Dan Gilmore / Aug. 13, 2015

America's Next Top Executive

Viral videos are the next stage in the evolution of presidential campaign theater.

Consider this the next stage in the evolution of political theater: The 2016 presidential candidates have been producing short videos in hopes of getting the footage to “go viral,” putting eyeballs on their campaign. Who can blame them? In a crowded field of 17 candidates in the Republican Party alone, gray suits tend to run together. Viral video is a way for each candidate to have a moment — 15 minutes (or 30 seconds) of fame.

What can your candidate do? Rand Paul took a chainsaw to the U.S. tax code. Ted Cruz did impersonations of characters from “The Simpsons” and cooked bacon with a gun (bringing a new meaning to the term “pork barrel”). Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, beat the game Operation. Carly Fiorina turned the tables on sexism in the workplace. After Donald Trump gave out Lindsey Graham’s cell phone number in a speech, Graham destroyed the phone with a wooden sword — on camera of course.

With a new generation of voters heading to the polls, candidates face pressure to reach out, to connect with people who are otherwise uninterested in politics. The low-information voter, if you will. And thus begins a chapter of political speech that resembles not so much a Lincoln-Douglas debate as President Camacho from the movie “Idiocracy.”

Sure, some candidates try to sneak in public policy. Bobby Jindal visited the New York City offices of BuzzFeed and produced a video of a push-up contest between him and ObamaCare, taxes, hyphenated-Americans and his own State of the Union response. Paul’s aforementioned video focused on tax code reform. Most politicians, however, appear before the camera just to pull off the stunts, not discuss policy. Besides, it’s tough to be fun, let alone have nuance, when you’re talking about immigration, national debt or education reform.

In reality, this viral video trend is merely a continuation of what political speech has been for the last 50 years, ever since politics migrated to television. In 1964, a 60-second television advertisement that shares similarities with these videos helped incumbent and Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson ride to a landside win against Republican Barry Goldwater. The infamous “Daisy” attack ad never mentioned Goldwater’s name. It never explained either candidate’s platform. It merely showed a girl in a field picking pedals off a flower, trying her best to count them. But then her voice is replaced with the countdown. It reaches zero. The girl looks up. The camera zooms in, and BOOM, the screen is filled with a nuclear explosion.

“These are the stakes,” a voice says. “To make a world in which all of God’s children can live, or to go into the dark. We must either love each other, or we must die.”

It never says what Johnson would do. There’s no policy or promise, just an emotional punch to the gut.

To a lesser degree, the candidates are using the same strategy, to try and establish goodwill by appealing to people’s emotions, though with a far more lighthearted effort to engage the modern need for quick entertainment.

This trend has not been lost on the folks at The Wall Street Journal and International Business Times. Both publications devoted stories to exploring how the candidates are visiting places like BuzzFeed. As Ben Smith, BuzzFeed’s editor in chief, explained to the International Business Times, it’s part of the new media landscape capitalizing on the nature of politics. Smith said, “I think politics has always been a mixture of jokes and ridiculous things and policy and character and war and peace. They’ve always been inseparable, the high and the low.”

Smith told the Journal part of being a modern-day politician includes stopping in at a place like BuzzFeed, in a similar way to how candidates past made appearances on late-night TV shows.

This is all necessary if Hillary Clinton becomes the Democrat nominee for president. In November, just after the Republican Party swept up control of state governments and won Congress, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus told ABC News what it would take for a conservative to beat a candidate like Clinton: “If we have a candidate on the ballot who someone actually wants to have a beer with, we can win.”

Of course, viral videos and emotional pleas are all pathos with no logos. What really matters are the policies and character of the candidates. You can’t have a beer with every voter. You can, however, make them a video.

Who We Are

The Patriot Post is a highly acclaimed weekday digest of news analysis, policy and opinion written from the heartland — as opposed to the MSM’s ubiquitous Beltway echo chambers — for grassroots leaders nationwide. More

What We Offer

On the Web

We provide solid conservative perspective on the most important issues, including analysis, opinion columns, headline summaries, memes, cartoons and much more.

Via Email

Choose our full-length Digest or our quick-reading Snapshot for a summary of important news. We also offer Cartoons & Memes on Monday and Alexander’s column on Wednesday.

Our Mission

The Patriot Post is steadfast in our mission to extend the endowment of Liberty to the next generation by advocating for individual rights and responsibilities, supporting the restoration of constitutional limits on government and the judiciary, and promoting free enterprise, national defense and traditional American values. We are a rock-solid conservative touchstone for the expanding ranks of grassroots Americans Patriots from all walks of life. Our mission and operation budgets are not financed by any political or special interest groups, and to protect our editorial integrity, we accept no advertising. We are sustained solely by you. Please support The Patriot Fund today!

★ PUBLIUS ★

“Our cause is noble; it is the cause of mankind!” —George Washington

The Patriot Post is protected speech, as enumerated in the First Amendment and enforced by the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, in accordance with the endowed and unalienable Rights of All Mankind.

Copyright © 2021 The Patriot Post. All Rights Reserved.

The Patriot Post does not support Internet Explorer. We recommend installing the latest version of Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, or Google Chrome.