The other day I was in the car with my friend’s mom. We were talking about politics and she told me she liked Hillary Clinton. I responded with, “I don’t. She’s a snake.” She looked at me with a really weird expression and asked me, “Why do you say that? Why is she a snake?” And I couldn’t answer. I realized those were my dad’s exact words the night before when we were discussing the coming election. I didn’t really have anything to back up that statement besides, “I just think she’s dishonest.” More accurately I could have said, “That’s what my dad said. My dad’s a politically active adult. He must know.”
Most young people take the same political position as their parents. This is most likely because kids trust that their parents know things about the world and so they hope the beliefs bestowed upon them are valid. I was raised liberal, trusting both my parents liberal opinions. Now here I was, talking to my friend’s mom and realizing that because of this trust I had failed to question the validity of my dad’s statement. Why is she such a snake? Why do so many of Sander’s supporters, young and old, believe she is pretty much satan’s spawn? How productive is it to divide a political party so deeply? How much of her criticism is a result of her actual political history and how much of it has to do with the fact that she is a woman trying to gain power? What does a woman in her position have to do differently than a man in her position to have a chance at success? Does the questionable honesty of her past have anything to do with this? Would people ever commend her for messy hair as they do Bernie? What is really going on here?
The demonization of Hillary Clinton in support of Bernie Sanders is far from productive. It is creating an unnecessary divide in the democratic party that’s more damaging than anything else. If one spends the entirety of the democratic primary detesting Clinton, they are going to experience a great deal of discomfort if she wins the nomination and is up against, say, Donald Trump. People want to think they are consistent and so when faced with the choice to vote for either someone who they have been detesting for the entire duration of the primaries, or someone who couldn’t be further from their ideals, they are going to have a difficult choice to make.
In order to feel that they are staying consistent, voters in this situation might just take the easy way out where they are free of responsibility: They won’t vote. And if they don’t vote, guess who will: All of the Republicans who are making Donald Trump’s dominance in the primaries possible. And guess who, in this theoretical situation, will be our next president? You got it! Trump.
The issue not only lies in this divide of the democratic party, but in the ways people are choosing to criticize Clinton. Of course, criticism is important as a way to keep discourse open between people who disagree. It is healthy to challenge others and listen as they challenge you. However, it goes beyond healthy criticism when a candidate for President is being called out for how she chooses to do her hair, or being referred to as utterly evil, a snake, a robot, a witch, or even “America’s nasty mother in law.”
I also find it interesting that people love Bernie Sanders because he doesn’t seem to care too much about how he looks, he is the grouchy grandpa everyone loves. If this were the case for Hillary Clinton, people would be wondering what the eff is wrong with her? Hillary has been criticized for her appearance for as long as she has been in the public sphere. This is something that most all women who dare to be in the public face, they are more heavily criticized for what they are wearing or whether they have makeup on or not then for what they stand for. When I began writing this article, I came across something in my AP Psychology textbook that stood out to me. It was talking about how women who are striving for positions of power are much more likely to be viewed as power hungry, and greedy. Whereas men are more likely to be viewed as assertive and “a man who knows what he wants.” This seems to fit the overwhelming quantity of criticism directed at Clinton and the air of aggression and hatred that surrounding this criticism.
This whole experience led me to realize that never questioning adopted beliefs is very dangerous, specifically when it can cause people to be participating in gender inequity without even being aware of it. I am sure that a lot young people who are demonizing Hillary Clinton just believe they are supporting their preferred candidate. That's what I thought when I readily referred to Clinton as a snake. They probably don’t realize they are playing into something much more precarious that may result in quite the opposite of what they want, which is why self inquiry and awareness about who you support and why is so important.