But oh, how to remember all the tepid, forced laughs we've had? By their very nature, parody Tumblrs or whatever are designed to burn brightly then be forgotten just as quickly. So, in lieu of spending all day watching the numbers, biting your nails, and looking at all your friends' illegal Instagrams of their ballots, let's take a trip down memory lane. Who knows, maybe we'll even learn something about the big picture here.
During the Republican primaries in January, Newt Gingrich made the bold promise of a permanent base on the moon by the end of his hypothetical second term, and regular flights to mars by 2020. The proposition was widely mocked and spawned predictable parodies (including a fake campaign for Newt as "President of the Moon" 2012). Much more enjoyable (though it isn't technically a meme) — all these pictures that surfaced of Newt hanging out with his beloved zoo animals.
The idea for this one was simple and totally appropriate: slap quotes in which Mitt Romney sounds out-of-touch, insensitive, and cartoonishly wealthy over pictures of the (fictional) out-of-touch, insensitive, cartoonishly wealthy Lucille Bluth. The site launched in March 2012 but really started generating publicity this past September, and remarkably, it still holds up.
During the Republican primaries in March, Romney advisor Eric Ferhnstrom made the colossal mistake of explaining his candidate's vacillations between the center and far right of the political spectrum by saying, "Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again.” Opponents leveled flip-flopper charges, internet dwellers turned up pictures of the candidate on the classic children's toy, and in the end, Romney still won his party's nomination. A weak cautionary tale if ever there was.
Ever since news surfaced of that time Mitt Romney drove 12 hours with his "beloved" family dog Seamus strapped to the top of the roof, emitting fear-induced diarrhea, people have had a hard time letting the whole thing go. For her part, Gail Collins has mentioned the incident in her column at least 70 times, and even the New Yorker put a version of it on their cover. The meme has had a recent resurgence as a popular theme for dog halloween costumes, and today Devo released a video for their single "Don't Roof Rack Me, Bro" on the "Dogs Against Romney" site.
Just when memes were skewing almost exclusively anti-Romney, Obama created a soundbite representing literally everything a business-loving, big government-hating conservative (or even an on-the-fence moderate) could possibly hate during a July campaign speech in which he said of successful small business owners, "You didn't build that." Angry photoshops abounded.
One of the Republican Party's few legitimate celebrity backers (unless you consider Ted Nugent pertinent), Clint Eastwood was a big "get" for the Republican National Convention in late August. Or he was, until he gave a crazy old codger speech that involved talking to an empty chair he pretended was President Obama. Naturally, someone started an "Invisible Obama" Twitter feed with a chair as the profile picture and "Eastwood-ing" — in which people take pictures of themselves in dialogue with empty chairs — temporarily became a thing. Even the Obama campaign got in on it:
This seat's taken. OFA.BO/c2gbfi, twitter.com/BarackObama/st…
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) August 31, 2012
The rare meme I actually enjoy, the candidate hair swaps started circulating after the first Obama-Romney debate in early October. Incarnations now exist for Joe Biden and Paul Ryan, along with Obama and Romney with the hair of their (respective) wives. There's no pretense of depth or cleverness here, just a delightful visual joke that takes less than 1 second to enjoy and discard. Keep 'em coming.
Not everyone gets that riled up when Mitt Romney talks about, say, axing Planned Parenthood altogether, but we as a nation get up in arms when Sesame Street is threatened. After Romney simultaneously declared his love for big bird and his intention to cut funding for PBS during the first presidential debate, photoshops of destitute, unemployed Big Bird cropped up almost immediately, and once again, the Obama campaign got in on the free publicity.
When Paul Ryan posed for a creepy set of workout photos in TIME it was almost like he was trying to bait internet nerds the world over. Even though it now looks like Ryan was just bein' Ryan, the damage was done, and the pictures immediately spawned a "Hey Girl" offshoot meme, a fake OKCupid profile, and this delightful Atlas Shrugged cover from Salon:
One of the least funny and most ubiquitous memes of the campaign, the whole "Binders Full of Women" thing started after Mitt Romney's admittedly bizarre story of having binders full of women (i.e. women's resumes) brought to him when he did important hiring back in his private sector days. A "Binders Full of Women" Tumblr was set up moments after he even made the comment, the incident was followed by a "Horses and Bayonets" meme shortly thereafter, and no one in America ever wanted to talk about politics again. Fin.
Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.