Late Tuesday night, Democratic Party fundraisers and get-out-the-vote efforts aimed at geek culture in the final days of the US election in 2020. Directors Joe and Anthony Russo hosted a partial Avengers reunion in a fundraising event where Democratic vice-presidential candidate Senator Kamala Harris (CA) joined the virtual event. At the same time, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez joined popular Twitch streamers to play Among Us. This was part of an effort to send people to IWillVote.com, which allows voters to make a plan to submit their ballots by mail, early, or in-person on Election Day. While the Russo Brothers fundraiser didn’t include viewership numbers, at one point more than 430,000 people watched Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s stream. There were still more than 300,000 viewers when the stream ended at midnight.
In any election year, politics invades pop culture, but nothing quite matches 2020. The incumbent president is a former reality television star. While Twitter went crazy over Sam Elliot’s traditional World Series Ad for Biden, these two events showed the power that online streaming has in the entertainment landscape.
While political campaigns are still focused on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, newer technologies may have a further reach. TikTok has more users than Twitter, and Twitch has 140 million monthly viewers, about ten times the number of top-rated cable television programs. Even a decade ago, actively courting the votes and attentions of gamers and geeks would be a nonstarter for most campaigns. However, ignoring these demographics means that politicians and their campaigns miss a huge opportunity to court new voters.
Why Tech and Pop Culture Is Important In an Election
Before I was fortunate enough to work with the esteemed team of writers here at Comic Years, I worked as a reporter covering politics and policy. In fact, it’s a little weird to me to be writing my first (and only) article about the 2020 Election with a mere two weeks before it takes place. However, entertainment plays a huge role in American politics, and it started long before America elected its first entertainment celebrity president. (This was Ronald Reagan in 1980.) Musicians, artists, and celebrities often used their platform to raise awareness for causes and candidates important to them. Stan Lee, the co-creator of the Marvel Universe, used his monthly comics editorials to speak on political issues.
What makes this different is that the candidates themselves are reaching out to Geek Culture celebrities in order to make use of their platforms. It would have been crazy for Hubert Humphrey to court Stan Lee’s public endorsement. Yet, former Vice-President Biden’s campaign is eager to get the support of all the Avengers they can. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez knows that Twitch streamers with absurd names like Corpse Husband, Pokimane, and others have fans equally devoted as any member of Team Cap or Team Iron Man.
As with every new generation of voters, the biggest question is if they will leverage their power in the way ever previous generation fears they will. If they do, and if one of the two major US political parties wins their votes consistently, it will represent a massive shift both the balance of power and the long-term political engagement of an entire generation.
If you are a citizen of the US, remember to vote either by mail, take advantage of early voting, or vote in-person on November 3, 2020.
featured image via screengrab
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.