Chief Opinions’ Editor, ‘21
Several weeks ago, New York Attorney General Letitia James reported that Governor Andrew Cuomo underreported Covid-19 cases in nursing homes. Cuomo has been placed on a pedestal from the beginning of the pandemic, regulating what was initially known as the ‘epicenter’ of the virus last March. Cuomo released a book over the summer recounting his experience as a leader during the time.
There have been plenty of news stories and analyses of Cuomo’s failure to report almost fifty percent of the cases from those nursing homes, but there is another problem at large here: our instinct to idolize politicians. It prevents us from seeing their faults and understanding them as common people we have elected to lead.
Countless memes, tweets, and posts gave Cuomo recognition and admiration from Americans across the country. He was given praise for leading better than the President, and he and his brother Chris became somewhat of a pair of celebrity brothers last spring.
Amidst many Americans reveling in Cuomo’s success, he was hiding a mistake that would undercut much of his success. When we glorify the role of politicians in this country, we lose sight of their mistakes and missteps.
‘Stanning’ politicians is a dangerous move in politics, and it happens on both sides of the aisle. It leads constituents to be more worried about the relatability, likability, and meme-ability of a Congressperson or even the President of the United States. It happened with Donald Trump in a way, but it happens in a different way on the left.
Young people especially rallied around Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, and rightfully so. They were our path to removing Donald Trump from the White House, but there was a cult of personality surrounding them that moved beyond just the typical trope of a candidate’s ‘likability.’ It was a blind reverence of their actions or posts and loving what they stood for as opposed to who they were as politicians.
Kamala Harris’s “I’m speaking” in the Vice Presidential debate is a perfect example of a moment that became a ‘stan’ moment. Her words were made into Tik Tok sounds remixed with Megan Thee Stallion songs. Countless Tik Toks were made calling her ‘drippy’ for wearing Timberlands and low-top Chuck Taylors. Kamala Harris was getting stanned for her outfits, and voters were ignoring her blemished record on criminal justice as the Attorney General of California.
Donald Trump’s followers do not take to social media to make endearing photo edits of him in the same way progressives did with Bernie Sanders’ mitten moment at the inauguration. His MAGA supporters wear red hats and chant his name in a cult-like fashion; needless to say, their stanning looks a bit different. There are a few other characters on the right that have been adopted into true stan culture, like Mitt Romney for example. He gives us the bare minimum—voting to impeach Trump— and his actions are applauded as if he moved mountains for the progressive movement. Yeah, it was nice to see him at a Black Lives Matter protest, but those views of understanding basic human rights should also be translating into his policy.
Of course, we want to love our leaders. We want to see AOC’s red-lip routine on Vogue’s Instagram, but we also want her to fight to pass $15 minimum wage. We cannot just support a politician because of a moment they had in an interview or a viral scene from the campaign trail, like Bernie’s bird moment in 2016. The way to enact actual change is by holding your ‘faves’ accountable for their past and their present politics. In doing so, we will become more sound in our own political beliefs and discover who can truly make the change we need where we need it. If our generation can engage as hard as we stan, the American political climate has a lot headed its way.