Confessions of a Young Hillary Supporter
Or, how I became the loneliest man on campus.
I'm a young male Democrat, and I support ... Hillary Clinton. I may be the loneliest man at Georgetown University, where I'm practically a social pariah. Supporting Hillary on a college campus this year is like being a Yankees fan at a Red Sox game, a Barry Manilow lover at a Radiohead concert.
At Georgetown, the Obama supporters—devotees? cultists?—are everywhere. He's the best thing to happen to college since campuses went co-ed. Red, white, and blue O's line the windows of dorm rooms. It won't take long for someone to invent a drinking game where you count the words change and hope in the senator's stirring stump speech. (That would be 16 shots of headache, if his speech after the South Carolina primary was any indication.)
My Obama-loving friends—that is, all my friends—have tried to rationalize my support in a number of ways. Maybe I have a thing for older women? Or it's some sort of latent Oedipus complex? Dear God, I hope not. Am I just doing it to get a date? No, and unfortunately, it's having the opposite effect. Being a college guy who supports Hillary is a like being the jock who takes the women's studies class to pick up girls. It just does not work. It is as if my lack of a second X chromosome sends a signal to women that I am an interloper in Hillaryland, and my support is less than genuine.
Although we are rarely seen in the wild, young Hillary supporters do exist (not that I've ever met another one). To give you an idea of just how outnumbered we are among young voters, I turn to the most tested and reliable gauge of all things collegiate: Facebook. Earlier this fall, Facebook added an application that allows members to declare the candidate they support on their main profile page. Hillary Clinton makes a respectable showing with 88,159 supporters. Barack Obama on the other hand, trounces her with 353,757 supporters. That means for every student who finds Hillary's signature cackle more charming than demonic, there are four more young voters lined up behind Obama. But the odds aren't just against me there. Among young Hillary supporters, men are virtually nonexistent. Of the 60 members of Facebook's "Hilltop—Georgetown Students for Hillary" group, only seven are men. In other words, during the most passionate presidential election in a generation, on a heavily Democratic campus, approximately one out of every 1,000 Georgetown men is supporting the most popular Democratic candidate. (Barack's Georgetown Facebook support group has a much cooler name, of course: "Obama Is a Pimp.")
I don't just feel the "Hillary effect" on campus. Last summer, upon returning home to Jacksonville, Fla., I ordered a "Hillary Clinton for President" bumper sticker and proudly pasted it onto the back of the family car. In the weeks that followed, nothing changed for me (except for the lovely drivers of northeast Florida who showed their support by raising their middle finger in solidarity).
My mom, however, noticed a world of change when she drove the car. Routinely, women who saw her around the neighborhood or at the office would stop and say something to her about the bumper sticker. She laughed when telling me the story a few weeks later. "They are always shocked when I tell them it is not mine, it's my son's!" It seems by virtue of nothing more than my age and sex, my support of Hillary Clinton is not taken very seriously.
At least her staffers have welcomed me with open arms. Last summer I volunteered at a small Clinton campaign fund-raiser in my hometown. As I walked into the lobby of the venue, I was greeted by Courtney, a disarmingly beautiful finance director for the campaign, whose eyes registered slight shock upon my arrival. While I hoped this was because of my good looks and charm, as other volunteers trickled in, I realized it was because I was the only man, and was 20 years younger than anyone else in the room. Unlike the other volunteers, I didn't have to work behind the scenes corralling attendees or setting up the venue: Instead, I was dispatched to the front desk to greet all incoming donors.
As the event came to a close, Courtney and I stood in the hallway watching Sen. Clinton display her unrivaled knowledge of policy during a rigorous Q&A session. Courtney turned and asked me what I thought of the event, "It was great!" I replied. She paused, and cautiously inquired, "So, you think you are really going to support her?" And there it was. Despite treating me like a king during the event, even Hillary's own staffers seemed befuddled by the prospect that a young man would actually support their candidate.
However counterintuitive it may seem, the confusion and distrust I've encountered when I reveal that I'm a Hillary supporter have actually allowed me to be a much better advocate for her than I expected, and they've made me much more thoughtful about my own political beliefs. As my friends and neighbors continually try to find reasons to explain why I would not join the Obama camp, I get to explain why I have chosen to support Hillary. I get to talk about her command of policy and her fierce political intellect. I get to explain why her plan for universal health care is superior and why I trust her more when it comes to foreign policy. In short, my experience as a college-aged man who supports Hillary Clinton has forced me to weigh the myriad reasons I have chosen her as my candidate. None of these, so far, are oedipal.
Alex Joseph is a Slate intern.