On Thursday, September 21st, Senator Bernie Sanders gave the 58th John Findley Green lecture from Westminster College, Fulton MO. As a series of speeches designed to “promote understanding of economic and social problems,” according to the Churchill museum, Sanders ambitiously undertook an evaluation of post-war American foreign policy in the hopes of laying out a strategy for 21st century challenges while speaking to a sell-out crowd.
When contrasting the Iraq War with the Iran Nuclear Deal, Sanders argued that the former was an example of a “blunder,” while the latter was an example of “leadership.” When discussing the 1950’s overthrow of popularly-elected Iranian leader Mohammed Mossadegh, he not only accurately connected the Shah’s re-installation to the eventual success of Ayatollah Khomeini’s rise to power in the 1979 revolution, but poignantly asked the question, “What would Iran look like today?” He ably connected America’s now-constant blustery threats to use military force with a matching perception of American weakness in a veiled shot at a certain President.
Some might consider such a dissection to be boiler-plate, or of the, “Duh, we already knew this” prerogative. Truth be told, other than its unusual-for-2017 depth and historical accuracy, it was a rather subdued speech for the Democratic Socialist. What set this speech apart was how it was accessible to a national audience. For starters, it was announced, promoted and eventually aired via Youtube by Westminster College, itself. Additionally, key segments of it were live-tweeted by Bernie Sanders’ official Twitter account using the hashtag “#BernieFP” (No, Sanders himself didn’t tweet these snippets). This strategy was savvy to the modern political condition and its reliance on social media for success, and was especially effective as Sanders’ peacenik language drew a strong confluence with the trending “#PeaceDay” digital depiction of the UN-Recognized International Day of Peace.
For an example, this combination enabled casual Twitter users who might be off for Rosh Hashanah (L’Shana Tovah!) and have an interested friend to notice the event was happening via social media, say, “Hey, that sounds kind of interesting,” then subsequently click over to the Youtube stream. By populating Twitter’s search engine with a specific hashtag, even those who were at work or otherwise unable to tune in might still see one or more quotes from the speech, creating instant soundbytes for water-cooler conversation.
If, as September 20th’s episode of South Park subversively suggested, social media and Twitter are key elements of today’s political battleground, Bernie Sanders demonstrated a maestro’s grasp of how to bend them to his perrogative. Furthermore, if social media is a tool for the youth, this analysis goes a step towards explaining the justification behind more than one Washington Post article on how Sanders won the Youth vote in the Democratic primary, which itself is greener (pun accidential, but covenient) than the Republican one. Sanders’ social media presence may not have propelled him to victory in 2016, but he has kept it alive and well following the election and has contributed to his maintainence of a lead as the most popular politician in America. This is simply one example of the how behind this success, and should he be so inclined it will help ensure his weight remains impressive within the Democratic party for some time to come – his push for Single Payer healthcare included.
Byline: Jesse Pohlman is a writer and educator from Long Island, New York. When he’s not analyzing politics, he’s teaching America’s youth to analyze history and literature – that, or writing science-fiction stories!
Editorial Note: “Better late than never.”