Society’s admiration for celebrities in the arts, entertainment, and sports spheres has transcended into a dangerous area — politician “stan” culture.
Politician stan culture has become exceedingly prominent in 2020 as more and more people have become involved in activism and politics. Amidst the current political climate, largely due to the recent elections and ongoing protests, the spotlight has settled on politicians — especially those who hold progressive values, such as Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Much of the increasing politician idolization also stems from a recent overlap of pop culture and politics. The line between the two has diminished, and we often see the leaders of our country making their way into other facets of our society.
Recently, AOC posed for the cover of Vanity Fair, which sparked debate, particularly due to the contradiction between her socialist campaign and the elitism of Vanity Fair and the fashion industry. Another instance of the overlap is politicians creating TikTok accounts, such as Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey, who was a co-author of the Green New Deal. This is not to say that politicians can not take part in normal activities and use aspects of pop culture to appeal to their constituencies. However, as the crossover between politics and pop culture increases, more dangerous situations can arise.
Our president for the last four years was previously a television personality. In this year’s election, Kanye West, one of the most influential rappers in the music industry, got his name on the ballot of 12 states and received over 60,000 votes. This is not the first time a celebrity has aimed to win the presidential election — rapper Waka Flocka Flame announced in 2015 that he planned to run for president in the 2016 Presidential Election. He never got his name on the ballot.
As celebrities make their way into the political realm, it becomes more and more common for politicians to be viewed in the same light as cultural figures. It is important to recognize that politicians are not regular celebrities that we can “fangirl” over. The reality is that they have the power to severely impact the lives of everyday individuals.
For many people, particularly those in the younger generation, it can be difficult to avoid idolizing politicians when one’s interests and passions revolve around politics. Some members even hope to become politicians themselves one day.
There is a distinction between supporting politicians — having a sticker of them, phone banking for them, or working on their campaign — and idolizing them. Politician idolization puts politicians on a pedestal, one which spares them from criticism and taking accountability.
Regardless of how “woke” you think a politician is, they have certainly made and continue to make harmful decisions throughout their career.
Take Bernie Sanders for example. His left-leaning stances — at least considered left compared to the rest of the DNC — gathered him tremendous support from young Americans. He became a household name due to his socialist values, and his campaign proposed things such as debt and tuition-free public colleges, Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, banning for-profit prisons, and expanding social security.
Despite this, Sanders has his own list of harmful decisions that he has made in the past. For example, he voted yes for FOSTA-SESTA, a set of bills signed into law by Donald Trump, which aimed to cut down illegal sex trafficking online. However, this bill simultaneously makes consensual sex work more difficult and dangerous. Sanders also failed to address allegations of pay disparities and sexual harassment made by women working in his campaign. Multiple women, including Erika Andiola, the press secretary for Latino outreach of the campaign, and Lucy Flores, a surrogate for the campaign, came forward about misogyny and women being made to do insignificant work compared to their male counterparts.
We must hold our politicians accountable, and remind ourselves that they are not our heroes or saviors. In reality, all politicians are members of and uphold an establishment that often targets and excludes marginalized communities.
This is especially important to remember after hearing the results of the 2020 Presidential Election, which resulted in a win for Joe Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris. As soon as the candidate won Pennsylvania, across America celebrations arose. In D.C., large crowds gathered outside of the White House at Black Lives Matter Plaza to commemorate the win.
People danced, popped bottles of champagne, and flew large Biden-Harris flags in the air.
When idolized politicians — particularly those put into the role of a savior — are elected into positions of power, a feeling of ease settles in. People take a sigh of relief, think that everything has been solved, and stop coming out to do the hard work which needs to be done.
Throughout history, people have been the ones to ignite change through social movements in their communities. To give an example, the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s was made up of various individuals and activist groups, such as housing activists in Chicago, student protesters from Howard University, and the Little Rock Nine. The Civil Rights Act of 1965 could not have been achieved without the work of these groups and countless others. This was not simply the work of a few politicians down on Capitol Hill, but a movement made of millions from across the country.
Once we take politicians off of their pedestals and hold them accountable, that is when we can create tangible change in our society. Politicians are not there to save us — we must do that for ourselves.