DePaul Democrats torn between Bernie or Hillary

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I – Vermont) and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton smile at the audience during their last debate. (Tom Lynn / AP)

Members of the DePaul College Democrats are either “Feeling the Bern” or proclaiming “I’m with her” as they decide whether to support Sen. Bernie Sanders (I – Vermont) or former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton as their party’s nominee for president. This choice, while clear for some, is proving to be one between the heart and the brain for many.

While the enthusiasm of Sanders is experiencing with young people nationally is certainly reverberating within the group, Clinton has several backers with many more occupying a gray area between the two.

Senior member Tony Carrillo perhaps summed it up best, saying he’s “55 percent Hillary, 45 percent Bernie.”

“There’s a lot of overlap between the two I’d say, which I really do like,” Carrillo said.

Junior Kyla Patterson, the club’s membership director, counts herself as conflicted. At a “political crossroads,” Patterson said she is leaning towards Sanders.

“I support a lot of Hillary’s policies. I think that she is going to get the job done,” Patterson said. “But at the same time, Bernie is promising a revolution and right now, I do think that the American political system is broken. Something needs to be done and it needs to be drastic and that’s what Bernie’s offering.”

Despite the praise for some of Clinton’s proposals, Patterson is turned off by her association with the establishment.

“I think Hillary just kind of represents the establishment right now,” she said. “We’re sick and tired of the establishment as young people.”

Sophomore Thomas Rietz counts himself as a Clinton supporter, but understands the sentiment that is fueling Sanders’ popularity among a more socially-conscious generation, who he believes are simply fed up with the “inability of government to really take care of people.”

“We’re very cynical as millennials; so when someone offers a hope-inspiring message like Bernie Sanders who is an exciting candidate, who is well-liked by his community and the people around him, I can definitely see why there is such a strong following among young people,” Rietz said.

Yet despite his awareness of the feeling on the ground, Rietz is not “feeling the Bern,” but instead an enthusiastic volunteer for Clinton.

“My personal reason is that I used to be in the foster care system and Hillary Clinton has time and time again fought on behalf of American families. She introduced a wide-reaching foster care reform,” Rietz said. “So that issue speaks to me specifically, but I also look at her leadership style, where she came from, where she grew up — she was a Cook County resident, I look at what she cares about, and the way in which she tries to get policy achieved is very pragmatic.”

While Rietz likes Sanders, he was not sold on his ability to get his agenda through a gridlocked Congress.

“He’s a great guy. And I love his campaign message, but I don’t know if he’s going to be able to deliver on some of the wide-reaching reforms he’s trying to support,” Rietz said.

This was the argument most Clinton supporters used and something even Sanders backers acknowledged, that Clinton was the more realistic choice to take on the Republican nominee in the general election.

“The donations she’s taken from (Wall Street) makes people uncomfortable, it makes me uncomfortable. But looking down the road, I still see her as the best candidate to fight off whoever the Republicans (nominate),” Carrillo said. “Because looking at that, looking at the general election, I find that’s way more important to get a Democrat in office instead of picking Bernie because he’s the populist candidate, but then having the problem of him losing to a conservative Republican.”

Bernie Sanders took to the streets Saturday to show their support for the Democratic candidate. Sanders has mobilized many young people. (Kirsten Onsgard / The DePaulia)
Bernie Sanders took to the streets Saturday to show their support for the Democratic candidate. Sanders has mobilized many young people. (Kirsten Onsgard / The DePaulia)

Yet the trust gap between Clinton and young voters persists, driven by tales of scandals dating back to her husband’s administration, her current email controversy and her ties to Wall Street. Clinton has come under fire for not releasing the transcripts to paid speeches given at large financial institution. For many, she appears too close to the big banks that many blame for the last economic downturn. 

However, her core supporters in the group were not terribly concerned.

“I trust Hillary Clinton. I think that the emphasis that she’s put on working-class families, I think that a lot of the work has been genuine,” Rietz said. “I don’t that she backs policies arbitrarily or because someone handed her a political campaign donation. That just doesn’t make sense to me.”

Junior club member Mike Papanicholas believes Clinton has been subject to criticism that even her former boss, President Barack Obama, was not subject to, pointing to his record of Wall Street reform in spite of campaign contributions coming from there.

“President Obama passed Dodd-Frank, the financial reform package that was widely opposed by Wall Street, and President Obama has taken money from Wall Street,” Papanicholas said. “I don’t think anyone would say that he’s in the tank for Wall Street given the large criticism they’ve directed at him.”

Rietz acknowledges the critiques going his candidate’s way, but still thinks she’s the best person for the job.

“I know that she has a lot of baggage, but I know that she can get a lot done and I know she can do a lot for our country. And with that in mind, I’m willing to accept that she has a history,” Rietz said. And I don’t think her history is bad. I think it shows a resilience to overcome some of the critiques the GOP has been keeping up for the last 30 years.”

A poll released by the Southern Illinois University’s Simon Institute showed Clinton with a commanding 51 to 32 percent lead over Sanders ahead of the March 15 Illinois primary.