On the trail in New Hampshire, a Pennsylvanian watches the ‘Humans of 2020’

Oscar Salazar, a Bernie Sanders supporter from Westchester County, N.Y., was one of the people interviewed for Michala Butler's 'Humans of 2020' project. Butler, of Harrisburg, Pa., is a sophomore communications student at Temple University (Photo courtesy of Michala Butler)

By Michala Butler

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Every four years, people from all over the world descend on this New England state to witness, study, and participate in the first presidential primary in the nation. And 2020 is no different.

To capture the sights and sounds of Tuesday’s hard-fought and chaotic primary, I created an Instagram account called “The Humans of 2020.”

In more than 20 interviews spread across candidate watch parties, dinners, and town halls, voters, experts and observers from different backgrounds, ideologies and beliefs all shared their viewpoints. Some were deeply passionate about the candidate they were supporting. Others were just beginning their education in American politics.

These conversations began at watch parties for last week’s Democratic debate, held by backers of former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren D-Mass.

Richard Benedetto, a political science professor from American University in Washington, D.C., who attended the Buttigieg watch party on Friday, said he was primarily focused on how the candidates intended to pay for such big-money proposals as Medicare for All. He added that “younger citizens are being naïve because they haven’t been through the experiences yet.”

Lea Wholet, who was among a group of visitors from Copenhagen, Denmark, said that as a citizen from a “big welfare state, I’m not sure free education, or free health care would work here in the United States.”

Over at the Warren watch party, U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass, said he’d endorsed his Bay State colleague because because “I want some decency back in our politics, and she has great integrity,” adding that he’d seen Warren unite both parties.

The passionate members of the “Yang Gang” were interviewed the next day February, 8th at a town hall held by entrepreneur Andrew Yang’s campaign.

Supporters who gathered at a local elementary school in Windham, N.H., said they said they saw great positivity in his Asian-American identity. They also expressed support for his proposal to create universal basic income.

Sophia Zhang, a middle school student, emphasized the importance of getting involved at a young age. She also connected to Yang’s Asian American identity and his enthusiasm.

Steve Marchard, a senior advisor to Yang’s campaign, said he believed that “one of the most powerful statements we can make against the anti-immigration redirect of Donald Trump is electing a first-generation American as president.”

On Saturday night, supporters gathered for 61st annual McIntyre-Shaheen 100 Club Dinner to see nine of the Democratic candidates speak The event was organized by the New Hampshire Democratic Party.

Hundreds of people gathered outside the event held on the campus of Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester to show support for their favorite candidates. President Donald Trump’s backers were also on hand to protest the event.

“I have a favorite word, it’s not the word hate it is hope. We cannot win an election on hate alone we should win on hope,” Kelly Abrams, a Buttigieg supporter, said. She said that all the Democratic candidates should run on this platform, because America needs positivity in the Oval Office.

Energized Sanders supporters led the crowd in dances and chants. One Sanders backer, Oscar Salazar, of New York, wore a onesie with the Vermont senator’s face all over it.

“The Bernie 2020 days are ahead. He has a new energy and he is in his prime. As you know, 79 is a prime number,” he said referring to Sanders, who is now 78, and will turn 79 this September.

College student Danielle Rubin offered a similar sentiment, arguing that the country needs a progressive candidate such as Sanders.

Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, founder of the ice cream brand Ben & Jerry’s, who have endorsed Sanders, spoke at the Bernie Breakfast event in Manchester, N.H on February 10.

“He is not for sale. Bernie is going to represent the people that support him. The other candidates are supported by big money corporations and that’s who they are going to end up supporting,” Greenfield said, adding that Sanders has supported people of color, women, and people of different sexualities in an unwavering fashion for years.

“Bernie gives off queer energy, you don’t make that being normative,” Nicholas Woo, a student at Dartmouth College, in Hanover, N.H., said.

Woo also made the point that Sanders has a humane immigration policy, along with being on the front lines of Native American rights.

Another individual, Jacob Robinson said: “I have been an environmentalist my whole live and we need to revolutionize our economy by giving people more green jobs and addressing climate change.”

Desmond Cadogan, 57, who’s still paying off his student loans, said he was backing Sanders’ call for free college, noting that “There’s all these brilliant people out there that can’t afford college access,” he said.

At a Warren Town Hall on February 9 in Lebanon, N.H. Backers said they were passionate about electing America’s first woman president.

“This is my first time seeing Warren in person and you get rejuvenated when hearing her speak,” Warren supporter Emilie Vansant said.

Jerold Paulson, who showed up in a “She Persisted” shirt, said Warren has “the IQ to come up with ways of resolving the problems this country faces. Warren has shown an ability to work with people in ways that Sanders has demonstrated a unique inability.” Other Warren supporters emphasized their support for her education plans, along with her environmental plans.

Things were entirely different at a Trump rally on Monday night.

Thousands of supporters packed the Southern New Hampshire University arena where Democrats had gathered just a few days before. They chanted “four more years,” and booed when the names and policies of the Democratic candidates were brought up.

“I support Trump because he honors the tradition of American values that people have fought for and died for,” Trump supporter Chris Morin-Dayton explained.

Another supporter, Debbie Herook said Trump “is keeping the country great. He is putting people to work; the jobs are booming. Trump is bringing enthusiasm and pride.”

Although not all of the Democratic candidate’s supporters were interviewed, Humans of 2020 has been successful in capturing all different types of voters and individuals.

It was interesting to see and interview a wide range of views. There was a true passion towards the candidate’s people support. Having the opportunity to be at nation’s first primary election and interview all types of people in New Hampshire has genuinely been an eye-opening experience.

Michala Butler, of Harrisburg, Pa., is a sophomore communications student at Temple University in Philadelphia. This piece, originally a class assignment, is reproduced with her permission.