There hasn't ever been a presidential candidate who has leveraged the Internet better than Bernie Sanders. It was just a matter of time before a candidate jumped into the interwebs with both feet, but the odd part was it was a 74-year-old grandpa embracing the always new, always moving Internet.
One of the largest appeals of the Internet is it's instantaneous. Young people don't rely on TV anymore for news. We don't have to, as we can find more up to date information online quicker than flipping on the TV and sitting through a political ad. In fact, even Google is becoming second-rate when you want the freshest information. You now search on Twitter and you'll find the most up to date news even before journalists can type an article out to the web. And no single presidential candidate had previously utilized this force to its full capacity.
And in swoops Bernie Sanders. Up goes a Twitter page tweeting out his stances and images of his powerful statements, up goes a YouTube channel dedicated to showing clips of him standing up to the political machine, up goes a sub-reddit which is dedicated towards activism and has grown exponentially, up goes a Periscope account live broadcasting his speeches, up goes Facebook pages dedicated to churning excitement among supporters, and up goes websites which have made it so very simple to donate to his campaign. And this online snowball is rolling down a hill, picking up supporters and donations while fueling enthusiasm for them to go faster and bigger.
Sanders made a prime example of his efficient, cost free, online fundraising after winning the New Hampshire Primary:
"I'm going to hold a fundraiser right here, right now, across America," Sanders told the crowd. "My request is please go to BernieSanders.com and contribute. Please help us raise the funds we need, whether it's 10 bucks, 20 bucks, or 50 bucks. Help us raise the money we need to take the fight to Nevada, South Carolina and the states on Super Tuesday."
It's safe to say his online fundraising worked, as he pulled in over $6 million within 24 hours of his 30-second plea. He couldn't have done that without the Internet. As a young person, how would I even donate without doing it online? Who would I contact? Would I have to send a check in the mail that would take weeks? Do I even have checks handy?
I would make the case that the youngest voters are the most informed demographic because of their close ties with the Internet. Now that doesn't necessarily make our opinions right, but we've grown up weaned on the Internet and learned to call bullshit when we see it. And just a few words to all of the presidential candidates: we can now look up your voting history, we can look up who your biggest donors are, and we can watch videos of you contradicting yourself. Older generations had to rely on the honesty of news anchors or the 'bias-free' journalists writing articles in the newspapers. But now we're armed with the Internet, we don't have to rely on the media and we probably take that for granted.
If anything, the Internet and social media have made things more transparent. And maybe that's why young people online are fascinated with Bernie Sanders. The same authenticity and excitement we found in the transparency of the Internet is the same characteristic that we've seen with Bernie Sanders. Maybe, just maybe, the combination of a 74-year-old man who has been saying the same thing for thirty years and the uniquely-fresh driving force of the Internet can help propel their combined ideologies to the White House.