Among the 151,584 votes Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders collected in his landslide New Hampshire primary victory last Tuesday was a surprisingly large contingent of unexpected supporters: women under 30.
Sanders took home 55 percent of the female vote and received votes from nearly 80 percent of the women under 30 who voted in the Democratic primary. For Sanders supporters in nearby Connecticut, those figures may predict future success among demographics many had assumed would favor Hillary Clinton LAW ’73.
Campus campaign organizers, including co-founder and co-chair of Yale Students for Bernie Sanders Matthew Massie ’17, said Sanders’ recent success could also sway Yale students who are currently on the fence.
“Our landslide victory in New Hampshire proved that our campaign is no longer a long shot,” Massie said.
Carlos Camacho, chief coordinator of the Bernie Sanders Connecticut Team, cited Sanders’ 32 percent victory over Clinton as proof of Sanders’ often-doubted “electability.” He added that last week’s results suggest that Sanders may very plausibly win the female vote nationwide.
The preferences of that demographic have received particular media attention as of late. In recent separate public interviews, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and feminist thought leader Gloria Steinem both said female Sanders supporters were abandoning the feminist cause.
“Younger women in New Hampshire were really adamant about the fact that [Albright and Steinem] don’t speak for them,” Camacho said, referring to contentious statements put forth in recent weeks by the two women. “I think a lot of young women reacted much differently than their older generation who led the fight for women’s rights.”
Bonita Yarboro, the coordinator of the Bernie Sanders Connecticut Team who oversees the New Haven area and towns nearby, said that although women would like to see a female president, few consider Clinton the female champion they had in mind. She added that Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren would be better suited to such a role.
But Co-President of Yale Students for Hillary Delaney Herndon ’17 expressed a different view.
“[Clinton] is the only candidate who will be a leader on women’s issues and focus on them in her presidency,” Herndon said.
Herndon said while she can not speak for her counterparts in New Hampshire, as a young woman living in Connecticut, she believes Clinton’s record for breaking down the barriers to gender equality is truly unrivaled.
Herndon also argued that Clinton is unique because her platform is likely to produce positive outcomes on issues important not only to women but to all Americans. Herndon said Sanders has made big promises but lacks the means to implement them.
Despite Sanders’ success among New Hampshire women, the candidate has yet to demonstrate popularity in a state that is less than 90 percent white. National polls indicate that Sanders trails Clinton among nonwhite voters by nearly 40 percent nationwide. Among black voters, this gap is even wider.
Herndon said this disparity is because “minority communities and the issues that matter most to them” are at the forefront of Clinton’s campaign, but not of Sanders’.
As opposed to being a single-issue candidate, Herndon said, Clinton understands that social justice issues can not be solved by redistribution alone. She said Clinton seeks to reform the criminal justice system, immigration policies and gun control measures in an effort to alleviate racial inequity.
Clinton’s edge with regard to African-American voters could be particularly noteworthy in New Haven, a city that is over 14 percent African-American and 65 percent white.
Though New Haven’s demographics suggest that voters in the city would favor Clinton, Camacho said there are more Sanders volunteers from New Haven than there are from other Connecticut cities. In total, there are 238 New Haven volunteers for the Sanders campaign, 175 of whom are Yale students.
Massie rejected the claim that Sanders’ policies do not have ethnic minority voters in mind.
“The idea that some observers have put forth that Bernie Sanders doesn’t talk about issues affecting black voters is totally bogus,” he said. “When he talks about expanding access to health care, education, employment — you name it — we’re talking about policies that will help African-Americans more than anyone else.”
Yarboro, who is African-American, said African-Americans who are rallying behind Clinton are doing so out of misinformation. She said they recognize the Clinton name but not the policies associated with that name.
Yarboro said, for example, that few African-Americans know that Bill Clinton’s administration implemented a racially based federal drug policy that placed harsher penalties on crack-cocaine violations than on powder cocaine, which is more popular among Caucasian-Americans.
The laws led to a spike in incarceration rates that disproportionately affected African-Americans, Yarboro said.
“I do believe a lot of black people will support Bernie when they hear what his policies are … and when more of them recognize his name,” Yarboro said.
There are more than 2,000 Sanders supporters and volunteers in Connecticut alone.