By Quentin Choy
July 15, 2021
I remember at age 16 watching Hillary Clinton dab on Ellen and nearly dying of laughter.
I also remember being frustrated hearing her tell young voters to “Pokemon go to the polls” when many young people were going to Standing Rock Reservation to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline.
In politics, young people are the punching bag the punchline of the joke.
Olivia Rodrigo at the White House
President Biden invited Olivia Rodrigo to the White House to share a message with young adults and teenagers to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Rodrigo is a star on Disney Channel and started a successful music career. Her song “driver’s license” topped the charts for eight weeks straight, earning her immense popularity.
Some young people feel that the vaccine is unneeded or are unaware that young adults are eligible to get vaccinated. Many are concerned with things like work or school and aren’t worried about receiving a vaccine for a virus that mostly affects older people.
“But the straightforward sales pitch for older people — a vaccine could very possibly save your life — does not always work on healthy 20-somethings who know they are less likely to face the severest outcomes of Covid.”From the New York Times’ “Why Young Adults Are Among the Biggest Barriers to Mass Immunity“
Rodrigo used her fame to encourage young people to get vaccinated, saying “it’s important to have conversations with friends and family members encouraging all communities to get vaccinated.”
Celebrities have visited the White House to help presidents with certain goals. Elvis visited the Nixon White House to help with his re-election among younger voters.
Kim Kardashian came to the White House to help Donald Trump with criminal justice reform.
Biden, Celebrities, and Generation Z
Generation Z holds a certain level of respect and admiration for influencers, YouTubers, and celebrities. However, many Gen Z’ers won’t allow their opinions and beliefs to be changed easily by people just because they are famous.
The Biden administration also made attempts to reach vaccine-wary young adults through famous YouTubers. Manny Mua, a makeup artist and beauty blogger collaborated with President Biden and Dr. Fauci in sharing information about the COVID-19 vaccines.
Around 58 percent of users disliked Manny Mua’s video, with one user commenting “why does it feel like the government is trying to be my parent here?”
Pokemon Go and Animal Crossing: Pandering to the Youth
The invocation of youth celebrities and pop culture is not new. It has quite a history in politics.
During the 2020 election, the Biden-Harris campaign blatantly pandered to potential youth voters. The campaign worked on creating an island on Animal Crossing: New Horizons, a popular video game on the Nintendo Switch.
Players could visit Joe Biden’s island and put campaign signs in their yards while wearing Biden-Harris apparel.
Animal Crossing became insanely popular during 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic forcing people to stay at home with little to do.
Think about this if you were in the shoes of Biden’s campaign. “How do I win youth voters?” you think to yourself.
Rather than committing to popular positions on issues like student loan forgiveness, climate change, ending foreign wars, or increasing the minimum wage, you pick a video game.
Biden’s Animal Crossing was eventually banned over Animal Crossing updating their rules, prohibiting politics in the game.
In 2016, Democrats pandered to the youth as well, and I would argue that Hillary Clinton’s pandering was far worse and far more insulting. She invoked Pokemon Go, a highly popular mobile game at the time.
By now if you haven’t seen that clip, I suggest watching it in the video below. High cringe alert.
Clinton also went onto Ellen’s show, which arguably isn’t all that popular among young people.
However, she tried to “dab” on TV, most likely to win over young voters. What other reason is there for an old lady to be learning youth dance moves and performing them live?
During the campaign, everything is meant to gain votes.
While these attempts by Clinton to seem hip and “in with the kids” are funny now, they were incredibly cringey at the time. She made herself look like an outdated fool when all youth voters wanted were policies that would help them and their future.
Why do you think Bernie Sanders, a man older than Clinton was so popular among the youth? It wasn’t his “charm” or “sexiness.”
Bernie centered his campaign around policy issues that young people cared about, and he took them seriously.
From 2016 and Hillary’s campaign, all we got were these laughs. Oh and Donald Trump.
Generation Z and Their Future
Generation Z is poised to be a progressive, policy focused generation. With our futures dimmed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent economic fallout, Gen Z has several issues they care about.
Voters in this generation are also likely to be more progressive than previous generations. Many young people support progressive policies and are politically informed.
A look at how Gen Z voters view the Trump presidency provides further insight into their political beliefs. A Pew Research Center survey conducted in January of this year found that about a quarter of registered voters ages 18 to 23 (22%) approved of how Donald Trump is handling his job as president, while about three-quarters disapproved (77%).From Pew Research Center “What We Know About Gen Z So Far“
While I think that social issues and “activist” issues surrounding identity have clouded the focus on economic issues, Generation Z is a rising political force that I believe is on track to change this country with an emphasis on policy.
Even though I’m personally not a fan of celebrities and celebrity culture, if it helps more young Americans get vaccinated, I’m all for it.
This is a good time to use celebrities to reach smaller audiences like a specific generation. Democrats often have the problem of using too many celebrities and being viewed as elitist.
So while Olivia Rodrigo’s visit to the White House and address to Gen Z isn’t my cup of tea, it’s a cup of tea that many my age will drink.