The 2016 Presidential Election in 15 Memes
If the 2016 presidential election has been feeling a little heavy, why not remember it as it was lived — in memes.
For Americans citizens (and Back to the Future fans) hoping for hover boards or flying cars, the future has turned out to be a grave disappointment. But for those of us who understand that the future is, was and always will be judged by America’s richest resource — memes — see that we’re living in a golden age. We realize that no matter the results of the 2016 presidential election, the real winner has already been decided, and it’s the internet at large.
Here now, a brief history of the 2016 presidential election … in memes.
1. ‘Delete Your Account’
Considering the things that Donald Trump would go on to say, it’s shocking Hillary Clinton reached the nuclear option of Twitter — “delete your account” — this early in their battle. Still, it remained a high point of the leading candidates’ back and forth, at least until the debates.
When Donald Trump Jr. tweeted out a picture of a bowl of Skittles with the caption, “If you had a bowl of skittles and I told you just three would kill you. Would you take a handful? That’s our Syrian refugee problem” in September, he was rebuked by everyone from the United Nations to Wrigley — who manufactures the candy — though he probably didn’t realize an even more sinister meaning behind his choice of metaphor. Since Trayvon Martin was gunned down by George Zimmerman after walking home from purchasing a bag of Skittles, online trolls have taken to flooding social media with images of the candy whenever there’s a police-involved shooting, as a form of anti-Black Lives Matter spam.
3. The ‘Woman’s Card’
Trump’s Twitter account may have been the most incendiary of social media accounts belonging to the major party candidates, but Clinton’s team has proved to be more creative. The campaign flipped Trump’s remark about Hillary playing “the woman’s card,” by urging voters to donate and collect a “woman’s card” of their own, an effort that brought in a reported $2.4 million in three days.
4. Marco Rubio’s Water Bottle
“Marco does have a water thing,” one long-time Rubio associate told Politico in 2015. “I don’t know what it is. He says he just gets thirsty, but it’s clear it’s just a nervous tic. It’s something he just has to have around, like a security blanket or something.” Whatever the reason, Rubio’s insistence on being properly hydrated — even at the risk of derailing his momentum mid-speech — proved to be one of the more easily mocked aspects of his campaign.
5. Chris Christie’s Thousand-Yard Stare
Christie’s shell-shocked expression as he stood behind Donald Trump on Super Tuesday hit Twitter and just kept growing. What was Christie looking at with such an apparent combination of remorse, longing and unfathomable soul-pain? No idea. Maybe he was thinking about that bridge.
6. Trump’s Reaction Face
This is the series of faces Trump made in CNN’s Republican candidate debate when the moderator quoted Bobby Jindal as saying Trump couldn’t be trusted with the nuclear codes. It’s proven to be quite the popular reaction GIF online, as well as a weirdly mesmerizing thing to watch on a loop.
7. Texts from Hillary
A photo of Clinton from 2012 became an endless platform for imagined text conversations between the candidate and the recipient of her digital missives. Here, photographer Diana Walker recounts the story that led to the iconic shot.
8. Eye-Mouth Swap
Eerie, isn’t it?
9. Melania Trump’s RNC Speech
The fact that Melania Trump‘s speech at the Republican National Convention seemed to borrow chunks of a speech FLOTUS Michelle Obama made years before was too much for the internet, which had a field day with the idea.
10. Ken Bone
Like so many memes, Ken Bone ended in disappointment. The rotund, red sweater-clad undecided voter became a celebrity following his appearance at a presidential debate, thanks to his name and sartorial choices. But after a deep dive into his Reddit account revealed — among other things — an interest in salacious photos of pregnant women, his shine was significantly tarnished.
11. Feel the Bern
Nothing summed up Bernie Sanders’ groundswell of support from earnest, left-leaning young people like “Feel the Bern.” Much like the candidate himself, it was a little irreverent and a little out of place in the world of politics as we’ve come to know it. And once his supporters made up their minds that this was the slogan they were going to rally behind, it was everywhere.
12. Ted Cruz is Zodiac
Though “Lyin’ Ted” might have been Trump’s preferred nickname for his biggest rival for the GOP nomination, the internet had a different name it preferred to use for Cruz: the notorious California serial killer referred to as Zodiac. Exactly one guy’s 2013 tweet can be traced as ground zero for the concept, but the vast majority of internet denizens got in on the Zodiac debauchery throughout the duration of Cruz’s campaign.
13. Nasty Woman
Did Trump really think it would be in his service to interject that Clinton was “such a nasty woman” in the middle of her response to a question during the third debate? Twitter quickly seized upon the insult-cum-homage as a rallying cry for Hillary’s campaign.
14. Man Falls … Because Election Night Is Stressful
Election night is stressful. And this guy, falling on camera on NBC, well … he was all of us. What a night. What a terrible, terrible night.
What we once mocked about #TrumpCake, we soon became. The forlorn countenance, the thousand-yard-stare… sometimes when you stare at #TrumpCake, #TrumpCake stares back also.