I know that this election's surprise - Bernie Sanders - owes his success to a grassroots movement organized via social media. The reasons for that are many. There is widespread resentment towards the political establishment among millennials, and so they were receptive to his message.

But simply liking him is not enough. He would have needed an initial critical mass of supporters. If his supporters sensed that they are not many, they would have dispersed on their own, believing he's just another oddity, an also-ran at the election.

Wikipedia says that he announced his candidacy from the Capitol lawn. I assume it would be a YouTube video, since I doubt any mass-media would have broadcast it.

So imagine Point X, where he posts a YouTube video. This video has maybe 20-30 views. Now let's say there's Point Y, where he has a self-sustaining community of 100,000 supporters.

From Point X to Point Y, how much time passed? Did it take him 10 days, or 10 weeks, or 10 months to gain these initial 100,000 supporters? Through which communities did knowledge about him spread - did it start from an initial post on Reddit that hit frontpage, or was he already popular on Twitter and Facebook and spread from there to Reddit?

I am asking because I suspect that Reddit.com gave the initial impetus to his movement. If the site and its community can create movements that can potentially influence American elections, then that can be a very interesting development in politics.

1 Answer 1


Sanders announced his intention to seek the Democratic Party's nomination for president on April 30, 2015, in an address on the Capitol lawn.

You'd be surprised what will draw mass media attention. A sitting Senator making an announcement on his lawn? It would get at least local news coverage. In Sanders' case, his announcement was covered on CNN and the Associated Press.

And the primary basis for Sanders competitiveness is the nature of political coverage. A one candidate race is boring. There's nothing to cover. The news media consistently took Sanders more seriously than his actual chances at the time deserved. Of course that then improved his chances.

This has also been true of other candidates. Consider Pat Buchanan in 1992 or Ted Kennedy in 1980. They were never going to win, but the media took them seriously from the beginning.

And I wouldn't pick Sanders as this election's surprise. The biggest surprise was not Sanders' competitiveness in failure but Trump's success. Trump also benefited from a media willing to cover unlikely candidates.

It's possible that Sanders benefited from new media like Reddit. But I wouldn't say that that was the only reason for his success. Someone was going to be Hillary Clinton's chief primary opponent. She is extremely unpopular. If not for Donald Trump, she would be the most unpopular major party nominee since they started polling that question. Without Sanders, one of the other candidates would have stepped up. That person might not have done as well. Impossible to say now.

  • My mistake about the lawn, I must have misread it. I corrected it now.
    – JabaTheHut
    Commented Jul 10, 2016 at 6:55

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