The line between politicians and constituents has been slowly degrading due to innovations in social media campaigns and the zeitgeist of the 2010s being influenced heavily by celebrity culture. The rise of populism and the far-right has led to many cults of personality being created around our politicians, from former President Donald Trump to Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. To be perfectly fair, this phenomenon has also occurred on the left, albeit to a much lesser extent and with far less harmful effects.
Politicians are not celebrities, and should not be treated as such. When someone like Chris Pratt is openly homophobic, they may indirectly negatively affect your life in some way, but when a politician is bigoted, or even when they just make a mistake, they have a direct influence on your life.
Politicians, especially the younger generation, are becoming experts of creating an online presence. They are practically becoming influencers in their own right. For example, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Twitter feud with Sen. Ted Cruz and her stream where she played “Among Us” with famous Twitch streamers have both helped her curate her image as a progressive politician. However, there is a problem when people begin to form parasocial relationships (one-sided relationships where people create a bond with a person who does not know they exist) with her.
Liking politicians because of their past actions is all well and good until you become jaded and no longer find it necessary to critique them. While Ocasio-Cortez is an amazing member of Congress who has been able to push progressive legislation despite not having the same privilege as other members, at the same time she has defended her fellow member of Congress Rep. Ilhan Omar when she was accused of using antisemitic dog whistles while criticizing Israel. It is okay to acknowledge all the good that she has done while also expecting more of her as a civil servant. She, along with every other member of Congress, works for you, and every representative should be held to a high standard at all times.
Ocasio-Cortez does receive a lot of criticism, especially from those on the far-left who do not think she is doing enough, but the real harmful parasocial relationships are occurring from the far-right. During Trump’s presidency, there were many people who began to unapologetically worship him even when he no longer followed the Republican Party’s core ideology. Instead of Trump representing the party, the party began to represent Trump.
At some point, he could no longer do any wrong — his main base never abandoned him despite all of his failures in office. His support from within the party began to grow even as his rabid base became more and more outspoken to the point where we have conspiracy theorists like Greene in Congress. This incessant need to defend not only your team and ideals, but also the very flawed people that claim to represent those ideals only leads to a lack of accountability for those who are meant to serve us. If Americans allow ourselves to be starstruck by politicians who have built up cults of personality around themselves, it will lead to those people being able to push reactionary and other harmful rhetoric and legislature with no repercussions.
This article presents opinions held by the author, not those of The Pioneer Log and its editorial board.