Meme Culture in the 2016 Election Cycle

Meme Culture in the 2016 Election Cycle

Are they more than just funny jokes?

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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8 Reasons Why My Dad Is the Most Important Man In My Life

Forever my number one guy.

Growing up, there's been one consistent man I can always count on, my father. In any aspect of my life, my dad has always been there, showing me unconditional love and respect every day. No matter what, I know that my dad will always be the most important man in my life for many reasons.

1. He has always been there.

Literally. From the day I was born until today, I have never not been able to count on my dad to be there for me, uplift me and be the best dad he can be.

2. He learned to adapt and suffer through girly trends to make me happy.

I'm sure when my dad was younger and pictured his future, he didn't think about the Barbie pretend pageants, dressing up as a princess, perfecting my pigtails and enduring other countless girly events. My dad never turned me down when I wanted to play a game, no matter what and was always willing to help me pick out cute outfits and do my hair before preschool.

3. He sends the cutest texts.

Random text messages since I have gotten my own cell phone have always come my way from my dad. Those randoms "I love you so much" and "I am so proud of you" never fail to make me smile, and I can always count on my dad for an adorable text message when I'm feeling down.

4. He taught me how to be brave.

When I needed to learn how to swim, he threw me in the pool. When I needed to learn how to ride a bike, he went alongside me and made sure I didn't fall too badly. When I needed to learn how to drive, he was there next to me, making sure I didn't crash.

5. He encourages me to best the best I can be.

My dad sees the best in me, no matter how much I fail. He's always there to support me and turn my failures into successes. He can sit on the phone with me for hours, talking future career stuff and listening to me lay out my future plans and goals. He wants the absolute best for me, and no is never an option, he is always willing to do whatever it takes to get me where I need to be.

6. He gets sentimental way too often, but it's cute.

Whether you're sitting down at the kitchen table, reminiscing about your childhood, or that one song comes on that your dad insists you will dance to together on your wedding day, your dad's emotions often come out in the cutest possible way, forever reminding you how loved you are.

7. He supports you, emotionally and financially.

Need to vent about a guy in your life that isn't treating you well? My dad is there. Need some extra cash to help fund spring break? He's there for that, too.

8. He shows me how I should be treated.

Yes, my dad treats me like a princess, and I don't expect every guy I meet to wait on me hand and foot, but I do expect respect, and that's exactly what my dad showed I deserve. From the way he loves, admires, and respects me, he shows me that there are guys out there who will one day come along and treat me like that. My dad always advises me to not put up with less than I deserve and assures me that the right guy will come along one day.

For these reasons and more, my dad will forever be my No. 1 man. I love you!

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Why The Idea Of 'No Politics At The Dinner Table' Takes Place And Why We Should Avoid It

When did having a dialogue become so rare?


Why has the art of civilized debate and conversation become unheard of in daily life? Why is it considered impolite to talk politics with coworkers and friends? Expressing ideas and discussing different opinions should not be looked down upon.

I have a few ideas as to why this is our current societal norm.

1. Politics is personal.

Your politics can reveal a lot about who you are. Expressing these (sometimes controversial) opinions may put you in a vulnerable position. It is possible for people to draw unfair conclusions from one viewpoint you hold. This fosters a fear of judgment when it comes to our political beliefs.

Regardless of where you lie on the spectrum of political belief, there is a world of assumption that goes along with any opinion. People have a growing concern that others won't hear them out based on one belief.

As if a single opinion could tell you all that you should know about someone. Do your political opinions reflect who you are as a person? Does it reflect your hobbies? Your past?

The question becomes "are your politics indicative enough of who you are as a person to warrant a complete judgment?"

Personally, I do not think you would even scratch the surface of who I am just from knowing my political identification.

2. People are impolite.

The politics themselves are not impolite. But many people who wield passionate, political opinion act impolite and rude when it comes to those who disagree.

The avoidance of this topic among friends, family, acquaintances and just in general, is out of a desire to 'keep the peace'. Many people have friends who disagree with them and even family who disagree with them. We justify our silence out of a desire to avoid unpleasant situations.

I will offer this: It might even be better to argue with the ones you love and care about, because they already know who you are aside from your politics, and they love you unconditionally (or at least I would hope).

We should be having these unpleasant conversations. And you know what? They don't even need to be unpleasant! Shouldn't we be capable of debating in a civilized manner? Can't we find common ground?

I attribute the loss of political conversation in daily life to these factors. 'Keeping the peace' isn't an excuse. We should be discussing our opinions constantly and we should be discussing them with those who think differently.

Instead of discouraging political conversation, we should be encouraging kindness and understanding. That's how we will avoid the unpleasantness that these conversations sometimes bring.

By avoiding them altogether, we are doing our youth a disservice because they are not being exposed to government, law, and politics, and they are not learning to deal with people and ideas that they don't agree with.

Next Thanksgiving, talk politics at the table.

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