Slate published a short piece by one of its interns, a Georgetown senior and Hoya writer named Alex Joseph. Entitled “Confessions of a young Hillary Clinton supporter,” the crux of the piece is that a lot of college students, particularly at Georgetown, support Barack Obama, and that both Clinton and Obama supporters are astonished that a college-age man would support Clinton. Because Joseph supports Clinton, he’s “practically a social pariah.” Quel Horror!
Now, when I decided, after long consideration, to support Barack Obama in the 2008 primary, the first thing I did was purge any Clinton supporters from my social life, just as I did with all conservatives back in High School when I decided I was a liberal. Same thing when the Voice endorsed Obama a few weeks ago: All the Clinton supporters (and yes, there are a few, and a majority are men) were kicked off the paper!
Obviously, none of those things happened, which is just one part of why Joseph’s piece is a bit silly. He starts with an interesting point: It seems like a majority of college students favor Obama. But Joseph doesn’t bother to ask why that might be, aside from implying that they’re all crazy (“devotees? cultists?”) or just jumping on the bandwagon. Nor does he explain why he likes Clinton, except with these few scattered generalities: “Her unrivaled knowledge of policy … 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.” And the fact that even Clinton’s staff are surprised by Joseph’s allegiance—indications that even Clinton’s supporters know how parochial her base is?—doesn’t lead him to second guess his decision.
Despite all this, many college students support Obama for substantive reasons: He was against the Iraq war when Hillary was for it, promises a fresh face for public diplomacy, supports real ethics reforms, has a great anti-poverty program, supports student voting rights, has an effective plan to acheive universal healthcare, and, well, I could go on. No doubt Joseph could actually make a case for Clinton, too. But instead his piece strikes a cheerfully condescending tone: Those silly Obama fans! They just don’t get her command of policy! But reasonable people disagree about her command of policy.
Now, I’ll cut Joseph a little slack; editorial interns tend to write what their editors want, and Slate‘s editors probably didn’t want him to have a substantive discussion; they probably wanted a jokey little piece with a trite, uplifting ending: “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.”
But Joseph’s piece makes college students look silly, no matter which candidate they support, and we deserve better than that. So, Alex, if you can’t find space in the Hoya to make the case for college students supporting Clinton, and tonight’s results don’t make it irrelevant, you can put it up right here. We could even have a little debate. Think about it. At the very least, I can introduce you to a few male Clinton supporters right here on campus.
—Tim Fernholz, Contributing Editor