Meme Culture in the 2016 Election Cycle

Meme Culture in the 2016 Election Cycle

Are they more than just funny jokes?
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I'm currently in my senior seminar, which is the senior capstone for my Politics major, in which we discuss problems in United States politics and possible solutions. In the past weeks we've had the opportunity to apply much of what we are learning to highly contemporary contexts, especially the current presidential primary season.

One statistic that has stuck out to me is that President Obama's approval ratings have been increasing as the primary season has chugged along, in part because the current front runners on each side, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are massively disliked figures, especially by the opposite party. This has given people the chance to revaluate their position on Obama, who had relatively low approval ratings for most of his presidency, with these polarizing comparisons available. With this in mind, I started to think about the way presidential elections have changed in the era of the internet, especially in regards to the ways young people interact with their political systems.

I did interview a couple months back with Kevin Le, the CEO of "ImagineBernie" a social media based campaign supporting Bernie Sanders. Their goal is to use social media as a way to convert millennial online supporters into voters through providing relevant voting information, debate schedules, and most importantly, images that show Bernie supporters with quotes regarding his policies (or Bernie himself), as well as memes. Such as this take on the Ryan Gosling "Hey Girl" meme:

Internet memes have completely changed the media landscape around politics; some young people don't want to watch the news but can see a meme regarding a candidate that makes them look at the issues in a visual culture and dialogue they are accustomed to. It can help make candidates relatable or show their flaws, allowing young people to partake in their own brand of conversations around political happenings.

Overall, if you look at the memes surrounding the candidates on both sides (up until last week, with Ted Cruz and John Kasich dropping out of the race for the Republican nomination, leaving Trump the nominee) they actually reflect quite accurately what poll data finds. For example, most memes about Trump, Cruz, and Clinton are negative and critical of their shortcomings.

Most of the Trump memes concern themselves with his appearance:


But some also address his failed rhetoric or outright crazy statements on the campaign trail:

(Captioned with: "Donald Trump is every student ever who didn't read the book and is trying to wing it when the teacher asks what they think it was about.")

Or just diss him, like this early 2000's throwback:

As I am sure many of you know, the internet took it upon themselves to decide that Cruz is the Zodiac Killer, leading to a number of memes to assert this "truth":

But he, too, has content created that questions his policies:

Clinton faces a similar struggle with the internet's handling of her many "scandals." Another story that I'm sure most of you have heard is in regards to the sexism often found in Bernie vs. Hillary memes that labels Clinton as out of touch with popular culture, and really...everything. I'm a huge fan of this particular format, despite the way it has been used inappropriately at times because it allows citizens the ability to question her privilege and the way that affect her policies; one of my favorite examples is the one below, referencing Sanders' friendship with Run the Jewels rapper Killer Mike:

Overall, though, Hillary is either portrayed, as aforementioned, as out of touch and trying very hard to seem "cool":

Or wildly corrupt:

Although I've chosen to not include the more sexist versions of many of the Clinton memes, it is important to note that memes and their surrounding culture are often crafted by young, white men who can code, program, etc., giving many of them an obvious bias, and showing that sexism is ever-alive and well on the internet. And this segues easily to my next point: Bernie Sanders is about the only candidate to come out on top in the meme world, and this is, in part, due to the "Bernie Bro" demographic of young, white male supporters. Interesting how that works!

There are memes that address his passion regarding his policy opinions:

And the even better iteration of the above:

Or they reflect his opinion on other candidates:


Some discuss the viability of his candidacy:

And others just make him seem even cooler than all of the above, jumping him into pop culture dialogues he's likely not even aware of, like the popularity and style of rapper Drake:

Finally, though, to round the conversation back to Obama, the memes I will miss the most at the end of this election are those of him, as well as those of him and Vice President Joe Biden, that have been subject to a similar "coolness injection" as Sanders. Obama-Biden memes often depict him as hip and collected, with Biden as a sort of goofy grandpa role that is more endearing that Clinton's brand of cultural irrelevance (do I smell more sexism, perhaps?):

Even more so, though, I will miss the memes of their "bromance":



So here's to the brilliant era of memes we live in. Let us fondly remember those of the soon-to-be past administration while we usher in the new. May our future presidential memes after this next election be just as kind, although if Trump or Clinton are our next president, meme bros seem to have already told us which way ensuing memes will swing.

Cover Image Credit: Imgur

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I'm The College Girl Who Likes Trump And Hates Feminism, And Living On A Liberal Campus Is Terrifying

I will not sugarcoat it: I don't feel safe on my own campus.

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I will get right to the point: being a conservative on a liberal college campus in 2019 downright terrifying.

At my university, I'm sure about 90% of the population, both students and faculty, are liberals. They are very outspoken, never afraid to express their views, opinions, and feelings in several ways. There are pride events for the LGBT community, a huge celebration for MLK day, and tons of events for feminists.

Then there's the minority: the conservatives. The realists. The "racists," "bigots," and "the heartless." I am everything the liberals absolutely despise.

I like Donald Trump because he puts America first and is actually getting things done. He wants to make our country a better place.

I want a wall to keep illegals out because I want my loved ones and me to be safe from any possible danger. As for those who are genuinely coming here for a better life, JUST FILL OUT THE PAPERWORK INSTEAD OF SNEAKING AROUND.

I'm pro-life; killing an infant at nine months is inhumane to me (and yet liberals say it's inhumane to keep illegals out…but let's not get into that right now).

I hate feminism. Why? Because modern feminism isn't even feminism. Slandering the male species and wanting to take down the patriarchy is just ridiculous.

I hate the media. I don't trust anyone in it. I think they are all biased, pathological liars. They purposely make our president look like the devil himself, leaving out anything good he does.

I will not sugarcoat it: I don't feel safe on my own campus.

I mostly keep my opinions to myself out of fear. When I end up getting one of my "twisted" and "uneducated" thoughts slip out, I cringe, waiting for the slap in the face.

Don't get me wrong; not everyone at my university is hostile to those who think differently than they do.

I've shared my opinions with some liberal students and professors before, and there was no bloodshed. Sure, we may not see eye to eye, but that's okay. That just means we can understand each other a little better.

Even though the handful of students and faculty I've talked to were able to swallow my opinions, I'm still overwhelmed by the thousands of other people on campus who may not be as kind and attentive. But you can't please everybody. That's just life.

Your school is supposed to be a safe environment where you can be yourself. Just because I think differently than the vast majority of my peers doesn't mean I deserve to be a target for ridicule. No one conservative does. Scratch that, NO ONE DOES.

I don't think I'll ever feel safe.

Not just on campus, but anywhere. This world is a cruel place. All I can do is stand firm in my beliefs and try to tolerate and listen to the clashing opinions of others. What else can I do?

All I can say is... listen. Be nice. Be respectful of other's opinions, even if you strongly disagree. Besides, we all do have one thing in common: the desire for a better country.

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Dear Young Voices Of America, Stand Up, Speak Up, And Do Something

Our time is now.

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Dear young voices of America, I think we can both agree that we are sick of being told we are America's future while simultaneously being told our opinions don't matter. Now I personally do not listen to the people that tell me I'm better seen than heard; however, I know there are people that are a little timider when it comes to raising their voices. I am here to encourage you to be loud and speak up on topics that matter to you. There is no better time than the present to make your voice heard. Whether you are advocating for change in your school or the government, your opinion matters and is relevant.

We are the future of our country. How are we supposed to evoke change and reform if we can't have our voices heard? I call bullshit and I think it's time to take action. Even if you're the first or only person to advocate for your cause, be that person. Don't be afraid of anyone that tries to stand in your way. The only person that can stop you from speaking up for yourself and your cause is you. No matter how many nos you have to hear to get a yes or how many doors you have to knock on to get someone to open up, never give up. Never give up on your cause, never give up on yourself or the people you're representing, just don't do it. There is someone out there that supports you. Maybe they're just too shy to raise their voice too. Be encouraging and be supportive and get people to take a stand with you.

It is never too early or too late to start thinking about your future or to take action. But don't hesitate to say something. The sooner you start speaking up, the sooner you have people joining you and helping you, and the sooner you start to see and experience change. So get up, make that sign, write that letter, make that phone call, take part in that march, give that speech. Do whatever you feel fit to get your point across. Shout it from the rooftops, write it on your profile, send it in a letter, ignore everyone that tries to tell you to give up. Maybe they don't understand now, maybe they don't want to listen, maybe they're afraid to listen, but the more you talk about it and help them understand what exactly you are trying to get across, they will join you.

Even when it feels like you have nobody on your side but yourself, I am on your side. I will cheer you on, I will march with you hand in hand, I will write letters and make phone calls and help you find your voice. My life changed when I found my voice and yours will too.

So dear young voices of America, the time is now. Your time is now. Don't be afraid of the obstacles that you may have to face. Someone is out there waiting for you, waiting to grab your hand and march on with you. As Tarana Burke once said "Get up. Stand up. Speak up. Do something."

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