Though the Internet has changed politics irrevocably, it’s easy to take for granted. First there was Barack Obama’s social media-powered rise in 2008. Now, we’re watching heretofore impossible milestones: From Bernie Sanders’s unlikely rise, fueled by a flood of online contributions to uh, however you might explain the whole Donald Trump thing.
One of the factors that has helped fuel this retooling of politics is YouTube. Since its launch in 2005, the online video giant has helped reshape how we consume media, including news. Not to mention the ease with which anyone can now broadcast, another fact that’s easy to take for granted here in 2016.
Last year, Americans spent a collective total of 6,500 years watching YouTube videos about the 2016 presidential candidates. The most-watched candidates on YouTube last year were Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Ben Carson, in that order. In the first two months of 2016, those numbers shifted a little: Sanders overtook Clinton in YouTube watch time and Ted Cruz became the fourth most-watched candidate. Trump, unsurprisingly, is still the most-viewed candidate on the site.
YouTube has been a part of the U.S. election cycle almost as long as the site has existed. Remember George Allen’s “Macaca” gaffe? That was a decade ago, believe it or not.
As U.S. voters recover (or rejoice) from the results of Super Tuesday, let’s distract ourselves with a look at the most memorable moments in YouTube political history.
Republican Senator George Allen learned about the modern phenomenon of a “viral video” the hard way after this 2006 campaign event.
Nine years and more than a few gray hairs later, the young senator from Illinois is now wrapping up his last year in office.
In 2007, Republican and Democratic hopefuls answered debate questions from YouTube users for the first time.
As historic as Obama’s 2008 inauguration or some of his famous speeches have been, none of those moments are as popular with YouTubers as this: “Crush On Obama” may well go down in history as the most widely viewed pop song about having the hots for a presidential candidate. But who knows? Leah Kaufmann, the vocalist behind the viral “Obama Girl” craze recently wrote a song called “Bernie Bae” and the election cycle is still young.
2008 wasn’t all likes and faves for Barack Obama on the Internet. This pro-McCain video featuring an Iraq War veteran went viral and has been viewed over 14 million times.
Years before the rise of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, then-presidential candidate Obama made his famous speech on race and politics, which quickly became the most widely viewed video from a presidential candidate in the 2008 race at the time.
Millennials in their early 20s who thought Sarah Palin’s recent endorsement of Donald Trump was a head-scratcher may be surprised to learn that she’s been making bizarre, widely mocked public comments since her 2008 run for vice president. Interviews, parodies, and impersonations of Palin generated half a billion views during the last leg of the campaign.
Obama’s 2009 inauguration was the most well-attended event in Washington, D.C. history and one of the most widely viewed events in recent memory.
In what may well become a routine part of presidential life, Barack Obama sat down for the first YouTube-conducted, crowd-sourced Q&A just a few days after his first State of the Union address in 2009.
By the time the 2012 election rolled around, social media and YouTube were already well-established forces in politics. Yet for all the campaign-crafted messages, debates, ads, and speeches that poured out of that election, one of the most popular videos was this viral sensation, featuring a little girl sobbing her eyes out with election fatigue.
It used to be that filibusters only lasted as long as legislators could physically bear to stand up and speak–Senator Strom Thurmond’s 1957 filibuster against a civil rights bill remains the longest in U.S. history, at over 24 hours. But in the age of YouTube, these oratory disruptions don’t have to end. You can watch Rand Paul rant against domestic surveillance, see Bernie Sanders rail against the Bush tax cuts or hear Ted Cruz read Dr. Seuss whenever you want.
However the complex and contentious 2016 presidential election shakes out, few will forget its first viral video: SNL’s Democratic debate cold start featuring impersonations of the Democratic candidates, including Larry David’s famously spot-on impression of Bernie Sanders.
It’s still early in the 2016 election season, but Donald Trump is already the most-watched candidate on YouTube. And while there are more than 3 million Trump-related videos on YouTube, few are as popular as this one: John Oliver’s epic, 20-minute take-down of Trump may have only aired last week, but it’s already a viral sensation, having been viewed over 13 million times (and counting).