It’s American Politics, Not America’s Got Talent
Graphic by Madeleine Farr, featuring from left to right: Barack Obama, AOC, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, below comments found under various TikTok videos.
“I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and wouldn’t lose any voters, okay? It’s like, incredible.”
For all of the lies littered throughout Donald Trump’s campaigns, this statement, made in 2016, may ring more true than the rest. Trump supporters have garnered a reputation of foolishness for their unwavering devotion to their candidate despite the countless egregious actions he has committed in the past decades. Myself and others have a tendency of laughing at the blindness of Trump supporters to their leader’s ineptitude, as well as their refusal to hold him accountable for his long list of grievances. However, I fear that this irresponsible, unwavering devotion that we have traditionally attributed to Trump supporters may be more familiar to us than we would like to believe.
Celebrity culture, or our propensity for glorifying and fawning over celebrities, has been exacerbated by the rise of social media in recent years. However, a relatively new phenomenon I have observed is the treatment of some politicians, as if they too, are celebrities. Though not overtly problematic, I can only imagine what side effects this treatment may provoke, some of which may come eerily close to what Trump described in 2016.
“I’ve seen a lot of the hypocrisy of after what happened in June where a bunch of people got hyper radicalized really quickly and suddenly as we get closer to the election, becoming a lot less radical than they claimed to be, in the sense that they had agreed we’re going settle for Biden, settle for Harris,” said Nola Sloan (‘21).
Nola continued to note how the “settle” part of the slogan seemed to have been forgotten by many as the election approached; the same individuals who once denounced Biden as just barely better than the alternative have happily consumed content that places him on a pedestal, such as video edits of his “most iconic moments” and TikTok sounds that sampled his debate rebuttals.
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, colloquially known as AOC, is another example of a politician whose supporters are known to blur the line between political alignment and blatant celebrity treatment. Young, passionate, and caring for her constituents, AOC and her work have justifiably attracted a lot of attention and praise.
“I think she’s doing a better job than most people, but I don’t think that she even really understands the impact of her playing a game on Twitch with a bunch of internet personalities,” said Nola, referring to AOC’s recent voter registration campaign, in which she played the popular game Among Us with various online creators. “By putting herself on the same level as those other people, even though it was for a voting campaign, that sends a message to especially 14 to 17 year olds like ‘Oh, I stan these people, I can stan AOC.’”
The word “stan,” traditionally applied to celebrities and influencers, is used to express intense appreciation or worship, usually by teenage social media users. The increased frequency at which I see it used, especially in comments under posts about politicians such as AOC as well as Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris and Joe Biden, alerted me to how unnatural our support for these politicians has become. My intention is not to bash these individual figures, but rather call attention to the fact that “stanning” politicians cultivates a sense of blind allegiance to an individual that may make it difficult to hold them accountable for their actions, past and future.
“They’re focusing on their personalities rather than their politics, or this perception of their personality and that’s really dangerous,” articulated Upper School Learning Specialist Farrah Khan. “We’re supposed to be voting for the politics.”
Though in some instances, politicians may not intend to have constituents focus on their personality, it should be noted that some do publicize certain acts for the sole purpose of cultivating an attractive image for voters, which can be equally (if not more so) harmful.
“Politicians are doing this stuff so they are more humanized, and it’s appealing for younger people to see politicians act like normal people,” said Maitri Niles (‘22). “But it’s dangerous to turn politicians into celebrities, which is what’s happening, because celebrity worship even without politicians is problematic. When you add the fact that politicians make decisions about our lives, it’s especially dangerous to ‘stan’ them because it makes it seem like they can do no wrong, or that they’re here to entertain us.”
I do not wish to exclude myself from this narrative or imply that I have never perpetuated it. On the contrary, the alarming ease at which I slip into a mindless state of glorifying some politicians is what motivated me to analyze my thought processes and how dangerous they may actually be. Regardless of how comical some may act or the fact that a former television personality is currently sitting in the White House, politicians are not and should not be for our entertainment. Unfortunately, the burden falls upon us to reject such a notion, and remind ourselves that these figures are civil servants whose everyday actions have implications that ripple across state borders and party affiliations.