The “dab” millennial culture, political debate etiquette

Nicholas Hunter

Last Wednesday, a debate for California’s open U.S. Senate seat took place between California’s Attorney General Kamala Harris and California Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez.

This should mean little to nothing in the state of Ohio, except for an odd occurrence that took place near the end of the debate: To end her closing statement in a senatorial debate, Sanchez “hit the dab.”

The dab, for those who don’t know, is a dance move that is widely credited to be originated by Atlanta-based rap group Migos, coming from their music video for “Look at my Dab.” The move took off in mainstream media when Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton adopted it as his signature touchdown dance for the 2015 season.

Going further back, dabbing is a type of marijuana use. The dance move is a reference to hitting an actual dab so strong that people immediately start coughing after smoking it.

The origins of this dance move mean little in the day and age of Internet meme culture, where things quickly lose their original meaning as they get shared under different contexts throughout social media.

Sanchez is actually not the first political figure to hit the dab in public; that credit can go to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, who did so on an episode of “The Ellen Show” back in January.

The problem with Clinton doing a move like that is not what it was once a reference to, but because she has been widely criticized for what some consider transparent efforts to look cool and relatable to young voters.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders gained support from young voters largely due to the policies he wanted to enact. Even though one of his campaign slogans was a pun that initially took off on social media — “Feel the Bern” — he was able to embrace millennial humor and culture, without trying to actively adopt it. This approach seemed to make him more likable, while Clinton’s attempt at actively adopting millennial culture has turned many off to her.

Throughout this election season, Clinton has struggled to seem genuine to her supporters, which stands in stark contrast with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s off-the-cuff and common language stage presence, which comes off as authentic to his supporters.

While hitting the dab may not turn the tide in any elections this year, it is becoming increasingly evident that making connections with the voters is more important than it has ever been. As the years go on and millennials move into the political world, it will be fascinating to see how this developing culture will influence politics.

Nicholas Hunter is a columnist, contact him at [email protected].