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Bernie Sanders’ Army of Trolls Are Winning The Internet

Photo Credit: berniesanders.com

With a Reddit army like the one Bernie Sanders has, who needs economic policies millennials approve of to win their vote?

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Bernie Sander’s Reddit army might help him reach millennials where his economic policies fall short. Millennials love ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft. They’re ditching their cars in droves and turning to ridesharing to get them around. On Monday, Hillary Clinton made it clear she would criminalize the gig economy, when she said in a speech that she would go after “bosses misclassifying workers as contractors.” In response to Clinton’s speech, Sanders reiterated his own economic agenda, but he didn’t respond directly to her comments on regulating the ridesharing industry.

Sanders has been touted as the candidate for millennials. He hates student debt just as much as they do, wants to legalize pot, and increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour. But when it comes to ridesharing — which young people hold so near and dear — he doesn’t seem to be on the same page as his twenty-something constituents.  Like Clinton, Sanders is favored by many union members, and he makes it a point to fight for the American worker. Who’s to say he wouldn’t go after Uber the same way Clinton would? At the time this piece was published, the Sanders campaign has yet to respond to request for comment. So I asked about Sander’s opinion of Uber on his subreddit: /r/SandersForPresident, and was surprised by what happened next. Within minutes of posting my question, Reddit user, dizzimor, had a snarky response:

I’ve noticed that people keep asking for Bernie’s opinions on every matter conceivable. I hope that his personal views on ridesharing services doesn’t affect your vote…

After my question resulted in my support for Sanders to be questioned, more Reddit trolls explained to me that his opinion on this doesn’t matter, because he can’t do much about it even if he were president. So they explained that instead we should just focus on the other stuff he says about income inequality.

From dizzimor:

…But Presidents don’t really have the power to shut down businesses, even if they don’t like them. I think we should focus on Bernie’s message about income inequality instead.

From earlyberd:

Bernie has not mentioned anything about with ride sharing services, so as far as we know he has no opinion. If he can achieve his plans for infrastructure expansion, these services will become less relevant anyway. Taxis and ride sharing only exist to fill voids in public transit.

From personal experience, earlyberd is wrong about this. My home in Alexandria is easily accessible by public transportation, but anytime I have to get home from Reagan International, I usually opt to take an Uber home instead of lugging my bags onto the Yellow Line.

In fact, Sanders is killing it on Reddit. No other candidate comes close to the amount of activity on his subreddit.

Transportation preferences aside, the response from Sanders’ dedicated Reddit followers might be just what he needs to fill in the gaps his policy stances often create. In fact, Sanders is killing it on Reddit. No other candidate comes close to the amount of activity on his subreddit. At the time I wrote this piece, the second most active subreddit belonging to a presidential candidate is Rand Paul, who gets about 6-9 posts a day. To put that in context, 6-9 posts would be a slow hour for Sander’s subreddit, which gets dozens of posts a day. Scott Walker, who announced his candidacy for President Monday, had only 3 items posted to his subreddit on the day of his announcement, and the latest post on Hillary Clinton’s subreddit is 6 days old. 

It’s really quite baffling that the other presidential candidates haven’t caught on, especially after Sanders’ monumental rally in Madison, Wisconsin earlier this month. Nearly 10,000 people turned out, and his campaign credited Reddit for their huge turnout. Kate Kaye, of Crain’s Chicago Business, writes: 

While other candidates on both sides are focused on digital platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Google, the Sanders camp considers another to be as integral, if not more integral, to its grassroots momentum: Reddit. ‘We’ve used Reddit pretty extensively to advertise this event,’ said Mr. (Kenneth) Pennington, who handled digital work for the Senator as part of his staff before he launched his presidential run. ‘We’re hoping it will be a barn burner.’

Really though, why aren’t other candidates jumping on this opportunity to reach a broader audience? Perhaps they’re too busy staring down cakes, or being made into piñatas, or dieting. Whatever the reason, Sanders certainly has an advantage, and he plans to continue using his army of trolls. Perhaps supporters are resonating with Sanders, not just because they believe in his policies, but because they’ve witnessed the effectiveness of grassroots activism à la Reddit.