Last April, young Democrats excitedly shared Hillary Clinton’s presidential announcement video all over social media, declaring they were #ReadyForHillary. A year later, and that excitement has been replaced with hostility from her own party. The blame points quickly and easily to her competitor, Senator Bernie Sanders. At a the Democratic debate held on February 4, Clinton called an unfavorable portrait painted of her by the Sanders campaign an “artful smear,” but she is wrong. The smear campaign is not coming from Sanders, it’s coming from his followers. Some of his followers are actively dishonoring Sanders’ mission to not run a negative campaign. They’re not just pro-Sanders, but vehemently anti-Clinton. How are they spreading their hostile message? Memes.
Political memes are nothing new. Since Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, memes have become a mainstay in our modern political discourse. What’s new is the way they are being used. In the extremely popular Facebook group “Bernie Sanders’ Dank Meme Stash”, anyone with access to photoshop can post self-made memes, which, at times, verge on propaganda. Many insult Ted Cruz or Donald Trump, but a troubling amount attack Clinton. The most popular meme in the group — a fictionalized “Where The Candidates Stand” on pop culture — consistently paints Sanders as smart, culturally in-touch and kind and Clinton as stupid, cruel and out-of-touch.
It seems ridiculous that we should be talking about “Dank Memes” seriously. At first glance, these memes are merely harmless fun, a clever riff on Clinton’s misguided attempt to appeal to millennials. However, the impact of these seemingly innocuous memes is troubling. Clinton’s reputation is being attacked to the point that some Sanders supporters are claiming that they will abstain from voting if she wins the nomination. That’s where it gets scary. In a world where Donald Trump could feasibly become president, we can’t allow memes to ruin the Democratic Party’s shot at the presidency.
Clinton has her problems. She’s made some bad decisions and it’s okay to address that. However, it’s not okay to exploit and exaggerate Clinton’s mistakes in such a way that paints her as a supervillain, and makes Sanders out to be a saint. The fact is that Clinton is tracking ahead of Sanders. While it’s possible Sanders may win the nomination, it’s more likely that Clinton will. In that case, she is our only shot of ensuring that no racist, misogynist or xenophobic candidates are able to run our country.
I’m not suggesting voting for Clinton over Sanders. I’m insisting we end the damage and harm being done to Clinton’s reputation by members of her own party. The memes may seem funny now, but they won’t seem so funny when Donald Trump or Ted Cruz becomes president because liberals have taken Clinton jokes too far.
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Email Colin Burke at [email protected]