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Eight years ago, Senator Obama developed a revolutionary web-based campaign, one that used viral videos on YouTube and Facebook to propel the underdog senator among Democrats, and then across the country. Obama won over two-thirds of the youth vote (18 to 24 years old) that year.


The Internet’s ability to satirize politics has evolved significantly since that election. The Obama years have seen the rise of meme culture, and when it comes to reaching young people in politics, through humour no less, memes have become a powerful tool. In 2016, memes can take a 75-year old socialist senator and make him just as cool as no-drama Obama.


The then-senator’s presence on the internet exploded after the New Hampshire primary in 2008 when Will.i.am produced the famous “Yes We Can” music video using the senator’s concession speech. Today, the internet meme can paint a different, viral caricature of a candidate far beyond the control of campaigns, celebrities, or political establishments.


Enter Bernie Sanders’ Dank Meme Stash, a Facebook group sporting over 180,000 members, a creative community that churns out pro-Bernie Sanders messages faster than any super PAC. Sanders’ democratic socialist policies are packaged in mediums that resonate beyond the politically-savvy. Toss in the fact Bernie also wants to legalize marijuana, and you get some seriously dank memes. Dank, just as it is with stoners, is synonymous with ‘high quality.’


For Sanders, these memes are a huge boost because it ties his campaign with young voters who fell for Obama in the previous two contests. It further cements his grasp on the youth vote, already beating Clinton decisively with the 18 to 35 years old demographic in Iowa and New Hampshire.


Nevertheless, the dank memes could hold potential downsides for a candidate like Sanders, who wants to run an “issues-focused” campaign that doesn’t engage in personal attacks. The widely shared Bernie vs. Hillary memes don’t overtly argue the existing political differences between the two, but instead cast Sanders as a cool, authentic individual with reasoned, balanced views. Clinton is obversely portrayed as basic, untrustworthy, and out of touch with young people.


Bernie Sanders’ online supporters have tied themselves together with memes, effectively doing the dirty work of the Sanders campaign—bashing Hillary Clinton’s character through her history as a moderate and a flip-flopper. While Bernie Sanders’ Dank Meme Stash is in no way affiliated with the Sanders campaign, the memes are drawing ire from Hillary Clinton’s campaign and some among the media, claiming that meme-wielding “Bernie Bros” are waging sexist attacks on the former Secretary of State.


That accusation is vigorously denied by many on the Dank Meme Stash and, as with almost any online group, the outrage has been stirred up by trolls on both sides. Clinton’s critics can easily point to Madeline Albright, who claimed a “place in hell” exists for women who don’t vote for Clinton.


While debate can simmer on these Facebook groups just like any other, Bernie Sanders’ Dank Meme Stash, and many others, are proof that Sanders’ message is increasingly being propelled by youth. Bernie is not Barack, but victory over Clinton can’t be done without the internet, and right now Bernie is winning the online battle.

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