Beto O'Rourke fan art
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Credit: Patrick Gabaldon

Beto O'Rourke, Trump, and the fans who treat politicians like superheroes [Ep #54]

Sep 24, 2018, 3:45 PM EDT

Since the founding of American democracy, political leaders have sought to portray themselves as brave, benevolent, and selfless servants of the people, driven by incorruptible moral cores to help the downtrodden and dreamers alike. They put their faces on posters and then a whole damn mountain. The giant leaders of past centuries are now legends, their stories packaged for children like the hero's journey they might find in comic books, with Manichaean struggles.

Even as Americans have soured on the political process and grown rightly skeptical of suits, some politicians have been able to cut through that cynicism and present themselves as new great hopes, inspiring fervent devotion and volunteerism. Social media and 24/7 cable TV have only invited more opportunities to connect with and deify these leaders. With political parties seen as organs of crass corruption, leaders must sell themselves more than any policy, and as with any superhero or celebrity, that leads to true fandom, with all of its attendant activities.

With that in mind, this episode of The Fandom Files branches out from nerdy geeks to the world of political geeks, to explore why people love certain politicians, such as Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke and President Donald Trump, and how they act on that fervent fandom. With fan art (the focus of our conversation with Texas artist Patrick Gabaldon), conventions, and endless social media interactions, nerdy and political fandom are not all that different.

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