Tomorrow I will be using my first ever presidential vote to vote for the first ever female president of the United States.
I have been looking forward to this for so long, I didn’t request an absentee ballot just so I can experience the excitement of voting in person. I have been supporting Hillary throughout the Democratic primary, and before she officially announced her candidacy. When pundits or journalists talk about how young people, and young women in particular, aren’t excited about Ms. Clinton, I think, “Wait, here I am!” and how I could best explain why. Many feel they are voting for the lesser of two evils, or against Trump, but I am very much actively voting for Hillary.
I was too young to have had any substantive knowledge or preference between President Obama and Clinton in the 2008 Democratic primary, but that election and Obama himself are largely why I became interested in politics. Obama was running for president in the middle of the Great Recession. Many millennials likewise came of age during this time of economic hardship, and it has shaped our views. My dad created and ran his own small construction business, and financially had no choice but to close it in the aftermath of the housing bubble collapse. Hearing Obama campaign and talk about his plans for economic recovery, to help American families like my own get back on their feet, made me see politics in a new, more personal way.
Hillary talks about how she plans to build off Obama’s legacy by continuing to grow our economy to work for all Americans, protecting and improving the Affordable Care Act and pursuing immigration reform. But their two legacies are more intertwined than just that. Hillary is committed to expanding the progress of the Obama administration, however she has also been working for progressive causes on the national stage before Obama even began his political career, in many ways priming key policy battles for him.
For Hillary, it comes from a very personal place. I was born in 1995, a year when Hillary was already First Lady. Some millennials distrust Hillary, seeing her as a person of means, detached from everyday life, as we have always known her as a political elite. However, the root of her passion for public service and helping everyday Americans that continues to drive her can be clearly seen in her background, before she was a national figure. Hillary grew up in a middle class family in the suburbs of Chicago, her dad also a small business owner. She attended Yale Law School, and instead of taking a lucrative job at a law firm after graduating, decided to work for the Children’s Defense Fund - going undercover and exposing schools that were partaking in racial discrimination. Her path was motivated by her mother’s experience as a child, neglected, abused, and living in poverty, and meeting Martin Luther King Jr. through her Methodist youth group.
This article is not anti-Trump, it’s pro-Hillary; yet it does baffle me how a man who considers himself “self-made”, while receiving a “small” $14 million loan from his father, exploiting immigrant labor, and stiffing contractors can be considered a “champion of the working class” - especially when compared to a woman who has Hillary’s background and record.
Her background and commitment continue to reflect in her record as First Lady and Senator. The list of her policy achievements is long and notable. But what is also notable is how she’s done it, with tireless coalition building and working on a bipartisan basis. And while you won’t hear it in the heat of an election cycle, it’s why she’s respected on both sides of the aisle. It’s not always exciting to talk about. It’s not change that happens overnight. But it’s pragmatic - it’s what’s makes a difference in people’s lives and what matters. Hillary’s called an incrementalist. But, as Dylan Matthews recently wrote for Vox, be careful of selling Hillary, her agenda, and “quiet revolution” short in that way. Hillary’s policy proposals include the expansion of a pathway to citizenship, taxes on the wealthy to promote college affordability initiatives, and infrastructure projects. I’m excited by the fact that by the time I want to start a family, there may be paid family leave, and more family-friendly, modern workplace policies. Make no mistake about it: childcare policy would not be in the forefront of this election, in a way unlike ever before, if we did not happen to have the first female major party nominee.
Hillary has a complex history talking about her gender and how it relates to her historic campaign. People can shy away from saying it, but the fact that Hillary Clinton is a woman does make me like her more as a candidate. This isn’t because of any inherent difference between men and women. I find it incredibly inspiring how much she has been through during decades in the public eye, and see it as a testament to how much she believes in what she is fighting for that she continues on. Anyone who says that being a woman still does not impact how one is perceived in positions of power in 2016 is wrong.
There’s the clip of Hillary Clinton in 2008, in a smaller group setting campaigning in the final days of the New Hampshire primary where she was fighting to make a comeback. A woman asked how she keeps up campaigning, in a touching and vulnerable moment, Hillary tears up and responds, “It’s not easy… and I couldn’t do it if I didn’t passionately believe it was the right thing to do.” It’s no secret that Hillary doesn’t consider herself the most gifted orator. But she is at her best and most comfortable in these smaller setting, listening to, connecting with, and largely learning from, voters themselves.
When Hillary Clinton came to UConn to speak at the Fusco Forum my freshman year, I skipped my 8 a.m. so I could be at the Jorgensen ticket office when it first opened, and get front row seats. Her speech was intelligent, detailed, and thought provoking. But what struck me most was how she handled herself during the Question and Answer session moderated by President Herbst: visibly engaged, eagerly listening, answering all the questions in depth, and even with some off the cuff humor about Putin.
When I was in New Hampshire this February campaigning for Hillary, I had the chance to hear Bill Clinton speak.
“She’s the best changemaker I’ve ever met,” he said, acknowledging at that point it seemed like a canned line, “I say it so much because it’s true.”
Afterwards, I unexpectedly had the chance to shake Bill’s hand. I was so flustered, the only words that came out of my mouth were: “Hillary is so inspiring to me!” On the car ride home, I thought over how embarrassed I was. I met a former president of the United States and all I did was mention his wife. But it’s true. I am incredibly inspired by Hillary Clinton, her policy platforms and vision for our country, along with her life. Our country is divided, but Hillary has the experience of tough battles, while also bringing people together, and sheer determination to see us through it.