American politics has usually been a persona video game. Thomas Jefferson was the Democratic-Republicans’ avatar of agrarian nobility, contra John Adams’ Federalist, centralist elite. JFK was America’s dynamic foreseeable future Richard Nixon its dowdy fabric-coat earlier. George W. Bush’s aw-shucks Americanism was an implicit critique of John Kerry, in spite of their shared blue-blood lineage. But there’s a little something historically novel about fashionable-working day own politics — a thing that can be comprehended only by the lens of 1 of 21st-century pop culture’s excellent people in his very own correct: Marshall Bruce Mathers III, a.k.a. Eminem, a.k.a. Trim Shady.
If you rely your self between any of the supporter clubs pointed out earlier mentioned — the KHive, the Yang Gang, the Cuomosexuals — you just could be a “stan.” That expression, enshrined in the Oxford English Dictionary as “an overzealous or obsessive lover, esp. of a specific superstar,” is self-deprecatingly borrowed from Mathers’ Dido-interloping 2000 strike of the exact title, a morbid tale about the titular Slender Shady supporter whose obsession ends in tragic violence. “Stan tradition,” a shorthand for the obsessive, hyper-passionate subcultures that spring up all over different celebrities, has overtaken the realms of K-Pop, Marvel Comics and any amount of cultural points concerning — and now it is recognized alone in politics, a reflection of how social media and the weird passions it engenders are shifting American daily life.
“Stans” are not just fanatics for the objects of their passion, they’re evangelists, even paladins, making spotlight reels, memes and harassment campaigns on behalf of their picked out idols. They cultivate cultural micro-universes, entire with their individual historical rivalries, blood feuds and financial institutions of Talmudic awareness.
Crucially, “standom” is distinct from common “fandom,” insomuch as you may possibly be a “fan” of the Milwaukee Bucks or “The Bachelorette.” It includes an powerful, individual identification with one’s idol, in which their preferences, beliefs and aesthetics are mainly substituted for one’s individual — and subsequently defended at any expense. In a post-monocultural era, a stan-welcoming politician isn’t a mass-marketed product or service of the Nixon period, but a boutique providing who activates one’s market cultural affinity in its place of a hazily-described American spirit.
Politics is now as much of a internet marketing battle as the Billboard Warm 100 or the box business it was inescapable that “standom” would sooner or later reach it. But to fully grasp how it shapes community discourse — and how it could, or could possibly not, reward the formidable politicians who possess their own — it’s practical to glimpse at where the phenomenon has manifested prior to, and who’s been capable to most efficiently harness it.
If you’re a news consumer of a particular age, the first time you might have encountered the “stan” nomenclature was probable for the duration of a single of 2020’s numerous hallucinatory, now-pretty much-forgotten functions: former President Donald Trump’s ill-timed June marketing campaign rally in Tulsa, which was supposedly derailed by anti-Trump TikTok end users and K-pop stans. The narrative was just about also excellent to be correct, much too poetic in its generational conflict: Trump’s rally, seemingly flouting both community wellness tips in a pre-vaccine planet and very good style amid ongoing racial justice protests, was frustrated in its attendance by world wide web-savvy young folks who registered for tickets with the specific intent of not exhibiting.
While the campaign’s direct impression is even now to some degree unclear, the stan military at the pretty least succeeded in baiting Trump marketing campaign manager Brad Parscale to crow about the massive RSVP numbers and book an outside overflow area — top Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the beneficiary of her possess fiercely devoted fanbase, to crow later on on Twitter that the Trump campaign obtained “ROCKED by teenagers on TikTok.” People who structured it might not have been “stanning” on the behalf of any 1 politician, but their procedures and tone were a perfect introduction for the political mainstream to how “stan culture” organizes and imposes itself on the broader media ecosystem: as a result of virality, simplicity and a deep sense of grievance and indignation.
Nowhere in mainstream politics is that mixture far better reflected than with Kamala Harris’ on the net military, the aforementioned “KHive.” The self-bestowed pun nickname remembers Beyoncé’s “BeyHive,” notorious for its swift and relentless retribution against everyone who could besmirch (or even mildly criticize) the pop mogul. KHive stans—many of them previous supporters of Hillary Clinton—view themselves as the frontline defenders of a trailblazing politician who has defied the road blocks that typically stymie Black girls in politics only to confront continued, unfair scrutiny immediately after her triumph on the 2020 ticket.
Listed here, the substance of that criticism is a lot less pertinent than the sort it will take. KHive customers hold lists of their opponents, presumably as targets for relentless trolling. They make odd kitsch artwork. Some almost never depart the property without having some sort of pinpointing professional-Kamala clothes or merchandise. The KHive comprise a political movement only insomuch as Kamala Harris is pretty much a politician in reality, the group is nearer to a fandom. And in that mild, it is only all-natural that it grew out of the 2020 Democratic major, which highlighted a solid of people practically as expansive and unique as the Marvel Cinematic Universe alone.
That major highlighted the KHive and the Yang Gang, but also the return of the Bernie Bros and the professional-Warren Liz Lads, as properly as an arranged fanbase for then-South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, albeit 1 missing a equally catchy nickname. (This author’s endeavor to establish and activate a motion of “Bennet Bros” has been, as yet, unsuccessful.)
For the most rigorous devotees of the candidates, the 2020 key was, pretty much, a persona contest, with the exceptional charm of their chosen applicant the only thing standing in between American democracy and oblivion—“oblivion,” in this circumstance, currently being American standom’s fantastic accomplishment tale: The political project of Donald J. Trump, whose most devoted admirers have engaged in all of the actions explained higher than (and much extra).
The vast empire of Trump’s fandom nearly tends to make the KHive appear like minimal league ball—his re-election marketing campaign invested much more than $10 million on MAGA swag for its hungry audience, which picked up any remaining slack with bootleg merch of its possess (not to mention a sequence of ostentatious boat parades, generally-surreal social media tributes, and nigh-ubiquitous remixes of the American flag celebrating their idol). Just as Harris taps into a thing aspirational in her most devoted supporters, so does Trump, albeit with about as distinctive an ideological character as 1 could consider.