Well, both of the major party political conventions have come and gone, and we’re firmly in the official 2016 presidential race now. Something interesting about it, as it relates to fandom, is that a lot of the same theories that apply to comics or games or movies can be applied to political parties. Obviously, there are some greater repercussions in electing a president compared to, say, arguing whether Superman or the Hulk would win in a fight but many of the thought processes are similar.
Look at the candidates, and you’ll see people following them along both in real life and online. They’ll be eagerly anticipating the latest news, and how influential they are within their party depends, in part, on how closely aligned they are with the candidates themselves. People will sport hats and t-shirts with their candidates name or picture; there’s even an entire side industry making bootleg materials and selling them just far enough away from the primary players to get away with it.
And, of course, there are sharp divisions between the groups. Just like those Superman fans who think that Hulk proponents are idiots for thinking the Kryptonian could possibly lose, each political party think the other is filled with brain-addled pillocks who can’t figure out how to even put on shoes, much less tie their shoelaces.
We’re back to that in-group/out-group scenario that I’ve talked about here before. It’s another Us versus Them scenario. Which is why you see those who profess interest in third party candidates like Jill Stein or Gary Johnson derided by both Democratic and Republican groups. People see the discussion in a binary light—”a vote for Stein may as well be a vote for Trump” or “voting for Johnson is the same as handing a victory to Clinton” or whatever rhetoric people are using. It boils down to: if you’re not voting for the same candidate as me, then you’re voting against me. How much real impact these third party candidates have is certainly a matter for debate, but voting for any given candidate is not necessarily voting against all the other candidates. It can be, to be sure, but that’s not always the case.
Here’s something else to remember: that guy arguing that Hulk can totally beat Superman? He doesn’t care what evidence you bring up. You can rattle off all of Superman’s powers, explain any number of tactics Superman could successfully use, even point to specific evidence in some of their rare mutual appearances. But that Hulk fan isn’t interested; they’re convinced Hulk will win, and no amount of debating will change that. You might be able to sway a James Bond fan, someone who isn’t already invested in one or the other, but the Hulk fan will remain unmoved.
Now, read that paragraph again, but replace those hero names with “Clinton,” “Trump,” and “Stein” and you’ll see the point I’m trying to make. While the stakes are much higher in politics, since the candidates could have a direct impact on our lives, the fan discussions there aren’t all that different than the ones you see around your favorite fictional heroes.