It's hard to imagine my grandparents endured election cycles with nothing more than drawings of animals accompanied by a couple words explaining the metaphor. How grateful I am to live in a time in which one can grab a smartphone, hide under the covers, and wait out the electoral storm with missives from internet strangers.
What a cycle it was! In the 20-month race to determine the new leader of the free world, we spent time with a boastfully racist puddle of orange Jell-O; a booger-eater; the human version of a long, drawn-out sigh that ends with an accidental fart; a hoarder of dank memes; and plenty of other variations on Judge Doom.
The cast of characters gave us night terrors and diverse stress-induced medical issues, but they also fueled spectacular creativity. And where our grandparents couldn't share their goofs without access to a proper printing press, it has never been easier to create memes or to share pithy quips — and so it has also never been easier to throw all of our dumb jokes and flat refusals to grapple with reality out into the communal pool and wallow in them together.
Today we will elect a new president of the United States! In honor of this historic moment, no matter which way it pans out, let’s revisit some of the shared jokes that got us through the last year and a half of mounting dread.Though on a more serious note: please abandon your blanket and smartphone long enough to go out and vote!
(You might notice the absence of a few particular big memes and moments, namely Pepe "the anti-semitic hate symbol." Because this election has been traumatic enough, we've chosen to focus on the fleeting moments of joy. We'll have plenty of time to further unpack Pepe, as we suspect the hate movement he embodies will, sadly, continue its awful march beyond the election.)
A is for "As far as the cyber"
"as far as the cyber"— Anne Helen Petersen (@annehelen) September 27, 2016
"As far as the cyber"— Nathan Ingraham (@NateIngraham) September 27, 2016
At the first presidential debate, Donald Trump took to the stage to discuss the biggest threats currently facing America’s "cyber": possibly Russia and maybe China, he said, but more likely "someone sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.
Relatedly, Trump’s 10-year-old son is "so good with these computers, it’s unbelievable." Congrats to Trump's son, who may or may not be a threat as far as the cyber.
B is for Balloons
find someone who looks at you the way Bill Clinton looks at balloons pic.twitter.com/OiXX0l3ELL— #1 Rachel ✨ (@rachel) July 29, 2016
Bill Clinton refusing to give his balloon to a little girl is the best thing I have ever seen pic.twitter.com/FgtG2XmPUc— tricia (@triciajeleen) July 29, 2016
Can you imagine how excited Bill Clinton is today? Probably about the whole election thingy but mainly in anticipation of all those balloons— EricaTriesToTweet (@SteussieErica) November 7, 2016
Bill Clinton’s belated discovery of balloons at the Democratic National Convention this summer makes little to no sense — didn’t anyone throw him a "you’re president" party? A birthday party? A trip to a Ponderosa Steak House on a Friday?
Regardless, it’s the type of nonsense that makes you feel like watching American democracy play out on your TV is a fun, uplifting activity, rather than that thing you do right before you scream and scream and scream into the couch cushion and no one ever, ever hears and, oops, you just breathed in a hairball with Doritos crumbs entwined in its heart.
C is for Curb Your Enthusiasm
D is for "Delete Your Account"
E is for Eye-Mouth
⬅️ Original photo— Danny (@recordsANDradio) February 26, 2016
➡️ Replaced eyes with mouth pic.twitter.com/kJGk9hH7ke
F is for The fly
wait did a fly just land on hillary's face?? IS THIS ALL JUST A PROMO FOR WESTWORLD??— Katie Nolan (@katienolan) October 10, 2016
Though certain corners of the internet used the fly that landed on Clinton’s face during the second debate as evidence that she was literally a demon of hell, others used it as evidence that the last two years of our lives have been an extended marketing campaign for the big-budget HBO sci-fi epic Westworld, a show in which a robot kills a fly that lands on her face and that action carries thematic importance.
G is for "Grab Her By the Brain"
As a rebuttal to Trump’s 2005 statement that a powerful man can "grab [women] by the pussy" whenever he wants, this handsome Disney Channel product made an ill-advised attempt to sell "grab her by the brain" hats. It was meant as a compliment, presumably — women have brains! It came off as a zombie thing. Maybe the last two years have been an extended marketing campaign for the flagging AMC series The Walking Dead.
H is for "I love Hispanics!"
I is for "It’s the fucking Babadook"
They speakers at the RNC are getting crazier and crazier pic.twitter.com/TlU38Ze6xT— Freddy Scott (@freddyscott) July 20, 2016
J is for Jim Halpert
hillary: looks into the camera like she's on the office pic.twitter.com/voySp73zxQ— dani❁ (@danibucaro) September 27, 2016
K is for Ken Bone
Ken Bone says he wore the red sweater as a plan B to the debate because he "split the seat of my pants wide open" https://t.co/H9eL2wi5as— CNN (@CNN) October 10, 2016
I think The Awl’s Alex Balk summed up the Ken Bone news cycle best when he wrote "Nothing means anything and all of it takes forever."
Ken was the least fun meme of the year because he was actually just a human person, but I had to include him because I’m just a lowly meme reporter and these are the breaks. In that way, Ken Bone is the Harambe of Election 2016. Ken Bone wore a red sweater to a presidential debate and asked a question about coal and snapped a photo with a disposable camera, and we turned him into a meme because his name is sort of funny and we’ve all been forced into the mindset of 14-year-olds by a political landscape that increasingly resembles the last two days before the homecoming dance when everyone is sending out group texts debating how many sleeping bags there is room for in Kelly’s recently remodeled basement. I’m really sorry, Ken.
L is for Little Marco
AIDE: he's calling you "little Marco"— Matt Negrin (@MattNegrin) March 5, 2016
RUBIO: what if i sit in this huge chair
AIDE: no, why would you—
RUBIO: weeeee pic.twitter.com/kQOBB3aVpn
Marco Rubio has made a lot of mistakes. Off the top of my head: one of them is forgetting to hydrate, another is voting against the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization, a third is running for president, and a fourth is responding to Trump’s "little Marco" name-calling by publicly sitting in an enormous chair.
M is for Mouth booger
Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign, while terrifying for many reasons, was also full of what felt like a zillion stomach-churning moments of performance art. The oral history of this booger / moist bread crumb / dandruff ball / Whoville habitat / spit wad / eyebrow mite will be a New York Times bestseller for 9,000 weeks in a row (CC: the publishing industry).
N is for Nasty woman
Donald Trump promised to create a huge number of jobs, and he was probably following through on that promise when he jump-started the "nasty woman" novelty T-shirt, novelty hoodie, novelty tote bag, novelty mug, novelty pin, and novelty needlepoint micro-economy. That's how I would spin this if I were on the Trump campaign, but nobody asked me and now Trump is going to lose and not be our president. Sad!
O is for Obama's hand
P is for "Please clap"
At a campaign stop just before the New Hampshire primary, Jeb Bush vowed that he would not be an "Agitator-in-Chief," and said that the next president should be "quieter." Everyone was quiet when he was done talking — probably because they thought it was thematically appropriate — but Jeb asked them to clap anyway. This "please clap" even had a glimmer of toughness behind it, and for a minute it seemed like Jeb "My Brother Got To Do It, And Now It's My Turn" Bush would put up a fight against the bioluminescent clown stealing the race out from under him.
Q is for Meme Queen
R is for Right behind you!
S is for Sad Bernie
T is for Technology
U is for umioiwoaprigaowrpgrwa
WHERE IS HIS DAUGHTER'S REFLECTION IN THE MIRROR https://t.co/CCEhxE7ud2— Helen Rosner (@hels) July 17, 2016
V is for VP daddy
Tim Kaine is mostly boring but holy smokes was he stupid hot when he was younger pic.twitter.com/1xHBIKTYRj— Elizabeth Bryan (@ebryan129) July 25, 2016
Lots of people think VP nominee Tim Kaine used to be hot, which is fun mostly because he now looks like the type of dad who gives out not just his HBO Go password but also his Netflix password to all of his teenage son's friends. Tim Kaine is the type of dad who doesn't understand why there's constantly too many people signed into Netflix for him to watch Bloodline so he just sort of gives up and hunts around for his Friday Night Lights DVDs, but they're all scratched from being left on top of the DVD player for the last eight years. He mows the lawn instead of watching anything, but he's not that mad about it.
W is for What are dogs?
Quick reminder that Donald Trump thinks dogs can get fired. pic.twitter.com/O5RVEr4HKi— Daniel Kibblesmith (@kibblesmith) March 7, 2016
X is for "If only ‘x’ voted"
What we gleaned from this meme: the electoral map can look like a lot of different things and data science isn't always very comforting.
here’s what it would look like if only the states that formed a smiley face voted in the election pic.twitter.com/yvPuWHZHls— brian feldman (@bafeldman) October 12, 2016
What would the electoral map look like if it wore pants? pic.twitter.com/BQVSB9Zq0o— Freddie Campion (@FreddieCampion) October 12, 2016
And here's if just dudes voted. pic.twitter.com/HjqJzIVwc4— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) October 11, 2016
Y is for "Yuge"
Z is for "This is the Zodiac speaking"
People keep saying things like "It will all be over soon," and "Can you believe it's almost over?" Do you think they are talking about the election or the 45-year mystery of "Who is the Zodiac Killer?"