Candidate shaming: How damaging is it to voters?

Many people finding it harder to voice support of certain candidates due to extreme online shaming

Caitlyn Grcich, Managing Editor

With two presidential candidates and dislike for either one or the other or even both present on social media and through real life, it seems a new issue is on the rise. People’s choice of candidate is being shamed to the point where friends are being deleted from social media circles and memes and videos are emerging, giving negative labels to certain candidate’s supporters.
It began early in the election last year, with celebrity Sarah Silverman shaming millennials for voting for Bernie Sanders when they should instead focus on Hillary’s presidential bid, saying things such as, “To the Bernie-or-bust people: You’re being ridiculous”. It continued with singer Adele saying recently about Donald Trump, “Don’t vote for him, that’s all I’m saying”, followed by a Trump supporting Twitter user (@P0TUSTrump) tweeting, “Don’t vote for Hillary. She’s killing black people”.

But candidate shaming doesn’t stop with celebrities. Internet memes, articles that pose as credible sources and viral videos that give labels to supporters make it difficult for Trump supporters to come forward lest they be labeled racist, Clinton supporters lest they be labeled crooked, and third-party voters lest they be labeled apathetic. According to a May segment on the PBS Newshour stated some millennial Trump supporters in college say they’re afraid to speak out because of the stigma as being associated with the intolerant or brash individuals that left-leaning propagandists portray them as on social media.

Megan Pohl, vice chair of the group, College Republicans at Georgetown University, said she has seen students’ door signs destroyed and dorm room doors vandalized with obscene messages in permanent marker. 

“The climate on campus makes people who support Trump in any capacity afraid to make this publicly known. Many of the Trump supporters I happen to know are not bad, racist, homophobic, bigoted choice in this election cycle and who are fearful of where politics in this country seems to be headed in general,” Pohl said in the PBS segment written by Tara Jeffries.
And it isn’t a trend with millennials either. Even Robert Gates, who served as Secretary of Defense under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal shaming Trump and praising Clinton. Gates pushed readers to vote for the latter if Trump’s rhetoric did not change, saying, “But as I used to say in the Pentagon, we are where we are—not where we might wish to be. We have to make a decision”.
The shaming of people for the candidate they choose to vote for and using scare tactics seen in political commercials, it seems to almost be an infringement on the right to free speech. While some could say that it is a use of free speech, using scare tactics and voter-shaming to achieve a goal is not only scary, it creates a dishonest government. It also created a population afraid to voice their opinion for fear of backlash. If people are afraid to use their right of free speech, what can be expected when people are upset with which candidate is made president? Will they be too afraid to speak out in times of upset and injustice, avoiding the very basis that has allowed America to grow from the ground up?