They’re both good candidates but they represent different things,” said Doug Leonard ’19, a Hillary supporter. “I see Hillary Clinton as a leader who is more pragmatic, and her policies reflect the challenges she’ll have if she is to govern, and Bernie Sanders is promising a revolution, which is difficult to compete with in terms of excitement.”
The amount of excitement Bernie generates among college students is immense. His demands for a change of the political system and free college and healthcare greatly resonate with young voters.
“I relate Bernie Sanders with the divestment movement … and my values lie in the values of the candidate I vote for,” commented Taylor Morgan ’19, a supporter of Bernie Sanders, “Even if one leader is more ‘pragmatic’ than the other, even if one is more ‘experienced’ even if one ‘has a better chance of winning’, I’m not willing to give up my moral stance on the issues Sanders represents for pragmatism,” she continued.
Establishment vs. revolution. Moderate vs radical. Hillary vs Bernie. But how do the reactions to Hillary Clinton differ from the reactions to moderate candidates before? Many students feel that outrage about Hillary’s past decisions has been disproportional to candidates with similar records, who just so happen to be male.
“The media has always been very Hillary focused as ‘she’s obviously going to be the Democratic candidate’ but it’s really funny because at the same time they love bringing up her shit,” Morgan mentioned. “The subtle to non-subtle misogyny, I’m not a fan but still…that should be out of the question.”
Many of the attacks towards Hillary from the media have been criticized for being highly gendered, unlike those toward other candidates. A blatant example of the sexism Clinton faced, from the last election in 2012, are toys like the ‘Hillary Clinton nutcracker,’ an action figure of Hillary Clinton that is designed to crack open peanuts — the implications there are not exactly subtle.
Elijah Reische ’19, a Hillary supporter and first time voter, commented, “I think a lot of young people who just violently hate her, more of that is coming from sexism than a lot of people realize.”
A new Friday tradition at the WRC called ‘Tea with the WRC’ held a discussion last week on conflicting opinions of Hillary Clinton and how we can address sexism in the upcoming election. The dialogue brought up questions of how Hillary’s decisions have been addressed in media and beyond, perhaps in a very different way from decisions of a male candidate. Hillary Clinton, the first woman seriously considered for president, is certainly not the first politician who has voted in favor of war, said one thing then said another, and has accepted donations from large banks and corporations, but we drastically focus on these aspects of her record. Perhaps these blemishes on Hillary’s record stand out due to the striking contrast with the record of Bernie Sanders, or perhaps it’s her gender, perhaps it’s a mix of the two, but how can we really know? How can we divorce ourselves from internalized messages of sexism we don’t even realize are coming into play?
Even if we can’t fully separate ourselves from internalized misogyny by the time we vote in the primaries, many students hope Democrats can unite under one candidate to ensure a Democratic politician in office.
“The scary part is with Clinton there’s so much anti-Hillary, ‘anyone but Hillary’, stuff going on and that has been raised in Sanders group of support,” commented Morgan, “And that’s scary when we have a real possibility of Donald Trump getting the nomination.”
No matter the candidate, it is important to acknowledge throughout this election and others in the future. Morgin Goldberg ‘19, a WRC associate who facilitated the Hillary Clinton discussion, brought up the question “What does it say about us if we can’t even elect a moderate woman?” Maybe it’s time for a reshaping of the political system, and part of that reshaping is to acknowledge the sexism that lies just beneath the surface, in our own minds and beyond.