Biting political commentary has dogged Hillary Clinton’s campaign since its inception last year. “I know why I lost [in 2008],” said Saturday Night Live’s Kate McKinnon during her iconic impression of Hillary. “I was running against a cool black guy. But [now] I thought I got to be the cool black guy.”
The 2008 election saw one of the largest turnouts of millennial voters in history — 66 percent of young voters cast their ballot for Obama. Now, like in 2008, the Clinton campaign faces its age-old problem: a lack of appeal to young voters. According to the Harvard Institute of Politics, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont is beating Clinton 41 percent to 35 percent among Democratic millennials. Sanders runs an admirable campaign — marked by an authentic grassroots feel, a rebellious denial of the existing political elite, dreamy economic promises and a well-meaning candidate. But Clinton, both on the merit of her past success and the feasibility of her platform, deserves much more consideration by the millennial crowd than it currently receives.
Hillary Clinton is running a practical, visionary and historically important campaign. Though Sanders has largely dominated the young vote, Clinton’s platform, policies and political acumen warrant consideration both for her ability to enact meaningful change as well as her practicality in the face of a largely partisan Congress and heated international climate. But whether she can earn the respect of college voters will largely depend on her success in reaching them.
It’s easy to see why young voters aren’t quite Ready for Hillary — and it’s largely because of the appeal of her Democratic opponent. To be fair, everybody loves a guy who shows up swallowed by an oversized blazer, ready to shed pleasantries and start exposing lies and identifying the “real problems” — he’ll even do it off-the-cuff in a well-meaning Brooklyn accent. However, millennials largely overlook the viability of Sanders’ platform, the feasibility of his promises, the partisan nature of Congress, his ability to legislate from the Oval Office or the reach of his political allies. Even so, Sanders has polled at 60 percent of voters 45 years of age and younger in both Iowa and New Hampshire. If young voters turn out in numbers anywhere close to Obama’s in 2008, the Clinton campaign must keep up.
Further hurting the Clinton campaign is the shallow disappointment that the face of the campaign simply doesn’t compare well to the angry, home-grown college professor. Clinton comes off as an old dog from the political elite, lacks “cool” appeal and appears eerily calculated.
But if anyone’s aware of this fact, it’s Hillary 2016. In order to better connect with the millennial crowd, they have put forward a commendable effort. Hilariously enough, one of the first things that helped Clinton’s numbers with the young crowd was getting a Snapchat. This old dog can learn new tricks — like when to use the word “chillin’” and the social standards surrounding the fist-bump. Clinton’s social media presence has grown tremendously as compared to her last run in ’08. After all, she’s 68 and still uses a Blackberry. Her job for the last eight years has been serving the American people — she’s not exactly an Instagram model.
Perhaps most importantly, Clinton has been able to effectively connect with younger voters by doing what CNN described as playing the “gender card” — reminding young voters of the historical importance of her campaign. If anything appeals to college liberal voters, it is the immediate necessity of equality and the breakdown of institutions that oppose these goals — after all, it’s with these sentiments in mind that Sanders has been able to earn the love of millions of young voters. One thing that Clinton offers, which Sanders cannot, is a break in a long line of all-male, predominantly older, 99 percent white presidents. As president, she would embody contemporary goals toward equality.
The bottom line is that Clinton’s campaign platform measures up to Sanders’ exceptionally well on the issues most likely to be addressed — and fixed — by a contemporary Congress. She has a greater propensity to push for the achievement of her campaign promises from the executive branch and has proven herself to be adept at the wheelings and dealings of politics. Her long-time status in the institution allows her to keep meaningful connections and exercise them in the pursuit of her goals. In order to see meaningful change in the next four years, college voters need to consider whether to support a candidate who can back up their promises with legislation. The Clinton campaign has done much to communicate this idea to millennials. We will soon witness whether its efforts prove to be fruitful in Iowa and beyond.
Lily Vaughan is a freshman majoring in history and political science. Her column, “Playing Politics,” runs Fridays.