It wasn't long ago that the words "meme" and "election" were seldom uttered together. But in the age of Twitter, Tumblr, and everything in between, political gaffes and campaign zingers are created and passed around with lightning speed, so 2012's campaign has seen more social media action than any before.
Of course, the internet is a vast place stuffed with endless content and a variety of hilarious riffs on Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and Joe Biden's best moments, so there’s no way to capture them all. But as we finally reach Election Day tomorrow, here's a look at the 2012 campaign's most memorable memes.
12. “Romnesia” / Etch-a-Sketch
Romney’s “flip-flopping” stance on several issues has inspired a number of terms, from the Mitt-specific version of amnesia to a comment made by one of Romney’s aids on CNN: “It’s almost like an Etch -a-Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart it all over again.” See? Even a fun child's toy can be politicized!
11. “You Didn’t Build That.”
Back in July, Obama spoke on how individual success is aided by larger institutions: “If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help... Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business — you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen.” The Republicans latched onto it as an example of how Obama supported big government over small businesses, and social media latched onto it as fodder for hilarious new memes, with Obama telling everyone from Michelangelo to the Wright brothers they didn't build stuff.
10. Wearing Your Vote
It used to be just bumper stickers and signs on your lawn. Now it’s dresses and accessories. Katy Perry performed two concerts in support of the president in two different Obama-inspired dresses, with her candidate of choice clearly displayed on her ballot dress, the other containing Obama’s campaign slogan “Forward.” Beyonce sported some Obama earrings to get her vote across. Is voting for Obama just more fashionable?
9. Legitimate Rape
While not technically part of the presidential campaign, this is one of the most enduring political sound bites of the year, with Missouri senate candidate Todd Akin’s comments on the rape exception to a pro-life stance on abortion: “First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare. If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” It became the butt of many a joke about the backwards thinking of certain Republicans, notably ridiculed by Tina Fey and plenty of others. (Note: Ten out of ten doctors agree that legitimate rape is not a suitable form of birth control.)
8. Biden’s Malarkey
The presidential debates may have inspired some memorable moments, but on the whole, both candidates took them pretty seriously. Joe Biden, on the other hand, was having a jolly old time during the VP debate, snickering and smirking his way through and dismissing Paul Ryan’s comments with: "That's a bunch of malarkey!" Instantly, the word "malarkey" was all over Twitter, and isn't it about time that word made a comeback?
Percentages are just so hot right now. Last year, it was the 1% versus the 99%, and this year, it’s the 47% of America Mitt Romney is apparently not concerned about versus the 53% he finds worthwhile. Taped in secret during a closed-door fundraiser filled with 53-percenters, Romney said: “There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.” It solidified the perception that Romney is looking out for his own financial interests, and joined the Relatable Romney meme in poking fun at his wealth.
6. Lena Dunham’s First Time
Obama popping your cherry? Not many women can claim that one ― unless we’re talking about voting, which we totally are. Lena’s cute viral vid saw her compare her first time voting to her first time… doing something else. She’s 26, meaning she was just a few months shy of being able to vote in the 2004 election. And a good thing, because telling everyone you lost your V-card to John Kerry? Not nearly as sexy.
5. Empty Chair
Clint Eastwood had an awkward improvised conversation with an empty chair at the Republican National Convention. In it, supposedly, was Invisible Obama. But really, Clint, if the president can turn invisible, doesn’t that just make him so much more powerful?
4. Shirtless Paul Ryan
Paul Ryan joins the elite ranks of Ryan Gosling in having his own “Hey Gurl” Tumblr. Fun fact: “Paul Ryan shirtless” is Googled nine times more than “Paul Ryan budget,” as shown by a recent study. Clearly America has its priorities straight.
3. Horses and Bayonets
At the final debate, Romney complained that the Navy had fewer ships than it did in 1916, in regards to Obama’s more conservative military spending. Obama replied with a true zinger: “Well, governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets." This vivid battle imagery instantly went viral, with horses and bayonets popping up all over the place (and both candidates riding them).
2. Big Bird
Romney didn’t do himself any favors name-dropping Big Bird when talking about cutting funds for public television programming like PBS. It gave the Democrats plenty of ammo, like a Saturday Night Live appearance for the yellow one as well as a TV ad for Obama. Hint to Romney: if you want to be a likable presidential candidate, don’t threaten one of the most beloved children’s characters of all time.
1. Binders Full of Women
Each debate had its own distinct meme, but the middle one is likely to have provided the most enduring. When asked about equal pay for women, Romney revealed that he was once concerned that he didn’t have enough females on his staff, so he requested “binders full of women” who were qualified for the job. Apart from skirting an actual answer to the question, Romney also inspired a lot of jokes about the implied sexism and inadvertently triggered a very popular Halloween costume. (Ahem ― just as we predicted.) We just feel sorry for all those women in Romney’s binders, who had to wait so long for the opportunity to be dusted off by the former Massachusetts governor.
What was your favorite meme from the 2012 election? Let us know in the comments!
(Photos courtesy of Twitter and Tumblr.)