Last Thursday, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders announced his run to be the next president of the United States, challenging Hillary Clinton from the left – and he took it as an opportunity to engage the progressive Reddit community, one of the largest online communities on the planet.
Reddit: The Latest Progressive Grassroots Platform?
If you aren’t familiar with Reddit, think of it as “the front page of the Internet.” The Pew Center’s Internet & American Life Project found that 6% of online adults have used Reddit. To put it in perspective, that equates to over 6 billion page views per month.
Reddit users have a long history of combining their efforts to conquer large-scale philanthropic goals, like donating nearly $200,000 to relief efforts following the Haitian earthquake, or nearly $80,000 to the Faraja Orphanage in Kenya in a single day.
But can Reddit help put someone in the White House?
Howard Dean & Meetup.com
Some say that the Internet invented 2004 Democratic candidate Howard Dean – he listened to the technology and the people who used it.
Started in 2002, Meetup.com was launched to make it easy for people with a common interest to find each other and meet face to face. According to CNN, the number of participants in Howard Dean “meetups” ultimately peaked at about 143,000, spread over about 600 locations – huge numbers at the time.
From Howard Dean to the tea party, meetup.com became one of the first digital tools for online organizing. Could Reddit’s clout become a factor in the 2016 Presidential Election?
”Bernie Sanders For President! (This ad brought to you by Reddit)”
Bernie Sanders has a vibrant history on Reddit, both as a user and as a popular figure.
One of Sanders’ top Reddit posts says: “I believe that no president, no matter what his or her views, no matter how smart he or she may be, is ever going to accomplish anything for the working class and the middle class in this country without the active — italicized — active continuous support of grass-roots America.”
So it came as no surprise to Redditors when Sanders personally announced there and made it to the front page of Reddit – in less than two hours.
The direct call to action to help Sanders’ campaign by Vermonty_Python, moderator of r/SandersForPresident, elicited a wave of overwhelming support. What makes the Reddit community’s stamp of approval so strong is that it has the power to make Bernie Sanders’ campaign go viral overnight – all without costing Sanders a single dime.
With Facebook and Twitter communities already largely dominated by Hillary fans, Reddit seems like a likely audience for Sanders to dig into – and own.
But an Army of Enthusiastic Redditors Won’t Be Enough for Sanders to Breakthrough
Of course, a Reddit stamp of approval isn’t enough to pave the way for Bernie Sanders to saunter into the Oval Office – but some argue that doesn’t matter.
Chris Cillizza argued in the Washington Post, that even Bernie Sanders knows that he won’t be able to win. So this begs the question, “Why run?” Cillizza argues that Sanders is part of “a new-ish breed of presidential candidate: one who runs a cause more than a campaign.”
With a slim chance to win, Bernie Sanders can say almost whatever he wants – and the press will cover it. Expect to hear about his will have a soapbox to highlight his socialist agenda around salt of the earth, working class issues.
Learn more about Bernie Sanders here.