The Memorable Online Moments That Captured Campaign 2016 | KERA News

The Memorable Online Moments That Captured Campaign 2016

Nov 8, 2016
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2016 has been the social media election. All through this year, it seems like dozens, if not hundreds, of moments have gone viral and actually driven the news cycle. NPR's Sam Sanders is our politics and pop culture reporter. Hey there, Sam.

SAM SANDERS, BYLINE: Hey, how are you?

CORNISH: Now, you've actually determined the three viral moments that explain the entire election.

SANDERS: Just three.

CORNISH: How just three?

SANDERS: I don't know.


SANDERS: Just had to cut the list down. For the first one, we got to go all the way back to the first GOP debate. It is a moment between Donald Trump and FOX News host Megyn Kelly. She asked him a pretty tough question about his record on women.


MEGYN KELLY: Your Twitter account has several disparaging comments about women's looks. You once told a contestant on "Celebrity Apprentice" it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees. Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect as president? And how will you answer the charge from Hillary Clinton, who is likely to be the Democratic nominee, that you are part of the war on women?

SANDERS: Trump didn't like that. Soon after that first debate, he responded like this.


DONALD TRUMP: You know, you could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.

SANDERS: Yeah. So this would be the first of many offensive interactions between Trump - with women and about women. You know, he insulted Carly Fiorina's face. He mocked the weight of Alicia Machado, former Miss Universe. There was this "Access Hollywood" video that had him talking about groping women and some very offensive terminology. And, most recently, he called Hillary Clinton during the last debate a, quote, "nasty woman."

So what stood out with me was that that first moment with Megyn Kelly foreshadowed an ongoing theme with the entire election. We were going to spend a good portion of this season discussing, kind of as a society, how we treat women in the campaign trail, in the workplace and how we talk about things like a sexual assault. And what was interesting to me is that, for most of the time of this conversation, Donald Trump, a man, was the driving force.

CORNISH: And that is a long list. But I know, obviously, he's not the only candidate. Can you talk about what else you saw this election cycle?

SANDERS: Yes. So you know that I covered Bernie Sanders for months during the primary season. There's one moment for me that crystallizes everything that he stood for in this campaign season. It was May of this year in Portland, Ore. During the Sanders rally, a bird landed on his lectern. And the crowd, of course, went wild.

It kind of perfectly crystalizes Bernie Sanders' almost-magical rise from seemingly nowhere to really be a formidable challenge to one of the most well-established politicians of the modern era. But the fact that that birdie appeared on Sanders' lectern in a city like Portland is symbolic. Portland is the whitest city in America.

And it kind of spoke to Sanders' struggles - really trying to appeal to minority voters over the course of the primary season. He did well with young voters of color. But he never really tapped into enough Latino and black support to win the primary.

CORNISH: Now, we haven't talked about Hillary Clinton yet. And I'm sure there must be some kind of meme-able (ph) moment (laughter) when it comes to Hillary Clinton.

SANDERS: For sure. This one's kind of tied to the way that she appealed to voters of color. Last December, she was asked in Iowa whether she wanted to be president or to be Beyonce.


HILLARY CLINTON: I want to be as good a president as Beyonce is a performer (laughter).


SANDERS: Beyonce.

CORNISH: And we should say for the not-super fans out there, maybe like Hillary Clinton (laughter), it's Beyonce.

SANDERS: It's Beyonce.


SANDERS: Yes, yes, yes. So there was another moment where she tried to compare herself to your abuela, which is Spanish for grandmother - internet didn't like that. There was a morning radio show she was on where she said she carries hot sauce in her bag. This was appealing to a Beyonce lyric. Folks didn't like that, either. She went on "The Ellen Show" and did two modern dances, the Whip and the Nae Nae - much parodied.

And so throughout this whole election season, she has struggled particularly in appealing to young voters of color in spite of the high polling numbers she has with Latino and black voters. Of course, just this past weekend, Beyonce performed for Hillary Clinton. So maybe all as well.

CORNISH: So Sam, what's your big takeaway from all of this?

SANDERS: So I think what we're seeing is people from communities that have typically been marginalized - they are exercising more clout in politics than ever. And they expect their candidates to speak to them in a certain way, to pay a certain amount of attention to them and to get the messaging right.

Groups like women and voters of color are not just driving the conversation but holding politicians on both sides to a higher standard. And, as a parallel, we've seen, in watching the rise of the anti-establishment, Donald Trump movement, a lot of working-class white voters and white men say to established politicians, hey, you don't get me, either.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Sam Sanders. Sam, thanks so much.

SANDERS: Thanks, Audie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.