With Donald Trump’s victory in 2016, the line between politician and celebrity has become increasingly blurred. Tweets like “aoc and ihlan omar really can deck me in the f*cking face any day i would let them spit on me because they are too powerful and amazing” [sic] and “Kamala Harris is a woke queen” dominate Twitter, generating a brand of celebrity worship around successful politicians. We make political prayer candles, stylizing politicians as literal saints, and we hyperfixate on how “cute” they are in fan–made video edits rather than how effective they are. Originating from platforms like Twitter and Instagram, political stans are becoming more and more commonplace.
But despite the outward innocence of political stanning, politicians should never be treated as celebrities or idols. Despite "The Squad’s" brand of leftist “wokeness,” they often perpetuate anti-Semitic tropes. While Vice President–elect Harris’ pointed questioning of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was labelled as heroic, she put over 1,500 people in jail for marijuana violations during her career as a prosecutor. Yet due to their millions of “stans,” these acts and criticisms often go ignored.
By blindly stanning politicians like Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio–Cortez and Harris due to their perceived “wokeness,” we destroy any semblance of accountability that politicians need to take. We shouldn’t idolize politicians or worship them in the way that we worship actors or influencers.
Their job isn’t to sing, act, or post on social media. Their job is to advocate for the American people, and we need to hold them to that.
Other politicians have caught on to the rise of political stanning and have taken advantage of this phenomenon to increase their influence and gain more supporters. For example, Ocasio–Cortez’s “Among Us” Stream painted her as a “relatable queen” and Joe Biden’s exclamation of “will you shut up, man?” during the first presidential debate turned into a viral internet meme that the Biden campaign team soon put on shirts and hats. More and more politicians have started TikTok accounts to cater to members of Gen Z, the age group most likely to engage in political stanning. Rather than attracting supporters based on their policies, these politicians have learned that being relatable and memorable reigns supreme in attracting voter attention.
Donald Trump’s career as a celebrity–turned–politician is a clear example of what happens when the politician and the celebrity converge completely. Rather than holding Trump accountable for how he has damaged electoral institutions by calling the 2020 election “rigged,” his supporters blindly feed into his egoistic claims. Instead of criticizing him for blatantly racist, xenophobic language by refusing to call COVID-19 anything but “the China virus” and excusing allegations of sexual assault against him, Trump supporters engage in political stanning taken to the extreme. At a certain point, political stanning seems to turn into a political cult.
If we continue on the trend of worshipping politicians in the way that we worship celebrities, we will strip away the quality of accountability that holds together so much of American politics. By sweeping the mistakes and abuses of power that politicians commit regularly under the rug, we erase the only check that the electorate holds against the political elite. While fancams and prayer candles can be cute and meme–worthy, we have to remember that politicians are not celebrities to be idolized.