But the explicit appeal to a culture of cool reached a modern apex during Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, when artists mobilized to create pop-art imagery of Obama. Bernie Sanders, in a sense, borrowed from Obama’s playbook, though his campaign tried to make its revolutionary ideas and agenda, rather than its candidate, the star of the show. And Clinton is taking a cue from Bernie’s campaign. Instead of trying to make herself cool (I mean…), she is working on making clear that America’s fundamental values of inclusion, fairness and opportunity for all — the essential values that are at stake in this election — are deeply, infectiously cool.
The Trump campaign has taken a different approach. A Trump surrogate, Marco Gutierrez, told MSNBC’s Joy Reid that if America doesn’t do something about immigration, “You’re going to have taco trucks on every corner.” He said it as if taco trucks were a bad thing. But the problem for the Trump campaign is that cool kids like taco trucks. They can be found on every other street corner in trendsetting hipster neighborhoods.
And cool kids don’t just like taco trucks. They like pluralism, tolerance, marriage equality, a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, and wait for it, Hillary Clinton. While in some ways this election seems like the last ditch effort on the part of the traditionalist right to “make America great again,” the cool kids are not interested in entertaining such backward ideals. They like where we are as a country — our progress toward gender equality, sexual freedom, racial justice and integration of immigrant communities into our national tapestry. They want that progress to continue, and even more quickly.