The Disruptive Memes
Shaping Our Views

Poplitical is a Swagger series that'll examine the intersection of pop-culture and politics. It'll last thorough the 2016 Elections.

Late Sunday night, John Oliver broke the social internet with #MakeDonaldDrumpfAgain, a 22-minute assault on the pedigree (and viability) of presidential candidate, Donald Trump. The clip made for viral gold: Trump was its star, takedown was its task, and a quirky hashtag piqued interest among the unconverted. Once the clip began to roll down our timelines, it spread 4 times as fast as Trump's slogan #MakeAmericaGreatAgain. By morning, Oliver's tweet had seen some 20,000 Retweets and 350,000 hashtag mentions.

Discussions ensued, fights broke out among pro and anti-Trump supporters, Trump's past statements were taken to task. For 24 hours, Twitter became our townhall.

This election cycle, candidates have been jostled on the social platform unlike ever before, forced to address important issues that never seem to fit into a television special. (Sidenote: That's probably why we don't watch them. According to Variety, only 23% of the viewership from ABC's last debate were from the 18-49 demo). Collectively, young people have made waves in usurping media's traditional channels to give themselves a voice on arguably the most democratic outlets of them all: Twitter.

When Bernie Sanders took to the campaign trail, defining himself has THE civil rights candidate (he marched on Washington in the 60s), many in the black community believed that he, more than Secretary Clinton, would be observant of their needs. But after a video surfaced on Twitter showing Sanders hushing a group of Black Lives Matter activists, Twitter was aflame. At a stump speech the next day, according to VOX, Sanders switched things up by speaking at length about the death of Sandra Bland, a black woman, at the hands of cops. And later, in a NYT Magazine piece, aptly titled "Bernie Sanders Has Heard About That Hashtag", the candidate addressed #BernieSoBlack, a subversive trending topic that poked fun at how "for"-but-not-really-"for" the black movement he really was (ex: ‘‘#BernieSoBlack, he’s dropping a mix tape.’’). Now. the candidate's made civil rights a cornerstone of his platform.

With all this hullabaloo starting online and forcing itself offline, candidates might begin to concentrate more efforts in speaking to the digital community first...or suffer from the chatter.

Take Hillary Clinton, for example. In arguably the most disastrous affront to her campaign this year, a young woman named

Ashley Williams staged an offline protest against Ms. Clinton

which soon raged into an online revolution under the hashtag, #WhichHillary. Incensed by the candidate's support of the 1994 Crime Bill, which resulted in the institutionalization of high numbers of African-Americans, Williams posted a video confronting Clinton, screaming "We want you to apologize for mass incarceration!" and "I am not a super-predator" (In one stump speech, Clinton called violent members of the black community "super predators"). #WhichHillary posed the question "Which Hillary will we get in office", further stoking questions around the candidate's transparency, while educating the black community - a crucial voting bloc - on the impacts of that bill.

After some 20 years of never having to confront the implications of her words back in '94, Clinton released a statement to the Washington Post shortly after #WhichHillary went viral. "“Looking back, I shouldn’t have used those words, and I wouldn’t use them today.” It was a feat for online activists everywhere, proving that despite not always being given a voice on TV, in the papers, or other forms of traditional media, they could be heard on Twitter.

But it should be said that although social media has granted many of us the voice we've clamored for, it will never be a replacement for our vote. On this Super Tuesday, but a small portion of millennials cast a ballot for a candidate. And in 2008, even amidst the excitement of Barack Obama, only 66% of young people showed up to the polls. With our numbers matching those of the large Baby Boomer population by this November, the choosing of the next president falls upon our shoulders. So let's talk shit on Twitter - great! - but let's be about shit when it matters...at the polls Then there's no pointing fingers about #WhichCandidate makes it into the Oval Office.

Below are some of the most controversial, and most successful, memes that have shaped the campaign trail...so far.


Mar 3, 2016


Cassandra Alcide