Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have harnessed something greater than demagoguery or populism and are truly our first millennial, tech-savvy presidential candidates. Obama’s campaign was renowned for its ground-game and use of data, but that allowed for targeted messaging to voters, and Bush’s team was known for using wedge-issues and ruthless branding to get out the vote and swing public opinion. Trump and Sanders have done something different, they have harnessed the splintered-media and the social virality of the internet.
Trump has dominated the attention of the media and has used the ubiquity of his presence to generate support and interest, not unlike, say, the Kardashians.
Sanders on the other hand has gotten millions of young people to act as his surrogates, by re-tweeting and posting about him on Facebook and other social media platforms. Sanders has made himself into a kind of social fad. If you are a millennial and you don’t support Sanders, than there is a good chance the wrath of social exclusion will fall on you.
This is a truly modern election cycle where the forces shaping our popular culture have come together to finally effect politics.