The Petrifying Phenomenon of Political Stanning

I can’t help it. In times when the current political era feels like the messiest and bitterest, finding politicians who are more honest, powerful and good can feel like finding a knight in shining armor. Seeing pictures of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in her designer suit striking a power pose and talking about the issues in our country in the most straightforward manner, in a way that I align with, feels empowering and inspiring. So inspiring that I retweet and comment on every photo, thinking about how perfect AOC is as one of the next leaders for our country. I’m sure that you’re thinking about another politician that incites the same feelings for you, and it feels nice, doesn’t it?

But there’s a problem, a deep-seated issue that people like me have to unlearn. Politicians are not perfect, and they are not meant to be idolized. This is the phenomenon of “political stanning,” and in a social media-centered society like today’s, it is too easy to fall into the trap.

According to an article by The Signal, stanning is the “culture committed to glorifying celebrities and leaves little to no room to criticize them.” Political stanning is the phenomenon of glorifying politicians the same way that fans of a music group or a film franchise might do, essentially creating a craze and frenzy around public servants.

It’s no surprise that stan culture and political stanning has escalated with such momentum. In a time when social media can be used to collectively organize, unify and help politicians and citizens have more direct conversations, it’s hard not to become consumed with a politician and their actions. In politics, decisions are being made for a collective group that consists of so many different people. Someone will inevitably become disappointed, if not now, then later. The jobs of politicians are to make decisions that sometimes comprise a matter of life and death. Stan culture is inappropriate and erroneous, especially today when our world ineffectively utilizes politicians as “icons,” most of whom have proven to be inauthentic.

Although I was happy with the work that former President Barack Obama did during his time in office (and he was coherent and formal, unlike some politicians), I was disappointed with some other decisions that he made, like a drone-strike campaign in the Middle East and the mass deportation of immigrants.

A much more extreme example is one we continue to see today: Donald Trump supporters. Trump’s supporters seem like fanatics, which is terrifying. Listening to interviews from Trump supporters (there’s a great podcast by Vox that consists of these interviews), they vote for him based on the issue that benefits them the most. Everything else he’s done, whether it’s wrong and foul, doesn’t matter.

This is the core of political stanning.

This is one of the biggest results of stan culture. Criticisms are met with awkward stares or refutations that make sure not to tread on the politician's work that the citizen aligns with. These aren’t bad decisions that we can just forgive. For politicians, these decisions are serious because they profoundly affect others' lives, possibly inciting trauma and/or death within innocent citizens.

Political stanning prevents politicians from being held accountable, which only escalates the line that we as citizens allow them to cross. As a democracy, we can hold politicians liable for their faults, and we must capitalize on that. Politics and politicians themselves are too nuanced and complicated for us to worship them as perfect saviors. Stanning only makes the language we use surrounding politics ineffective, which is counterproductive to our needs as citizens.

Next time you catch yourself thinking about your unflawed politician, remember that this is merely a figment of your imagination, one that will only leave you feeling disenchanted.