Sanders rallies millennial support for Clinton at Kent State

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks at a Hillary Clinton rally at Kent State’s Student Recreation and Wellness Center on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016. 

Alex Delaney-Gesing

Kent State feels the ‘Bern’ from on Vimeo.

As part of a weekend dedicated to rallying support on college campuses in Ohio, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders stopped at Kent State.

Hundreds descended on the university’s Student Recreation and Wellness Center Saturday to hear Sanders speak on behalf of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

Approximately 600 Kent State students and members of the community filled the rally area of the rec center’s gymnasium floor prior to the senator’s arrival, according to a spokesperson for the event. “Love trumps hate” signs scattered the crowd of enthusiastic attendees.

White posters bearing the message “Feel the Bern for Her” and “Ohio for Hillary” provoked cheers from the growing crowd as attendees filed inside. Off to the side of the podium, a supporter wore a T-shirt covered with pictures of Sanders’s face.

Sanders, who lost the Democratic primaries to the former secretary of state, stopped in Kent as part of his weekend campaigning for Clinton on college campuses to rally support among the youngest — and largest — demographic of voters: millennials.

In a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday, support for the two major-party candidates among likely voters is in favor of Clinton, at 48 to 43 percent, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 points.

For millennials — ages 18 to 34 — 55 percent of likely voters claimed they would vote for or are leaning toward voting for Clinton if the election were to be held today.

The survey also polled voters’ motivation to participate in this year’s election: 34 percent of participants ages 18 to 34 said they feel more inclined to vote — the lowest percentage out of all demographics reported.

This reported mentality of young voters isn’t necessarily reflective of all members of the generation, though.

“I think our generation cares a lot more about the issues and the election more so than other generations have in the past,” said Maria Kuhn, a junior art history major at Kent State. “They cared on a service level, we care on a deeper, more personable level.”

Kuhn voted for Sanders in the primaries — a move she said she plans on doing again come November. She said she doesn’t think the polls are accurate representations of how younger voters view this year’s election.

“It’s false, 100 percent,” she said. “Personally, I care about what’s going to happen in this election. And with social media and the 24-hour news network now, we’re starting to become even more aware of the issues and what’s at stake.”

Freshman fashion merchandising major Tyriq Amerson said he intends to vote for Clinton because “after Bernie, I guess she’s the next best thing.”

Amerson said Clinton’s affordable college plan — released this past week and called the “New College Compact”  — is a major reason for shifting his support of Sanders to her.

“They’re trying to make college affordable for people trying to get a degree in four years, so I’ll stand by him and Clinton and show my support,” he said. “(I) don’t want to vote to put somebody in office who doesn’t care for this generation.”

Under Clinton’s proposal, families with incomes up to $125,000 — making up 89 percent of Ohio households — would pay no tuition at in-state public colleges and universities, according to the Clinton campaign.

The plan promises costs won’t be an obstacle for families in sending their children to college, and debt won’t be a factor in holding back a person from pursuing a degree.

Upon taking the podium, Sanders asked the hundreds of student attendees “How many of you guys worry about student debt?”

In response, about three-quarters of the room raised their hands. “That’s crazy,” he said.

As Sanders highlighted Clinton’s college plans, he reiterated the point that the education needed to be successful when he was in school 50 years ago — when a high school degree could guarantee a good, paying job — isn’t the same today.

“The world has changed. That’s not good enough anymore,” he said. “We have got to talk about making public colleges and universities tuition-free.”

He referenced his own campaign’s platform, where he asked people to “think big, not small.”

“Does it make sense, when our economy is depending on the best education we can have, to have tens of millions of people today struggling with student debt,” he asked.

Those with student debt should be able to refinance their loans with the lowest interest rates they can find, Sanders said.

“What we want you to do is when you leave school, have your lives. Get married, have kids, get a car, get a house, get a good job,” he said. “You shouldn’t have to sit around worrying about student debt.”

Sanders spent the majority of his speech comparing and contrasting the major party presidential candidates, touching on a number of issues setting the two apart.

Over waves of boos coming from the crowd, he spurned tax breaks for the wealthy and the Republican notion of climate change being a hoax.

“If we do not act boldly and begin to transform our energy system, the bad situation of today will become worse in years to come,” he said.

He referred to the different forms of discrimination still present in society — including racism and sexism — saying the nation has come a long way in combatting them. Trump, he said, encourages this treatment.

“Now we have a candidate for president who is making the cornerstone of his campaign in bigotry,” Sanders said. “It is dividing our country.”

Gabrielle Moore, a junior special education major, said that while Sanders’s appearance was to boost support for Clinton, she felt he was still able to highlight his own views in the process.

“I came here because I’m still for Bernie,” she said. “But the way he made it feel, it felt like it’s okay to support her. I’m definitely more for Clinton now because of Sanders’s support for her. And I just don’t want Trump.”

Moore said her decision to vote for Clinton isn’t just based on her own political views, but for future generations and the impact this election will have on them.

Similarly, sophomore journalism major Anu Sharma agreed with Sanders on the significance of this election.

“Bernie is right, this election is so important,” she said. “I feel like years down the road it’ll be in textbooks. People will look back and think this election was so ridiculous.”

Alex Delaney-Gesing is a senior reporter, contact her at [email protected].