By Kenny Johnson
The 2016 presidential race is one of the most bizarre in recent memory (although my memory doesn’t go back too far in terms of presidential campaigns). The candidates are diverse in many ways, ways that many wouldn’t consider positive. No matter who ends up taking over office come late 2016, they will be a first: Donald Trump, the first POTUS to go straight from famous billionaire to commander-in-chief; Bernie Sanders, the first Jewish president; Hillary Clinton, the first female to lead the white house; Ted Cruz, the first (Canadian born?) Hispanic-American president. This campaign will represent a new era of presidential running’s, an era dominated not by foreign policy or empty promises, but by social media.
Twitter. Instagram. Facebook. We’re all familiar with these social tools, apps that let us communicate with our “friends” and family without actually having to socialize with them. Social media is where the ordinary can get famous and the famous get more famous. It was only a matter of time before political figures realized how beneficial their twitter profiles were. The candidates can get their ideas and opinions out to millions in seconds, they can describe very complex issues in 140 characters or less.That’s exactly what we want right? As a society we want info poured directly down our throats as quickly and easily as possible, with the least amount of thinking and research required.
Nobody watches the news and people will believe anything they see from a “reliable” Facebook source or an SNL skit. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen somebody retweet/share/repost a meme comparing Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler or calling Bernie Sanders un-American/Socialist without any information to back up their claims. Social media involvement should have been beneficial for the runners, but the effect is backwards. Say anything controversial and it spreads like wildfire, the voters will pounce on the slightest sign of weakness and turn it into a viral joke. We have essentially turned the race into a war of comical attrition, where a candidate might end up being elected based solely off of irony.
One of the most popular Twitter presidential jokes is the claim that Ted Cruz is the Zodiac Killer, even though the killer was at-large around the same time Cruz was born. The amount of jokes about Bernie Sanders making college free is monumental and Hillary Clinton is always being roasted for something. But worst of all, rather than ignoring Trump’s ridiculous comments, people have taken him as a joke, giving him increasingly more attention than he deserves. Turning even the most serious issues into something comical seems to be a common skill among U.S. youth, but it has gone too far. When we live in a time where we can’t even take the PRESIDENTIAL campaign seriously, something needs to change. And no, “better candidates” wouldn’t fix the problem.