Meme Machine – The Viral War For The White House

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Politics is nothing but a meme.

Winning a presidential debate is one thing, but coming out victorious in the meme wars is something else.
When it comes to US politics, both Joe Biden and Donald Trump understand how important it is to go viral.
Both candidates delivered perfect meme soundbites.
From alleycat to golf capabilities to functional communication skills.
Let’s think about this – are these memes influencing how people see these candidates more than the debates (or the substance of their work)?

Memes are the new battleground in politics.

They can make or break a candidate by amplifying their best moments or turning their gaffes into viral sensations.
During the debate, Biden’s “shaky start” and his comment about Trump being an “alleycat” became instant meme gold.
People on social media were quick to comment on Biden’s apparent frailty, with jokes about needing energy drinks or performance-enhancing drugs.

But what’s the real impact here?

Social media is where many people, especially younger voters, get their news… comment on the news… maybe even create some news of their own.
The memification of politics means that a single moment can define a candidate’s public image.
Remember Howard Dean’s infamous scream or Jeb Bush’s awkward plea for a clap?
These moments, captured and shared endlessly, shaped public perception.
Now, with platforms like TikTok and Instagram (think reels, shorts, etc.), these instances spread even faster and farther.
And, they get mashed up, deep-faked and abused in ways we have never seen.

So, how should political campaigns navigate this memefield?

Both Biden and Trump’s campaigns actively create and share memes to shape public narratives… it’s not just the audience having a toss at the candidates.
Here’s the bigger question: Are memes reducing serious political discourse to soundbites and jokes?
While they engage voters and make politics more accessible, they also trivialize the real issues.
The focus shifts from policies and debate to who can say the thing that will then create the most shareable content.

What’s the solution?

Political campaigns need to strike a balance in a highly unbalanced world.
The rise of memes in politics reflects broader societal trends in digital communication (and what, exactly, we define as “news”).
As we move forward, it’s crucial to understand this dynamic and use it (or follow them) wisely.
Memes are here to stay, so their influence on political narratives will only grow (think about how you hear about what happened… and how you share it – both online and in your day-to-day interactions).
Sure… it’s a barrel of monkeys with massive belly-laughs when the meme lands, but we’re also talking about our leadership and path forward in complex and scary times.

I’m no longer sure how we can find the balance that might make it as effective as it is in creating damage.

This is what David Heurtel and I discussed on CJAD 800 AM. Listen in right here.

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