The Internet’s Commandeering of Bernie Sanders

Curator's Note

Bernie Sanders’ use of social media in his presidential primary campaign was meant to connect him with voters that he may normally never have been able to reach. Social media proved to be a success in connecting Sanders to a large demographic: millennials. Millennials comprised one of the largest groups of Sanders supporters because of his progressive policies, but also because of the way he courted voters. However, the way many millennials promoted their views on social media could be considered unconventional. Bernie Sanders, because of his views and personality, became an easy target for a vast amount of memes that commented on the state of politics.

As Sanders continued to use social media as his main form of campaigning, memes supporting and opposing his policies were being created with increasing frequency. The Facebook page “Bernie Sanders’ Dank Meme Stash” became a popular page for political memes surrounding Sanders and the election in general. The main demographic producing these memes are the same millennials that Sanders was courting. So even though Sanders had gained the support of a large community, the way the community was viewed by the media and other outlets led to Bernie Sanders, whose democratic socialist policies were already seen as preposterous by many, being painted even more as a candidate who was not to be taken seriously.

This representation of Sanders would eventually be among one of the reasons his primary campaign was unsuccessful. The portrayal of millennials in the media usually targets what many see as their lofty and unrealistic goals. Given the fact that this mirrors the way the media depicted Sanders, and that millennials are largely seen as lazy and entitled, the connotations of having the largest amount of support from this demographic decidedly sidetracked his campaign. In the end, Bernie Sanders’ social media campaign was undoubtedly successful with a large portion of the population; it was just that those supporters did not transfer to a winning political narrative. This shows that although social media can be a wonderful asset for candidates, there is still a wrong way to be supported as evidenced by the interpretations of millennial Sanders supporters.


I am fascinated by the notion that in capturing the all-important "youth vote" a candidate may become associated with the negative stereotypes of a young generation. What do you think about the Birdie Sanders phenomenon in this light? It was clever and appealing in some ways, but may have also contributed to a sense of the Sanders campaign as trivial? And how does fun and whimsy undercut or balance the fact that Sanders was often angry and yelling?

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