A theme song and affiliated dance moves can say a lot about a political campaign.
For Barack Obama, the soundtrack of 2008 was the classic cool of Motown. For Hillary Clinton, her march of (not so) inevitability was carried out to the forced cheer of contemporary pop balladeers like Katy Perry.
And for Pete Buttigieg, well, the newly minted Iowa caucus front-runner’s campaign is jazzercising its way toward 2020 with all the style of one of those videos of a flashmob in a midwestern mall that your parents wouldn’t stop sharing on Facebook in 2011.
The South Bend, Indiana, mayor running for president in 2020 has embraced Panic! at the Disco’s High Hopes as his campaign walk-on song and his followers have enthusiastically jumped onboard, creating coordinated dances to match.
There have been at least three videos featuring different groups of supporters doing the dance – which involves arm-rolling, roof-raising, and hip-swinging – since 29 October.
One at a New Hampshire summit for campaigners showed a screen behind them that advertised it as the “high hopes dance”, but the Pete for America campaign did not immediately respond to request for comment regarding whether the coordinated dances were part of the official campaign.
Trump is going to be president for 100 years pic.twitter.com/esWI1Xxvcb
— Matt Bevan 🎙 (@MatthewBevan) November 17, 2019
The phrase “high hopes” was trending on Twitter in the United States on Monday, with some calling it the “cringiest” campaign trend so far. Even the press secretary for Julián Castro’s campaign liked a tweet making fun of the dance.
But for their part, Buttigieg supporters have been steadfast about their dance moves – and their candidate, counteracting the haters with the hashtag #HighHopesForPete. Lauren Wagner, a grassroots volunteer for the Buttigieg campaign based in Illinois, said she taught herself the dance through an instructional video posted on the Barnstormers for Pete website.
“I feel as if the dance is an expression of one of our Rules of the Road on #TeamPete, JOY,” she said, noting that the instructional video was broken down by moves and was adaptable for a wide range of disabilities in an effort to be inclusive.
“You can’t possibly not feel joy while doing the High Hopes Dance,” she said.
— Darin James 🐝 (@DJKinz65) November 12, 2019
It’s not not working. As attention to his campaign’s coordinated dances has surged, so has his backing in Iowa. The candidate recently pulled ahead of his nearest rivals in the battleground state as the 2020 caucus there fast approaches.
Despite this boost in Iowa, Buttigieg support is flagging in other states around the country, with 0% of black voters in South Carolina supporting him. His campaign has been criticized for lack of diversity and last week he removed a photo of a black woman and her child from his website after the Intercept revealed it was a stock photo.
Conor McQuivey, an organizer who shared a video of himself teaching the dance to supporters in Nevada in October, said he thinks it is a good way to spread Buttigieg’s message.
“I think the dance is a really fun and inclusive way for people to show that they are excited about this campaign and Pete’s candidacy,” he said. “One of the campaign’s ‘Rules of the Road’ is joy, and I’m glad we have an enthusiastic group of supporters who really embrace that”.