There’s also something ineffable about Twitter’s influence, especially as it pertains to politics, around movement building and fandoms. Honest, sustained social media momentum behind candidates does seem to translate into something, even if it’s not clear how much to trust it. Take Andrew Yang. Though his campaign sputtered out last week, he outlasted multiple high-profile governors and senators. His staying power was linked in part to a movement he built across platforms like Twitter. Establishment pundits and politicos shocked by his longevity might have felt different had they engaged with or even observed #YangGang faithful on Twitter.
A better example might be Senator Bernie Sanders, arguably now the Democratic front-runner. The Sanders movement has been criticized for its intensity on Twitter, which infrequently but occasionally veers into toxic territory. And while analysts dissect the particulars of the Sanders online movement, what’s unquestionable is that it exists and is a stand-in for something very real: enthusiasm.
As we’ve seen so far in the Democratic primary, enthusiasm matters. The gap between hypothetical polling, months out before the first primary contests and the genuine, fandom-like enthusiasm that might motivate voters to caucus, canvas or brave the cold to cast their ballots can collapse quickly.