It was a packed house at the Middlebury College student center on Tuesday night. The College Democrats set up the old natatorium, retrofitted into a greasy late-night food joint, and brought down the giant scroll-down screen to stream the first Democratic debate. Across the country students went to parties put together by College Democrats, clubs to support candidate, or any number of other groups. At Middlebury, two political science professors served as commentators for the debate giving an introduction to expected strategies as well as their insight during commercials.
The evening began with a bit of a cheer off between the Hillary and Bernie supporters. Although Bernie supporters were louder, there was a vocal cohort of Clinton fans. Later on, during candidate introductions the students shook the room when Bernie entered onto the stage.
At Middlebury College, a rural Vermont liberal arts school and headquarters of the College Students for Bernie movement, I learned a few things about my peers. From talking with students who attended debate parties across the country, I learned even more. Here's a quick run down:
- Policy, not Politics: The single biggest applause from the night was for Bernie's powerful retort explaining that Americans "are sick and tired of hearing about [Clinton's] damn emails" instead changing the conversation to policy issues. And it wasn't only in Vermont that students felt the Bern at that moment. Jeremy Kaplan who attended the College Democrats party at the University of Michigan, explained how students followed up a huge cheer for Bernie with a nearly equally powerful one when Clinton said "No," choosing not to respond to Chafee's attack line about her emails moments later. At the end of the debate, O'Malley shined in his conclusion, earning a hearty round of applause with "what you heard was an honest debate of what will move us forward".