September, 2015—The primary election is on the cusp of taking off. The candidates for the Democratic party nomination were set to take the stage for their first debate in just weeks. The GOP was a free-for-all circus, overflowing with nominee hopefuls.
On Sarah Lawrence campus, there was one person who had captured the hearts of nearly every politically conscious person on campus: Senator Bernie Sanders. The future was uncertain.
Fast forward a year. September 26, 2016—two candidates take the stage for the first general election debate about a month shy of voting day. She is clad in a red pantsuit, he in a shiny blue tie—a role reversal of sorts. Democratic candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton. Republican candidate Donald J. Trump.
At home, Bernie Sanders watched in his living room.
At Sarah Lawrence, every room with a TV filled to capacity. Every room sounding cheers at the quick wit of HRC, and groans at the interruptions of Trump. Either way—it was a room filled with the converted, or those on the fence. A year ago, a cheer for Hillary was singular and strange. A cheer for Trump was unheard.
Unheard, yet not unheard of. In a poll conducted by The Phoenix a year ago, about fifteen percent of students self-identified as being moderate or conservative on the spectrum of political ideology. Many of those students, however, expressed hesitance in being cited in print for fear of being singled out. Even express mentions of support for Clinton were few and far between. After all—there was still a year left until the election. There was still time to make a choice.
Now, for most, the choice has been made—though admittedly, many may feel that the choice has been made for them.
But what about the students who had their mind made up before the nominating conventions even began?
Lili McFarlane, ’18, has been #withher since the start.
James Hobayan, ’20, initially favored Jeb Bush, but soon changed his mind when the GOP primary began to unravel. He is voting for Donald Trump.
McFarlane is a student of politics. She’s been working with the HRC campaign since the end of last school year.
Hobayan is a first-year studying theatre—that being said, he comes from a military family that is heavily involved in politics. His parents are Democrats, but they respect his differing views. Coming into this college, Hobayan was aware that politically, he would be an outlier. He’s already come across difficulty in freely expressing his opinions.
“I was expecting that,” he said. “It’s a big reason I almost didn’t come to Sarah Lawrence.”
McFarlane, however, has known this experience first-hand for far longer. “During the primary being a Clinton supporter was pretty alienating,” she said. “People would assume that as a college student I supported Bernie, and having to interrupt someone to explain that I wasn't the typical college voter and/or that young people did support Clinton was frustrating.”
McFarlane wasn’t alone in her experiences, either. “What was saddest to me, were the other Clinton supporters that I knew on campus, who would only talk about it if no one else was in earshot,” she said.
Now that Clinton has clinched the nomination, however, things have begun to change for McFarlane. “This fall, now that the primaries are over, I feel like my position is a bit more respected. I even saw someone else with a Hillary sticker on their laptop. That was huge.”
As for Hobayan—he’s not “here to preach.” But he is open about being a Trump supporter. When he first made his position clear to his classmates in his high school, a lot of people accused him of being a racist and a bigot. Others, however, respected his decision—not because it was a vote for Trump, but because it was a vote against Clinton.
The same is true on the flip-side, too. “Since the primary has ended, the majority of Bernie supporters that I see are quietly supporting Clinton, and it's mainly from an anti-Trump perspective,” said McFarlane. She does have a number of friends who previously supported Sanders but are now strongly backing Hillary. These students, however, seem to be in the minority, according to McFarlane.
The “anti” vote rather than the “for” vote seems to be an emerging trend in voter thought. Many are left unsure as to who to vote for, whether to vote third-party, or whether to vote at all.
To those who are on the fence—particularly liberals—McFarlane offers this: “Clinton may not be your ideal candidate, but she will certainly work with ‘the revolution’ more than Trump and his administration would.”
A more general plea, however, comes from Hobayan: “It’s a sacred right given to the American people,” he said. “Everyone needs to vote.”
Editor’s note: If you are voting third-party or choosing not to vote and are interested in offering your views to The Phoenix, please send a letter to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kate Bakhtiyarova '19