The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Choosing POTUS requires thought

We are currently a month into the 2016 Election Year, which the country has been collectively pre-gaming for since last November. Understandably, there’s no event that captures the national consciousness like a Presidential Election— it dominates the news cycle, and seems far more high-stakes than local, state, or congressional elections.  We may have a system of checks and balances, but the P.O.T.U.S. is technically America’s top dog. People enjoy having a dog in the race. 

“For many of us, it’s not simply politics as usual,” Courtney Enlow said in a piece on “It’s very personal.” 

Presidential policy may not be the end-all, be-all decider of federal laws and programs, but I definitely want the person in charge to share my viewpoints on national issues. As much as the 2016 Election is about Hillary or Bernie, Trump or Ted Cruz, it is ultimately a choice between policies. 

By now, most civically-minded people know the candidates’ platforms. However, in the time between now and November, as the real elections news waxes and wanes, we will continue to be inundated with inane candidate facts. Inevitably, these efforts toward personal-branding will skew personal opinions of presidential candidates, distracting from political stances.

In electing a president, it’s important to remember that we are not electing “America’s Ideal Grandparent” or “A Dude We All Want to Drink Beer With.” If either of these were the case, I would vote for Santa in both categories. However, we are electing a president, not a personality– and like Santa (WARNING: spoiler alert for Reflector readers 12 and under) our ideas of candidates personalities are not even real. They are shaped by the media, memes and our own projections. 

Trump and Sanders have both spawned pretty die-hard cults of personality. My younger brother, who is more embroiled in teen-angst than national politics, claims to like Trump because he does not care about being nice. According to the New York Times, this sentiment is echoed across voter demographics.

“His support is not tethered to a single issue or sentiment: immigration, economic anxiety or an anti-establishment mood,” wrote Michael Barbaro in a 2015 N.Y. Times article titled “Why Trump Won’t Fold.” Barbaro said, “Those factors may have created conditions for his candidacy to thrive, but his personality, celebrity and boldness, not merely his populism and policy stances, have let him take advantage of them.”

Fans of Bernie Sanders are also quick to cite his personality as a central reason for their support. I have several friends who profess their love for Bernie based on his “adorableness” and “crazy old man hair.” His cult of personality includes a young, male subset that the Atlantic’s Robinson Meyer first pejoratively nicknamed “Bernie Bros.”

According to, Bernie Bros are “…Sanders supporters who are particularly active on social media (especially Twitter) and can be particularly aggressive in defending their candidate. It is noteworthy that members of this group are called “Bernie Bros” instead of “a collective of young men who are boisterous about socialism and weed legalization.” Use of the term focuses on the personalities  of the Sander’s-supporters, rather than reifying their candidate’s politics.

Ultimately, it is understandable that people are interested in the personalities of the presidential hopefuls. I’ll be the first to admit that I was delighted by former Republican candidate Jeb Bush’s now infamous “Jeb! 2016 Guaca Bowl.” 

“Jeb and Columba love whipping up guacamole on Sunday Funday,” says Bush’s campaign site,, in a much-needed explanation of the $75  guacamole bowl.  To this day, I know nothing about Bush’s political platforms, but I do know I relate to his love of avocado-based dip and calling days of the week cute names. 

As easy as it is to relate to candidates’ publicized personalities, our views of them as people can never be more than merely speculative. I’m never actually going to kick it with Jeb Bush—and whether he whips up his own guac probably does not affect his immigration policies, even though I’m sure that’s what I’m supposed to infer. 

When we idolize a presidential candidate as a person, we often gloss over their policy points. It makes it easy to believe in candidates blindly, based on little more than quirks and answers to questions you would see on a Buzzfeed quiz. 

The advent of the meme has done nothing but increase our public speculation about candidate’s dispositions. The “Bernie vs. Hillary” meme that is currently popping up all over the internet compares the two Democrats’ theoretical opinions on an array of non-political topics. The meme portrays Sanders as genuinely hip and in-the-know about topics like “Harry Potter” and “Lizards” (and how the hell is one even supposed to be “hip” in relation to lizards?) It portrays Hillary as out-of-touch, but eager to please.

For some, the meme might just reinforce ideas of the candidates as people. Ultimately, however, it works to satirize the entire concept of picking a president based on personality. Hillary gets mocked for hitting “the whip” on Ellen, but what’s really laughable is the idea that presidential dance moves, rather than policies, are what matter. 

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Choosing POTUS requires thought