On the whole, I think I’m a pretty average college student. I go to class, go out on the weekends, and have Dominoes on speed dial. My campus is a liberal hub, and most of my friends generally share the same values as I do. We are passionate about things that matter to us, whether that’s reproductive justice, early childhood education, or that boy in Comparative Politics. However, unlike a lot of my friends, both at school and at home in New Jersey, I’m supporting Secretary Hillary Clinton this November. And I think you should too.
Whenever I tell people I’m with Her, I usually get a mix of reactions. First comes the surprise, that a 20-year-old is not only supporting Hillary, but is vocal about it. Then come the defensive tones and the accusations.
“You’re not a real progressive!”
“Don’t you know she’s a dictatorial, corrupt war-monger who like, destroyed planet earth with her bare hands, then developed fangs, sucked the blood from our wounded democracy, and caused global warming?”
“Oh, do you mean corporate Shill-ary?”
“But super-delegates can still change their mind, so you just wait and see on Election Day! Feel the Bern!!”
“This election is rigged. Hillary isn’t the real nominee.”
Or my favorite: “You’re only voting for her because she’s a woman.”
Naturally, I follow up with these friends by asking them if they are supporting Donald Trump, to which they are absolutely HORRIFIED that I would have the temerity to accuse them of such a thing. It’s as if I were asking them if they planned on joining the circus to pursue a career in contortion (that being said, I do greatly admire the industrious circus performers out there. It’s hard work, but somebody’s got to do it. For the children!)
After that whole mess, I ask my friends whom they are planning on supporting. Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein are popular choices among today’s youth, including my friends.
These conversations frustrate me. They are not substantive or productive or any other word that ends with-ive. They paralyze the conversation.
At this point, I ask my friends why exactly they are supporting Gary Johnson or Jill Stein. Funnily enough, these friends aren’t sure. They tell me they are voting their “conscience.” They tell me they are tired of politics. They tell me that they just can’t trust Hillary. When the Government and Gender studies majors in me gently suggest that women in power who assume male roles are generally viewed as cold, calculating, and untrustworthy, my friends angrily cut me off before I can even dare breathe the air to say “sexism.” After all, it’s 2016! The fact that they aren’t voting for Hillary has nothing to do with her gender! How can they be sexist if they are voting for Jill Stein, anyway?
To that, I would say that I am sure Jill Stein has also faced sexism. However, I think that Hillary’s prominence as a woman in the public eye for so long has made her fodder for attack in a way that less powerful women, and their male counterparts, have not been targeted.
I get that a lot of my friends have real concerns with Hillary, but I think most of the issues boil down to one thing: anger at the system. That’s really where Bernie’s attraction stemmed from: his raw distress over the power of the top 1 percent. In my mind, if you truly care about reforming the system, you cannot start with the top of the pyramid. You have to work your way from the bottom. Do you really care about fracking and climate change? Elect Green Party candidates at the local level. Email your representatives. Do something yourself. You’re never going to find a friend, let alone a candidate, that agrees with you on every single issue.
To be honest, I think it’s a privilege to even be able to consider voting for a third-party candidate. I cannot afford a Donald Trump presidency. Frankly, I’m not white enough. I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but the stakes are far too high to split the Democratic Party, which is exactly what you’re doing by supporting Jill Stein or Gary Johnson, or by refusing to vote at all because you don’t like any of the candidates. Luckily, I wouldn’t want to support candidates with limited public service experience, controversial comments about the dangers of vaccines, and vague policy platforms anyway. If you care about the progressive cause, the Supreme Court nominations alone demand a Democratic President. No matter which way you hold the ballot, America is a two-party system. If you don’t vote for Hillary, you’re essentially voting for Trump. I know my conscience couldn’t take that.
This November, I’m with Her, a woman with fierce ambition who was not afraid to take the LSAT, even when the boys in the room told her she shouldn’t. A woman who performed the relentless behind-the-scenes work that helped make the Affordable Care Act a reality. A woman who made it possible for trans-people to change the gender marker on their passports, for women to have safe access to reproductive healthcare, for eight million children to be able to see a doctor when they are sick. A woman who would change her whole campaign schedule just to let a staffer see her daughter graduate from preschool.
Before the Democratic National Convention, one of my Bernie-supporting Facebook friends shared a post that said, “Every time you say ‘First Female Nominee’…You’re Helping Erase 144 Years of Progressive Feminist Candidates.” I shut my computer in disgust. No. Every time I hear “first female nominee,” pride beams through my body. This is history. This is our children’s future. This is a nod to Geraldine Ferraro, to Shirley Chisholm, to women all over the country who were not afraid of getting cut while shattering glass ceilings.
No matter what happens this November, I’ll be waiting with Band-Aids.
Samantha Braver is a senior from New Jersey at the College of William & Mary, double majoring in Government and Gender, Sexuality & Women’s Studies.