As High Schoolers for Hillary, it's crucial to build bridges with former Sandernistas to ensure that our next President has our best interests in mind. I'm certainly grateful for the progressive shifts Sanders inspired in HRC, and I think that their substantive debates highlighted our democracy at its best. Check out this enlightening interview, conducted by Ilana Cohen (NY). -Bella D.
Throughout the primaries, I watched students at my high school sport “Feel the Bern” baseball caps and T-shirts without question while many Hillary Clinton supporters remained below the radar. Now, many of these vocal students and passionate Sanders supporters around the nation are supporting Clinton on her historic campaign for the presidency, joining the resistance against Republican opponent Donald Trump. Still, the Bernie or Bust movement persists. Figures like actress and activist Susan Sarandon have suggested that Trump--the very antithesis to the liberal policies Sanders advocated for--would bring the “political revolution” once in office. Even after Bernie Sanders endorsed Hillary Clinton with vigor at the Democratic National Convention this past July, a small group of Sanders supporters have refused to change their minds.
In order to gain a fuller understanding of how the entirety of the Bernie Sanders campaign has affected this election for teens, I decided to speak with student Kara Gurl about her experience as a former Sanders supporter now backing Clinton. A political enthusiast and liberal Democrat, Kara previously interned for Mayor Bill de Blasio and ran the Students Organize Students club at her high school, The Beacon School. Throughout her senior year, Kara also volunteered for the Bernie Sanders campaign and worked to ensure that her eligible peers became registered voters in order to participate in the New York primary. Now, as a rising freshman at Columbia University, Kara voices her support for Hillary Clinton and encourages other young Sanders supporters to do the same.
Read the full High Schoolers for Hillary interview with Kara Gurl below:
Ilana Cohen: Why did you initially support Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination?
Kara Gurl: I initially supported Bernie because I liked how progressive he was. One of the issues that I care most about is income inequality, so when I heard Bernie talk about the one percent and corporate greed, I completely agreed with him. I thought it was great that he worked towards destigmatizing socialism...He also seemed extremely genuine about everything he believed in; he didn't talk about inequality while taking money from Super PACs, and he relied primarily on small individual donations...I didn't like that Hillary was so corporate...I really supported [Bernie] for the Democratic nomination and the presidency.
Ilana Cohen: How did you get involved with the Bernie Sanders campaign? Can you describe your experience as a teen in this political setting?
Kara Gurl: When I decided that I was going to support Bernie, I started attending local Team Bernie NY meetings in my neighborhood. [At first] there were only a few of us that consistently attended every meeting...and I was the youngest, but everyone was extremely passionate about Bernie...As a teen, I felt very comfortable on the Bernie campaign because so many young people felt so passionate about Bernie. One of my favorite things about him was his ability to mobilize teens and millennials in a way that no other candidate has been able to do. Even though I turned 18 before the primary, so I could vote, his campaign showed me so many ways for teens to get involved politically even before they can vote.
Ilana Cohen: How did you feel when Hillary won the Democratic nomination?
Kara Gurl: When Hillary won the Democratic nomination, I was pretty unhappy. I felt that...her nomination would potentially ensure a Trump presidency...Even though this is one of the first presidential elections I've paid attention to, Bernie was unlike any other candidate I'd ever heard of...I was also really curious about whether or not Bernie would support Hillary's nomination, and how his supporters would react.
Ilana Cohen: What made you change your mind about Hillary as the presidential nominee? In other words, why do you support her now?
Kara Gurl: I changed my mind about Hillary because I realized that even though I'm politically much more [liberal] than she is, I agree with her so much more than I do with Donald Trump. I think that voting for anyone except Hillary--or not voting at all--is basically a vote for Trump. There are a lot of things wrong with our political system...but that's a much larger issue. I think it's better to go with Hillary who...is exponentially better than Trump, rather than voting for a third party candidate and splitting the Democratic vote, ultimately helping Trump. I also really love that [Hillary’s] a woman; her gender definitely shouldn't be the only reason people vote for her, but it's really empowering to finally have a woman as a Democratic presidential nominee.
Ilana Cohen: Do you plan on volunteering for Hillary or supporting her in a way similar to how you previously supported Bernie Sanders?
Kara Gurl: I do plan on volunteering for Hillary but not as much as I volunteered for Bernie. With the Bernie campaign I felt really passionate about him as a person and a candidate, but for Hillary I feel that I wouldn't be the best volunteer because I'm voting for her mostly out of dislike for Trump...That being said, I still will volunteer a bit, especially around election day, because I'm worried that a lot of people won't come out to vote because they think Hillary will definitely win, so I want to help ensure that everyone goes to vote when the time comes.
Ilana Cohen: What are your thoughts on the Bernie or Bust movement?
Kara Gurl: I can see where the Bernie or Bust people are coming from, but I disagree with them. I think it takes a lot of privilege to be able to risk a Trump presidency for your own personal morals and values, and a ton of groups in America cannot afford to make that sacrifice. I wish that we lived in a country where the two-party system wasn't so polarized, but we don't and taking that anger out on Hillary and indirectly electing Trump is not the answer. Bernie himself has said many times that he doesn't agree with the Bernie or Bust movement and that he thinks everyone should focus primarily on keeping Trump out of the White House. [It’s] scary that Bernie's "political revolution" has gotten out of hand to the point where some of his supporters are starting to go against what he says by booing every mention of Hillary at the DNC.
Ilana Cohen: What do you believe is the best way to recruit more young Bernie Sanders supporters like yourself to the Hillary campaign?
Kara Gurl: I think the best way to recruit young Bernie supporters is to highlight all of the progressive things Hillary has done throughout her career. She has made some mistakes, but comparing her record to Trump's proves that she is more qualified to be president than Trump will ever be. A lot of young voters don't remember what happened in the 2000 election, when Nader took away a lot of Democratic progressive votes from Gore, which ultimately helped elect Bush--similarly to how Jill Stein might be taking a lot of the Bernie vote in this election--so I think it's important to show young voters examples of when voting third party has long term effects...Framing the Hillary campaign as a movement in partnership with Bernie against Trump is definitely the best way to recruit young Bernie supporters because the one thing that most Democrats can agree on is how terrible Trump and his policies would be.
Ilana Cohen: What are you looking forward to in terms of the presidential election as we near Election Day in November?
Kara Gurl: I'm really excited that this is the first presidential general election I'll be able to vote in. It's such a polarizing election but it's also bringing people together in a weird way because so many people hate Trump so much...I'm kind of nervous about Trump's potential to actually win, but I'm excited for Hillary's Get Out The Vote mission because I really want to help ensure that everyone goes to vote. I also want to see if there will be any big surprises once the votes come in... This election has been so unpredictable already that I don't think anything is totally impossible going forward.