Many high schools give out senior superlatives as a fun way to end seniors’ four years—things like “most likely to succeed,” “most likely to get married,” “class clown.” There are many words to describe the 2016 election, but fun is probably not on that list. In an attempt to inject some levity into the conversation, we’re going to use superlatives to sort through what matters to Millennials as they show up to the voting booths. And yes—we’re including Bernie because much like the McRib, he’s a fan favorite that just keeps coming back, even when you think you’ve seen the last of him.
Political stance is undoubtedly most important to Millennial voters, but a few other factors make for close runner-ups. They involve who the candidate is as a person/celebrity/media focus, not just as a politician. Here I’ll assess how the presidential nominees still in the running stack up in 4 categories: personality, sense of humor + pop culture appearances, social media presence, and past performance. For each category we have a winner and a runner-up, because in the Millennial game of life, there are no losers!
The Class of Contenders
Hillary “Queen” Clinton (per her Broad City cameo)
Bernie “No BS” Sanders (Get it? Because BS are his initials and he’s all about the straight-talk. Sorry, didn’t mean to mansplain…)
Donald “Dangerous Don” Trump (interpret “dangerous” as you will)
Millennials are keen on being themselves and are wary of those who put up fronts. They’re looking for a candidate who is authentically authentic. Showing who you are beats talking about who you are.
The Winner: Bernie Sanders
The man with white hair reminiscent of Albert Einstein, a thick Brooklyn accent, and a variety of emphatic gesticulations—Sanders has set himself apart just by being himself. The thing that Millennials truly love? He doesn’t try to be one of them. He doesn’t try to speak Millennial lingo, doesn’t need to like or understand their music or fashion; in essence, he doesn’t try too hard to be something he’s not. His passions are simply their passions, and that is enough.
The Runner-up: Donald Trump
No matter your stance on The Donald, you have to admit the guy’s got a big personality, and he doesn’t care if you like him. This makes him incredibly controversial, but in a world that is increasingly PC, many Millennials find Trump’s flagrancy quite refreshing.
Best Sense of Humor + Pop Culture Appearances
Millennials have a very distinct sense of humor that uses a combo of wit, sarcasm, self-deprecation, and a heaping spoonful of vulgarity. And much of this type of humor can be found in the modes of media Millennials consume—late-night shows like Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Colbert; quirky sites like Buzzfeed, Reddit, and Jezebel; and of course, SNL. Tickling this generation’s funny bone is difficult, but if you do, you’ll win their hearts. In my opinion, I don’t believe any candidate is an outright winner, but if I had to choose…
The Winner: Donald Trump
Trump is a pop culture icon, no matter what exactly he’s done to earn that title. He’s certainly the most recognizable nominee thanks to his reality TV resumé and an abundance of interesting business ventures. He’s made appearances on many Millennial favorites—The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Sex and the City, The Drew Carey Show, and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. His humor is reminiscent of Michael Scott from The Office—weird, off-color, makes you a little uncomfortable, and inevitably makes you laugh because you don’t know what else to do (Germans and the learn-ed call this fremdschämen.)
The Runner-up: Hillary Clinton
I can hear some indignant guffaws here. While Hill-dog herself has been compared to a robot more than Millennials have mourned the loss of Pluto as a planet, you have to admit she’s completely self-aware and endures this criticism well. She’s also had some great appearances on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Broad City, and SNL. And, as Hillary herself (or her social media team, at least) tweeted, “A vote for Hillary is a vote for four more years of Kate McKinnon’s impression.”
Best Social Media (and General Interweb) Presence
Today social media is huge, HUGE (said in the voice of The Donald himself). 62% of US adults get news from social media sites like Facebook and Reddit, and cultivating an online presence can make or break one’s influence on Millennials. Social media is more than just trying to reach the kids on their new-fangled mediums; it’s about building a brand for those kids to trust.
The Winner: Barack Obama
I know, I know, he’s not a 2016 candidate. But Obama’s 2008 campaign was truly revolutionary in that it was the first to use social media as a political engagement tool. Facebook and Twitter are now so seamlessly integrated into our lives that this fact may seem trivial, but in 2008, Twitter was just a year old. Many attribute his win to the campaign’s early and dedicated adoption of social media, dubbing it the Facebook Election. Today, the Bamster has over 75 million Twitter followers.
The Runner Up: Donald Trump
The Don has a big Twitter following of over 8 million. He’s not afraid to tell it like it is, and his tweets hit on all three of Aristotle’s modes of persuasion: logos (the appeal to logic), ethos (the appeal to credibility), and pathos (the appeal to emotion). For this reason, many consider him the King of Twitter (in the political sphere, at least). What’s more, he hasn’t needed to change anything about his approach for his campaign—he’s just as bold as he was when he was tweeting for funzies.
Most Steady Past Performance
This category entails some political performance, but is mostly about consistency. Has the candidate voiced the same views throughout the years? Have there been any instances that call their authenticity into question? Has a great #TBT photo been found that was instantly meme-worthy?
The Winner: Bernie Sanders
One of the reasons FeeltheBerners have really taken to Sanders is the fact that the guy has hardly changed in 40 years. He has worked in electoral politics since 1971 and carried the same stance on governmental institutions from the start. He’s even had his nutty professor look since the ‘60s. What’s more, he’s earned everything he’s worked for. To quote the wise rapper/philosopher Drake, he started from the bottom (as a small-town mayor) and is now here (a US senator and presidential contender).
The Runner-up: No one
I’m gonna take a hard pass on this one. Both Clinton and Trump have had some pretty notable past snafus—Clinton’s secrecy over her email server and her role in the Benghazi attacks have Millennials everywhere questioning her motives, while Trump’s history of misogynistic and racist comments and wishy-washy political stances have landed him in hot water. Millennials have taken his off-the-cuff comment about receiving a “small loan of $1 million” to meme-town. Though they’ve gotten a bad rap as the entitled generation, Millennials have overcome their fair share of challenges too. And, if they had $1 million, they’d use it to pay off their student loans. (MIC DROP)