Politicker: Internet playing key role this election
Presidential election year politics have a tendency to be wild and frenzied, given how much is at stake. Candidates try in all their earnest to capture the collective will of their electorate by condensing complexly formed and intensely felt opinions into recyclable sound bites to be plastered on bumper stickers. This particular cycle has taken on a life of its own, as the old folk who stand behind the lectern are increasingly subjected to the haphazard will of technology they do not understand. Despite the millions of dollars candidates pay their experts to strategize social media, few seem to have anything more than a tenuous grasp of hashtags and viral campaigns. From Jeb Bush’s “Guac Bowl” to Bernie Sanders memes, even to Hillary Clinton’s cringe-fueled tweets, the experience of politics for voters younger than 35 is determined by the Internet. Their opinions are delicately molded by jokes, tweets and vines—not by substantive campaign promises.
And as many of us know by now, the youth do not vote—until now.
The zeitgeist seems to say that the average American is appalled by the establishment in either wing. The piteous dependence on parasitic special interests has sullied the names of many run-of-the-mill politicians, even by association. And while it is wise to trust experience, involvement on Capitol Hill seems to do more bad than good for candidates. Hence, the standouts this year have been Donald Trump and Sanders, both of whom are detested by their respective parties.
Trump, the businessman, draws much of his popularity by “not being one of them,” while Sanders, the self-proclaimed Democratic socialist of the bunch, was long cast-off as the crazy old guy with weird hair who wants to save the world, like Al Gore.
What this unlikely duo has in common is their appeal to the common folk; their populist rhetoric is a soothing panacea to the reviling false promises of career politicians. The populist reformation has taken hold in America in response to the failures of our politicians to effect meaningful change in an era of endless flux. Save for the tricorn hats and peacoats, the modern revolutionaries unknowingly wield the power of the Internet. Sanders’ support is amplified by well-educated youths stifled by student loans and an economy not befitting of their skills. Their penchant for memes, meta jokes and pop culture references rouses deep emotional attachments to the Sanders campaign. Their steadfast belief in the power of democratic socialism is insurmountable, and the affectionately and aptly named “Bernie Bros” take to the comments section of just about any website they can get their clammy hands on to defend it.
Trump, perhaps the most peculiar case in electoral history since Ronald Reagan, does not garner his popularity solely from racist xenophobes. There is a growing contingent of supporters who began supporting him as a joke but have since drank enough of the Kool Aid to see logic in his platform. Viral videos like the “You Can’t Stump the Trump” series elevate Trump to the status of a god and boast a significant number of views. The logic these jokesters have discovered is that Trump’s election is the fourth horse of the apocalypse for a political system that has failed these young, professional men who feel abandoned by the policies of the Obama administration. To them, Trump’s election means the dawn of a new era, the peaceful revolution. These Democrat defectors found solace in the “moderate views” of Trump, views that speak to their growing discomfort with the direction American society is heading in. Trump’s rejection of the notion of “political correctness” enables these marginalized groups to speak freely among one another, rattling off as many highly rationalized, thinly veiled racist comments as they like.
Whether it is their unwavering support for the police, their distrust of immigrants and refugees, or their fervent abhorrence of anything Washington-politics related, these Trump supporters find common ground with their faceless Internet buddies. The number of Facebook pages posting pro-Trump material fueled by backlash against “the liberals” seem to be multiplying by mitosis; a similar phenomenon is sweeping the Sanders campaign. The populist reformation, carried by the broad shoulders of the Internet, is undoubtedly a turning point in American politics, the culmination of decades of the textbook principal-agent problem.
And no matter who becomes the next King Washington, whether the crown falls on a bald head or a toupee, the message is clear: the electorate is finally holding the capitol liable for their mistakes.