I don’t care if you’re a Tea Partying supporter of Ted Cruz or Democratic Socialist supporter of Bernie Sanders or someone in-between, the term ‘Super PAC’ probably has very negative connotations for you that conjure up images of fat-cat millionaires trying to buy our elections. You probably think about misleading attack ads that contribute to the toxic political environment.
I came across an unusual Super PAC that’s a little different from what you’d expect. The Correct the Record PAC supports Hillary Clinton, but they don’t run political advertisements at all, and they have no interest in doing negative campaigning. They seem to be an entirely focused on combatting online negativity about Clinton and her campaign.
I thought it was interesting to see a Super PAC used this way, and I’m not sure any other candidates are doing this or that there is any precedent for it.
I assume that the Clinton campaign (proper) has an aggressive blog and social media team, so this must be at least somewhat redundant, but it was created to combat something I’ve seen a lot of people complaining about, and I’ve even experienced it firsthand in my own blogging community.
Back in February, former President Bill Clinton kind of lost his cool on the topic of Sanders supporters’ online behavior:
Clinton didn’t stop there. He launched into a discussion of the ugly “Bernie Bro” phenomenon that the Sanders campaign has denounced — backers who harass female Clinton supporters online and accuse them of “voting with their vagina” and call them “bitches.”
Clinton called them “vicious trolling and attacks that are literally too profane … not to mention sexist.”
Fortunately, I haven’t seen that extreme kind of behavior from Sanders supporters at my own sites, but I’ve definitely gotten feedback that it’s hard to come out in favor of Clinton in online forums because you get a lot of hostility and disrespect.
The Super PAC is a response to this. They aren’t just looking to push back at negative stories about Clinton. They’re trying to keep it positive and push narratives that put Clinton in a good light. They’re focused on giving Clinton supporters safe spaces to express their excitement about her candidacy, and they like to point out that a March Gallup poll showed that Clinton supporters are more enthusiastic about her campaign than Bernie supporters are about his campaign.
Here’s what the Super PAC says about their mission:
Lessons learned from online engagement with “Bernie Bros” during the Democratic Primary will be applied to the rest of the primary season and general election-responding quickly and forcefully to negative attacks and false narratives. Additionally, as the general election approaches, the task force will begin to push out information to Sanders supporters online, encouraging them to support Hillary Clinton.
The task force currently combats online political harassment, having already addressed more than 5,000 individuals who have personally attacked Secretary Clinton on Twitter. The task force will provide a presence and space online where Clinton supporters can organize and engage with one another and are able to obtain graphics, videos, gifs, and messaging to use in their own social spaces. Additionally, the Barrier Breakers 2016 task force hopes to embrace the creativity of Hillary Clinton’s supporters by sharing their efforts and content with other groups.
I try not to be too cynical about this stuff. I obviously don’t support the whole Super PAC construct, and sometimes I think too much is made of the whole Bernie Bro phenomenon. It’s not like a lot of Hillary supporters can’t give as good as they get. But I do think it’s interesting to see a Super PAC utilized in this way. It will probably be an asset in the general election campaign, and I’d guess it’ll be a more productive use of big donor money than the typical attack ads that don’t seem to be very effective anymore.
And if they dedicate themselves to being positive and pushing back against misogynistic and bullying attacks against Clinton and her supporters, that’s a good thing.