Popular vote or popular culture? – The hood
Popular vote or popular culture?
How being a “fan” of politicians has affected American citizens
By Julia McCoy
January 2022 marks one year since the Capitol building in Washington, DC was stormed by insurgents who operated under the guise of patriotism. On January 6, 2021, thousands of people swarmed the historic building in hopes of “stopping the theft” of the 2020 presidential election, in which President Joe Biden was ultimately elected.
Those in that crowd, whether explicitly emboldened by his words or not, were loyalists of former President Donald Trump who wanted to retain his presidency for a second term. Many risked prison and death to protect a politician they were loyal to.
During this decade, it became increasingly popular to think of yourself as a “fan” of a politician, even if those labels weren’t spoken out loud. Candidates in the elections of all parties sell
merchandise and aspire to amass many followers on Twitter and other social media platforms. But why? This was certainly not the case in the history of the country.
Whether it’s Donald Trump’s famous “Make America Great Again” or President Biden’s apparent response, “We Just Did”, the country has become polarized not only at the polls, but also in a inevitably societal. People wear clothes that indicate their party preference, more than just a color or a donkey symbol. What has happened in response is a catastrophic rift between citizens that makes us wonder if we are capable of maintaining relationships without broaching the topic of politics.
Not only does this interesting situation alienate parties, but it also reaffirms the bipartisan dynamic that the United States has powerfully established. Those who disagree with either contestant may feel lost in a sea of loyal fans and ultimately be persuaded to choose one of the two. A country of fans does not bode well for those trying to usher in the rise of a lesser-known party.
Basically, it’s important for the country to remember that elections are a process in which we hire someone. The president, or an elected official at any level, is essentially an employee of the people who should be prepared to listen to the voice of the people. They are paid by our taxes and the fate of their profession rests in the hands of our vote. By emboldening these men and women with excessive fanfare and glorifying their actions, politicians can feel more powerful and less likely to respond to the demands of their constituents.
In a New York Times essay titled “How Fan Culture is Swallowing Democracy,” Amanda Hess writes, “We are witnessing a great convergence between politics and culture, values and aesthetics, citizenship and commercialism. With the growing popularity of social media platforms as a means of primarily consuming media, citizens run the risk of presenting a politician with the same fanfare they would give their favorite artist or actor. And politicians, through tweets of their own merch and personal, aren’t against the idea of their increased presence in pop culture.
When does it end? We’ve seen two presidents tweeting promises about an end to a pandemic. We’ve seen presidential candidates lean into their popularity on social media. We have seen citizens fight on behalf of a politician. To reevaluate the situation, the country must step back and realize that, for the good of the people, politicians must be treated as employees of the citizens of the United States. We don’t have to vote for the same people, but we certainly don’t have to defend those we vote for to the point of risking our own lives.