The “Weak” in U.S. Politics: Trump is wrong on Obama video, Clinton is cleared by FBI, and more celebrities jump on the advocacy bandwagon.
The “Weak” in Politics as seen by Alexandra Tselios
For the past year, Roger Pugh and I have faithfully written our “weak” in U.S. politics column in anticipation for one of the most historical elections the world has ever seen. And three days out, we are tired, cynical, and watching the internet ramp up their drama with people even unfriending each other off social media, that is how much we don’t like hearing opinions different from our own. It’s not news that Facebook brings out the worst in people, but Monmouth University reports 7% of people have lost a friend or relationship during this election cycle.
MarketWatch reports, “Some 7% of voters report they either lost or ended a friendship because of this year’s presidential race, according to a recent poll of 700 voters with social media accounts carried out by Monmouth University in New Jersey. Democrats are more likely to hit the ‘unfriend’ button: 9% of supporters of the Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton have done it versus 6% of her Republican rival Donald Trump’s backers, and 3% of other voters. This is not unusual for election season: 7% of voters say they have lost friendships over political campaigns in the past, but more than two-thirds of voters say that this year’s presidential race has brought out the worst in people and most disapprove of the campaign’s harsh rhetoric.”
Why does this matter? It matters because our inability to listen to opinions that are not palatable to our own and this intense desire to only surround ourselves with opinions and people that placate our views is stopping us from becoming critical thinkers who are capable of having their political positions challenged without anger. So, it’s kind of a big deal. The complaints from many have been that they are tired of their social media feeds being full of commentary around the elections and we can’t underestimate the reach that has occurred for both candidates and their comments this past year. This harsh rhetoric itself has made a lasting impact on our culture with young teenage girls saying that the commentary around the elections and, in particular, Trump’s comments on women have impacted the way the girls feel about their bodies. We are watching comments being made about the people we work with, live with, and love being used as controversial pawns in a mad game where there seems to be no winners.
In the final stretch of the campaigns, the FBI reopening the Clinton email case was a massive blow to campaign efforts, but with FBI Director James Comey saying the latest news “does not change the agency’s conclusion reached in July that no charges were warranted in the case of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server” there is relief, while some are saying the FBI is actually Trumpland with an anti-Clinton agenda. At the same time, drama ensues for Trump when he was rushed off stage by Secret Service during a rally in Reno, Nevada, when someone in the audience yelled that there was a gun, except there was no gun and everything was fine. For now. Both Clinton and Trump rallies can get a bit dicey, including the recent rally in North Carolina when one Trump supporter turned up at a Clinton rally or vice versa. Props to Obama for the way he dealt with the Trump supporter at a Clinton rally. Yes, Trump was right about that moment, Obama did yell. He yelled to be heard over a mob-like crowd. I get that sometimes it’s hard to know in a he said/she said digital world where videos and comments can be altered—but in this case, there should be no ambiguity about Obama’s behavior at that rally nor how he treated the Trump supporter. Watch the video for yourself. I don’t actually think Trump watched it; if he did, it would make no sense that his assessment of the situation was that Obama “spent so much time screaming at this protester and, frankly, it was a disgrace.” In the catchphrase probably now patented by Trump, “Wrong.” Trump has had so many gaffes this campaign that in the final few days his own campaigners have banned him from his official Twitter account, to avoid risk of damage. Not a dumb move.
Trump also seriously criticized the recent rally where Beyoncé and Jay Z showed up in support of Hillary. Beyoncé even performed “Formation” with backup dancers dressed in blue pantsuits. Having Beyoncé endorse you is pretty cool, but Trump sulked about it saying that, “We didn’t bring any so-called stars along—we didn’t need them. The reason Hillary has to do that is, nobody comes for her. She can’t fill a room. That’s almost like a form of cheating, right?” But it’s too easy to call a celebrity endorsement as some shtick (Beyoncé also made a political statement at the recent Country Music Awards), and as cringeworthy as they can at times be, they do make a difference to how voters view the race.
For example, Amy Schumer’s recent video about the importance of voting let the public know that whether or not they vote is publicly available. Many Americans actually were not aware of this, and while Amy made it very clear she is a Clinton supporter (she even called Trump supporters “a steamy dump“), she got across a message succinctly. This matters because the internet is more likely to attack Schumer for her stance, or praise her for it, but the point is they will engage with it more than a traditional PSA video encouraging Americans to vote. As embarrassing as it is, we are a culture that takes the position Louis C.K. makes on Clinton more seriously than we would listening to Elizabeth Warren—I have never seen an Elizabeth Warren video trend on Facebook with the same impact as any celebrity political endorsement clips. Making a “we are the world” style music video, as was recently done featuring Elizabeth Banks, Moby, and Amber Rose, is what people are more likely to share. It sucks, I know, but there is a reason the Hillary Clinton interview with Zach Galifianakis has reached over 32 million views—and it’s not because of Hillary Clinton. Psychologists even suggest that our fascination with celebrities is like a drug and accessing the information is an easy fix, so it makes sense that political outreach and impact would be inclusive of celebrity endorsements. It’s too easy to mock, which is why it’s a mistake to take the endorsements and the impact they have on voters as simply flippant. Even Lady Gaga’s response to Melania Trump’s cyberbullying initiatives have had more impact in circulation than the opinions from political commentators from the most top-tier outlets.
This is the climate we are dealing with, this is the era we are navigating—and by the middle of this week we will witness a significant shift with our new POTUS.
The “Weak” in Politics as seen by Roger Pugh
Heard at the FBI
“Do you think we’ve got a big future in politics?”
“With all the scandal about politicians in our files, there’s no way we’d ever lose an election.”
Heard at the Country Club
“I’ve already voted for Hillary, but Trump’s urging me to change my vote.”
“Well, I’d like to change mine, but I’m frightened of making another mistake.”
Heard at UCLA
“Obama offered ‘The Audacity of Hope’ but what does Trump offer?”
“The Audacity of Grope.”
Heard at CNN
“Melania made a good speech yesterday.”
“I know, I heard Michelle make it last week.”
Heard in Phoenix
“I have a very uneasy feeling about the prospect of Trump becoming President.”
“A lot of other illegal immigrants feel the same way.”
Heard in a Chicago Pub
“Have you voted yet?”
“No, I’m waiting till November 8th in case Comey arrests either of them by then.”