Hillary in ‘Bernieland’
Taking a little road trip is good for the soul, right? I wanted to get outside of Des Moines to cover a campaign event, and I felt the Hillary Clinton town hall in Grinnell would be just the right event to attend. Grinnell is a town of a little fewer than 10,000 people, but it is no stranger to presidential candidates, particularly Clinton. During a town hall in 2007, a Clinton staffer approached a Grinnell College student with a specific question for a college student to ask.
The town hall was set to open at 5:15 p.m. in order for everyone to pass through Secret Service in time to see Clinton. The line weaved through the quad of Grinnell so far that doors were opened early, only to leave me in standing-room only, but at least I was able to get a spot inside the half gym/half auditorium. As I weaved up to the door to the Harris Center, I noticed a few interesting signs along the way. The first, hanging in a residence hall window, read, “This Capitalist is voting for Bernie.” Another 100 feet further up was a more creative display showing more support for Clinton’s fiercest competitor, “Bernie spoke in the public park, Hillary chose the elite college campus” and “Restore democracy. No Oligarchy.”
A little background on Grinnell College: It is home to around 1,600 students, of which 55-60 percent study abroad. Grinnell prides itself on “social responsibility and activism” and is a top producer of Peace Corps graduates and Fulbright scholars. This becomes important when examining the student population.
While standing in line there were more than 10 students spotted wearing Bernie Sanders shirts. Once inside the “town hall” with an audience under 500, the first three students Clinton would walk by on the rope line also were wearing “Feel the Bern” shirts. Grinnell Junior Grace Anderson said, “I feel Bernie aligns much more with my values. I want to do Teach For America after college, and his passion and activism inspires me.”
Clinton spoke and took questions for about an hour-and-a-half. Volunteers flanked her, as well as a significant number of girl scouts. Every Grinnell student that asked a question asked a hard-hitting activism or social-justice question. Topics included Native American rights, global poverty, campaign finance reform (which had the loudest applause of the night), and transgender rights (of which Clinton referenced the Houston referendum).
When Clinton finished, even more students were outed as Sanders supporters as paper $100 bills flew like confetti all around the auditorium. The slips had phrases such as “Down with the Oligarchy” “Billionaires for Hillary, Students for Bernie” and “No more Super PACs.” Grinnell student Joshua Engel, who threw some of the confetti said, “Hillary needs to know that Bernie has already won over Grinnell College. The confetti was just a way to make a statement for the entire public.”
One thing is for sure; Clinton struggled with caucusgoers in Poweshiek County in 2008, and has not earned the favor of Grinnell students just yet.
Borchardt is a junior studying political science and law, politics, and society from Litchfield, Minnesota. This summer he interned in the office of U.S. Senator Al Franken (D-MN) and was the recipient of the Harkin Institute D.C. Experience Scholarship. He enjoys politics, Minnesota sports and playing his guitar. Follow him on Twitter.