Since Joe Biden's inauguration, Bernie Sanders has been taking social media by storm after a photo of the Democrat Senator attending the event went viral. The buzz shows no sign of waning, and that's maybe no bad thing, since the former US presidential candidate counts on cashing in on the hype... for the benefit of nonprofit feeding seniors in Vermont.
His knitted mittens and grumpy look are now cult internet gold. Thanks to AFP photographer Brendan Smialowski, Bernie Sanders became the buzziest politician on social media in the space of a few hours. The success above all unfolded on Twitter and Instagram, fueled by anonymous internet users and celebrities with millions of followers. Five days after Joe Biden's inauguration, where the photo was taken, Bernie Sanders meme mania is still going strong, and has even grown.
The photomontages show no sign of slowing, and are even reaching the highest political spheres as the likes of Justin Trudeau jump onboard the craze. Canada's Prime Minister, who counts some 5.4 million followers, joined in the fun by using a Bernie meme to remind people to stay home during the pandemic.
It was one thing when my son crashed my press conference a month or so ago, but this... Now is not the time to travel. Stay home - and by that, I mean your own home. pic.twitter.com/OOUb1tqBZe— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) January 23, 2021
Meanwhile, the famous author Stephen King served up a "Top Chef"-style take on the Bernie Sanders meme, with a culinary creation that scored over 20,000 "Likes" on Twitter.
Social media and beyond
The craze also proved a huge success for the bernie-sits.herokuapp.com website, created by Nick Sawhney, which lets people place Bernie Sanders on his folding chair anywhere they liked. Almost 10 million memes were generated on the site, its creator reveals. The software engineer ended up having to close the website due to a lack of funds, but he has announced that he is working on another idea to relaunch the platform thanks to crowdfunding. "I am getting so many messages from people wanting to bring the site back," the software engineer wrote on Github.
But the loss of this website, which helped people create Bernie Sanders memes more easily, proved no problem for Twitter user "mihow," who turned the meme into tangible reality by printing a life-sized cardboard cutout version. The cardboard Bernie Sanders was then taken to the streets of Washington to snapshots alongside American citizens. The initiative proved a hit with the dozens of Americans who posed next to the Senator's cardboard counterpart.
I printed out a life-size cardboard cutout of @BernieSanders and we took him all over DC. I haven’t experienced that much joy in forever. Thanks, fellow humans! Life is beautiful. #bernie #berniememe #berniecutout pic.twitter.com/WL5TJxQuEg— mihow (@mihow) January 25, 2021
Now, Bernie Sanders' teams are putting this newfound popularity to use, as his social media status as the kind-hearted but grumpy grandfather is potentially a goldmine. The official Bernie Sanders website is now selling T-shirts and sweaters featuring the viral image of the Senator for US$27 and $45 apiece -- and this Bernie meme merch is already sold out.
💜💜💜The impact of @SenSanders generosity and work of his team to start selling these sweatshirts so quickly will be huge for older Vermonters. https://t.co/gstwwYTgLL— Age Well (@AgeWellVT) January 24, 2021
Bernie Sanders has said that proceeds will go to nonprofits like Meals on Wheels Vermont, which helps feed seniors in the state, or Feeding Chittenden and Chill Foundation. "What we are doing here in Vermont is we're going to be selling around the country sweatshirts and T-shirts, and all of the money that's going to be raised -- which I expect will be a couple of million dollars -- will be going to programs like 'Meals on Wheels,' that feed low-income senior citizens," Bernie Sanders told CNN.