By Ethan Hogan and Lia Windt
Only around 100 students were selected from a raffle of thousands of applicants to attend the Democratic debate last Thursday at UNH. However, that did not stop students and supporters from at least trying to have their voices heard in the vicinity. Just across the street from the debate site, demonstrators contained in a box of police line tape held up signs and chanted “Hey hey! Ho ho! These fossil fuels have got to go!”
Several students could only look on as the line of ticket holders quickly filed in to the Paul Creative Arts Center. Student Brendan Murphy spoke to WUNH about how he thinks students should have a spot in the debate. “I feel like it’s not about the outside community; this is our campus and we should be able to participate and learn about politics because that’s a huge topic in the media today,” he said.
A band nestled close to the queue cheerfully played “This Land is Your Land,” and appropriately so, not only because of the patriotic atmosphere, but also because they are a band that is specifically focused on spreading the word of climate change.
“We’re all Sharky McGee; we’re the leftist marching band. We’re here to support awareness about climate change and hope that the candidates in their debate will discuss the problems of the environment,” said one of the members.
While there was plenty of enthusiasm outside before the main event, a group of 200 students, disappointed but still excited to be part of the historical night, gathered in the MUB to watch the debate on the projection screen in Union Court. A camera crew from MSNBC was there to pump up the crowd with live shots of students showing support and chanting, “Every day is a great day to be a wildcat!” For a moment, the crowd watched itself on the big screen, as they were broadcast live on MSNBC.
“It is pretty intense, they are already butting heads,” said Sarahanne Kent, a UNH undergrad sitting close to the projector soon after the debate began. “It is interesting just seeing the two of them, it is different when you don’t have that third element; it is a little more confrontational,” Kent said.
“[Clinton] is spitting out a lot of shade,” said Conor Hayward a biomedical science student. “Because there is no O’Malley, it is just one versus one, mano y mano.”
“This is so spicy,” added Hayward’s friend Alyssa Trickett on the first section of the debate.
Naturally, the Sanders supporters at Union Court cheered for Sanders, most notably at his free college plan, his criticism of Super PACs and his plan to communicate with enemies. They were respectful of Clinton’s opinions, however they outright booed at her claim that Sanders and his campaign were trying to back-handedly smear her image.
The debate ended, and attendees began filing out of the building.
Aric Bernard, an early American history major, and one of the lucky students who won the raffle, got to witness the debate live and in person. Sitting between a die-hard Sanders supporter and a die-hard Clinton supporter, Bernard said that the energy was heightened early on but eventually settled down.
“I was just loving it, it was very different from watching it on TV,” said Bernard, adding, “Halfway through I forgot that millions of people were seeing the same thing I was watching. I was in the middle of history, literally. It’s a great feeling.”
Bernard had seen the town hall meetings earlier in the week and noted that the candidates were more reserved during the debate.
“I wish they delved deeper into climate change,” said Bernard, “It seems like that is a recurring factor in all these debates, they’ll touch it, they’ll remind the audience that it’s there but then shy away from really getting into the details.”
Steve Cowley, another golden ticket winner, said that he felt Sanders made some good points but was surprised at how Clinton was able to appear more authentic than she has been criticized for being.
“A lot of people were surprised by Clinton because people are used to her being presented as boring and [representing] establishment,” said Cowley adding, “I think she did better than most people expected. She made a good case about how she had gone out on a limb on a lot of issues like health care in the nineties.”