I’ve been a Hillary Clinton fan since day one. As a matter fact I even voted for her when she ran against then-Senator Barack Obama in 2008. My thinking was that she had the experience and the knowledge to not only hold the highest office in the land but also do a great job. Other than sitting alongside her husband during his eight years as president, she also had a pretty successful term as a New York state senator.
But in 2016 Hillary Clinton has far more experience and has definitely made a name for herself outside of who she’s married to. Yes, there’s a lot of baggage around the Clinton name: Benghazi, “email-gate” and even national healthcare going back to the 90’s. But she is still Hillary “The” Clinton. Regardless of whatever baggage is associated with her name she still has the most experience, the best experience and for the most part outpaces Donald Trump in all of the national polls (although those numbers fluctuate). So today in the lovely state of California I cast my ballot for Hillary Clinton. But should I have marked off Bernie Sanders’ name instead?
As soon as I left the polls I called my dad (to talk about something else). The conversation quickly turned to politics. My dad is a political nut and loves discussing the latest election news. So I knew any conversation surrounding today’s election might turn into a lengthy one, but I still found myself defending my reasons for voting for Hillary Clinton and not Bernie Sanders. My dad’s argument in favor of Bernie Sanders was that he has long since fought for civil rights, he’s been a successful senator (albeit from Vermont), and he really is a man “for the people”. Hillary Clinton, while well qualified for the position of President, has too much baggage and has since fallen in the polls against Donald Trump. Now we know the polls can change on a daily or even hourly basis so that point didn’t mean much to me. Shoot, the way Donald Trump has talked about other races, even as recently as yesterday, makes me think that anyone running against him would win in a landslide. In my opinion, he’s talking himself out of office every time he’s in front of a microphone.
But back to Bernie Sanders. Should I have voted for him instead of Hillary? Yes he is older, yes he’s from Vermont and yes he’s got some pretty “crazy” ideas (like free college for all) but isn’t that what this country needs right now?
Honestly I felt as if Bernie didn’t have the experience to run this country. Yes he’s been politically active all of his life, and has even fought for African American civil rights. However running the state of Vermont doesn’t exactly qualify you to run the entire country. That’s like saying because you know how to ride a bicycle that qualifies you to drive a 16-wheeler big rig. It doesn’t; it just doesn’t.
America is all about giving the ‘little guy’ a chance (unless you happen to be African-American, but that’s a whole nother post). So while I knew deep down that the state of California would’ve selected Hillary Clinton as our nominee, I should’ve cast my ballot for Bernie. Because even the Jewish guy with the crazy ideas from Brooklyn deserves a chance to be our next President.
Voting can be stressful. I learned this the hard way several years ago. I had the “opportunity” to choose between the morally blighted incumbent, who defended a colleague who sent lewd messages to and solicited sex from teenaged congressional pages, and the intellectually blighted challenger, who made outlandish statements and switched parties at the drop of a hat.
I was going to be ashamed of my vote regardless of who it was for. And I distinctly remember putting off voting several times on Election Day and then, after deciding I couldn’t stomach pondering the disgust-inducing decision any longer, walking into the voting booth perspiring (on a cold November day) with a racing heartbeat.
I was actually surprised at my response. I think and talk about voting almost on a daily basis. At worst it should have been an unpleasant task, like mowing the grass. But sweaty palms? No way! I’m a professional political scientist.
HORMONES AND VOTING COLLIDE
But I shouldn’t have been surprised, because as some colleagues put it, I was experiencing the collision of democracy and endocrinology.
When faced with a stressful situation, our adrenal glands secrete the hormone cortisol to help prime our bodies to respond to the threat. It accomplishes this by doing things like maintaining blood pressure and making sure glucose (energy) is not diverted away from the central nervous system, which includes our most important weapon, our brain.
Cortisol levels have been found to increase in fighting situations as well as other threatening circumstances like investors making trading decisions and students taking tests. Further, cortisol levels have also been found to increase in anticipation of stressful events—like having to choose between “blighted” candidates.
WAS CORTISOL THE CULPRIT?
Research suggests it’s certainly possible. In one set of studies, Israel Waismel-Manor (link is external), Gal Ifergane, and Hagit Cohen found that voters on Election Day “exhibited extremely high levels of cortisol,” reaching almost twice the level they experience on a normal day. And in an interesting twist on this, Chris Larimer (link is external), Kevin Smith (link is external), and John Hibbing (link is external) found that individuals with higher baseline levels of cortisol were more susceptible to social pressure to vote, which they suggest happens because those people want to alleviate the unpleasant pressure to vote.
The fact that voting is demonstrably stressful is important to understand. It suggests that we may be able to increase voter turnout if we could somehow make voting less stressful. Voting may be stressful for some people because of the conflict involved, but it may also be stressful because going to the polls forces people to participate in formal yet unfamiliar processes with unfamiliar people. While there’s not much that can be done about the conflict in elections–they are, after all, competitions–we may be able to reduce the social stressors of voting procedures by, for instance, making casting a vote more familiar and less public.
OH, BY THE WAY
Another thing Israel and his colleagues found: people voting for parties that were expected to lose also had higher levels of cortisol. That must have been my real problem that election…voting for losers.
Is voting stressful for you?! Share in the comments below –
*Article originally published on Psychology Today.
Voting bring us together as Americans – it doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, young or old; it is the one time when we are all equal.
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The 15th Amendment, granting African-American men the right to vote, was formally adopted into the U.S. Constitution on March 30, 1870 after the House of Representatives passed the 15th Amendment on February 25, 1869, by a vote of 144 to 44, and the Senate passed the 15th Amendment on February 26, 1869, by a vote of 39 to 13. Passed by Congress the year before, the amendment reads: “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”
President Ulysses S. Grant called the amendment “the most important event that has occurred since the nation came into life,” Grant urged whites not to interfere with the enforcement of the new provision, and reminded African Americans of their responsibilities as voters. News of the Fifteenth Amendment’s passage was greeted with jubilation in the African American communities. There were major parades in New York and Baltimore to mark the occasion, as well as commemorative events in subsequent years to mark the anniversary. The expansion of the franchise also had the immediate effect of increasing the number of African American men serving in public office. It is estimated that between the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment and the end of Congressional Reconstruction in 1877, about two thousand African Americans served in local and state government offices, including state legislatures, and as members of Congress.
These gains, however, proved difficult to maintain, especially in the face of increasing white hostility to progress made by African Americans. By late in the nineteenth and early in the twentieth centuries, as northern Republicans grew weary of interceding in the political and racial conflicts in the South, southern whites successful engineered, through the law and through force, a return to “home rule.” Legislatures throughout the South instituted provisions like literacy tests, poll taxes, and “grandfather clauses” in their constitutions, effectively limiting the eligibility of African American men, and scores of white men, to vote and hold elected office. What was not accomplished through the law was accomplished through threats, intimidation, and violence, mainly at the hands of groups like the Ku Klux Klan.
Not until the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s—a period sometime referred to as American’s Second Reconstruction—were most African Americans able to regain this lost political ground. The ratification of the Twenty-fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1964 outlawing the poll tax in federal elections, and the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 (not to mention the earlier passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1919 also giving black women the right to vote) were meaningful steps in restoring to America’s black citizens the protections necessary to secure their right to vote, and to participate effectively in America’s democratic process.
Despite the amendment, by the late 1870s, various discriminatory practices were used to prevent African Americans from exercising their right to vote, especially in the South. After decades of discrimination, it would take the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 before the majority of African Americans in the South were registered to vote.
Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm was a woman who was known for her moral character and her relentless ability to stand up for her community and what she believed. A child to immigrant parents, she learned from an early age the importance of an education and the value of hard work, both of which she applied to her political career and her accomplishments while serving as a Congresswoman.
Chisholm attended Brooklyn College where a blind political science professor, Louis Warsoff, encouraged Chisholm to consider politics based on her “quick mind and debating skills.” She reminded him that she had a “double handicap” when it came to politics—she was black and a woman. Chisholm joined the debate team and after African-American students were denied admittance to a social club at the college, she started her own club called Ipothia—In Pursuit of the Highest In All.
Shirley graduated with honors in 1946 and worked as a nursery school aide and teacher while she attended evening classes at Columbia University’s Teachers College. She received her masters degree in early childhood education in 1951, and eventually became a consultant to the New York City Division of Day Care in 1960.
Chisholm joined a local Democratic club who worked to get rid of the white Democratic machine that held the power in her Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. The group challenged the white leaders on why the black neighborhoods were being ignored. The leaders tried to quiet Chisholm by placing her on the board of directors and when she continued to speak out, they removed her from the post. This was an early lesson for Chisholm that people in political power did not like to be questioned!
The group managed to elect a black man, Thomas R. Jones, to state assembly in 1962 and, when in 1964 he decided to run for a judgeship, the community replaced him with Chisholm. She served in the state legislature until 1968 when she decided to run for a seat in the U.S. Congress. The 12th Congressional District was created after the Westberry v. Sanders decision stated that election districts must be roughly equal in population. Chisholm won the seat with the use of her “independent spirit” and her campaign slogan, “Unbought and Unbossed.” Chisholm’s win made her the 1st African American woman in Congress.
Like Margaret Chase Smith, who had served in the Congress almost 30 years before her, Chisholm learned the politics of committees. She had asked to be on the Education and Labor Committee, a natural selection for someone with a strong teaching background. She not only did not get placed on this committee, but did not get placed on any of the committees that she had requested. Instead they placed her on the Agriculture Committee, which was a rather odd choice for a city woman. Chisholm did not sit back and be quiet about it; instead, this strong-willed woman stated her case to the Democratic caucus. This eventually worked and they removed her from the Agriculture Committee and placed her on Veterans’ Affairs. While this had not been one of her original choices, she responded by saying, “There are a lot more veterans in my district than trees.”
It was during her 2nd term in the House that Chisholm ran for the US Presidency. She became the 1st black woman to run for president, but this is not what she wanted people to focus on during her campaign. The fact that her campaign was seen primarily as “symbolic” by many really hurt her. She did not run on the mere base of being a “first,” but because she wanted to be seen as “a real, viable candidate.”
Her bid for the presidency was referred to as the “Chisholm Trail,” and she won a lot of support from students, women and minority groups. She entered 11 primaries and campaigned in several states, particularly Florida, but with little money she was challenged. Her campaign was “under-organized, under-financed and unprepared.” It was calculated that she raised and spent only $300,000 between July 1971 when she first thought of running, and July of 1972.
Overall, people in 14 states voted for Shirley Chisholm for president, in some fashion or the other. After six months of campaigning, she had 28 delegates committed to vote for her at the Democratic Convention. The 1972 Democratic Convention was in July in Miami, and it was the first major convention in which an African American woman was considered for the presidential nomination. Although she did not win the nomination, she received 151 of the delegates’ votes.
Chisholm served a total of 14 years in the Congress and made numerous contributions before she made the decision to retire in 1982. During her time in office she was one of the four founders of the National Women’s Political Caucus in 1971, was appointed to the “powerful” House Rules Committee in 1977 and introduced more than 50 pieces of legislation. President William J. Clinton nominated Chisholm to be the U.S. Ambassador to Jamaica, but she declined due to ill health.
Chisholm went on to teach college and co-founded the National Political Congress of Black Women, which represented black women’s concerns. When asked how she wanted to be remembered, Chisholm said, “When I die, I want to be remembered as a woman who lived in the 20th century and who dared to be a catalyst of change. I don’t want to be remembered as the first black woman who went to Congress. And I don’t even want to be remembered as the first woman who happened to be black to make the bid for the presidency. I want to be remembered as a woman who fought for change in the 20th century. That’s what I want.”