The Spanish Side-Eye
This year, we saw six Democratic primary debates, each of which spawned a multitude of memes. It was hard to pick the best, from the “Orb Queen” Marianne Williamson to Bernie Sanders mocking John Hickenlooper mocking Bernie Sanders. But the winner was Senator Cory Booker’s reaction to former Representative Beto O’Rourke’s use of Spanish in the first debate.
In September, a reporter shared a clip of Buttigieg campaign volunteers performing a choreographed dance to the Panic! at the Disco song “High Hopes.”
— Rachel Scott (@rachelvscott) September 21, 2019
And it turned out that it wasn’t the only instance of his campaign doing the routine.
— Liz McLeod (@LizMcLeod) November 17, 2019
More clips emerged of others across the country practicing and performing it, and before long, it was a viral sensation.
me every morning during Emperor Pete’s 4th term in office to do the mandatory Morning Dance to our new national anthem pic.twitter.com/Vt3CxyjCWP
— *“Volk” intensifies* (@TinctureDrone) November 19, 2019
‘I Want Nothing’
After Ambassador Gordon Sondland testified in November before Congress, gracing us with his own memeable face, President Donald Trump walked out of the White House to speak to the media, and some cameras caught glimpses of his notes, written with giant Sharpie marker. It could have been a moment straight out of “Veep.” Some folks on Twitter observed that Trump’s notes resembled song lyrics, and people quickly delivered a plethora of cover versions of this year’s newest hit:
— Appa the Flying 🅱ison (@victoryrhoad) November 20, 2019
somebody on twitter today: trump’s weird hand-scrawled denial today sounds like a ramones song.
— Alex Kliment (@SaoSasha) November 21, 2019
Emo Trump recites poem on White House lawn pic.twitter.com/rAD3xRjX4L
— Nick Lutsko (@NickLutsko) November 20, 2019
The Greta Staredown
When Trump entered a lobby in September at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, caught on camera behind him was Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old climate activist, staring him down. The moment was instantly memed, and it gave rise to a 1,100-word artistic analysis in the New York Times Magazine. Julián Castro summarized the moment more directly, tweeting, “I think a lot of us can relate.” And CNN commentator Ana Navarro tweeted, “We are all Greta.”
The SOTU Clap
Pelosi became the “Queen of Condescending Applause” in February, when a fleeting moment of the speaker’s seemingly sarcastic clapping during Trump’s State of the Union speech caught the world’s attention and prompted its own digital applause.
The Memer in Chief
Trump is something of a meme warrior. His creations in 2019 ranged from absurd to confusing to juvenile to copyright-infringing, and many had a tendency to backfire (much like the attempts of his meme-loving son). But on at least on one occasion, the president made such effective use of an old meme that Nickelback, the Canadian rock band whose music it appropriated, asked for it to be taken down. Trump posted a short clip of the first few seconds of the band’s music video for the song “Photograph” edited to include a picture of the Bidens on a golf course with a Burisma board member.
Can a candidate be ruined by memes?
No one embodied the year in GIFs and memes—not for a single moment but for an entire body of work—more than Kamala Harris. In October, her press secretary created a viral misfire of meme-making when he photoshopped his boss in the place of Trump in an image of Nancy Pelosi staring down the president at a White House meeting. Kamala 2020 is over, but the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the memes will never die.
Jezebel asked if the multitude of “Kamala is a Cop” memes, which took aim at her record as a prosecutor, contributed to the demise of her campaign.
We might not see any more of Harris on the campaign trail, but with one endlessly reusable able GIF that shows no sign of dropping out of our digital lexicon, we can wave goodbye to 2019 and look forward to even more memeable moments to come in 2020.
The Top GIF of the Year
What was, literally, the No. 1 political GIF of 2019? We asked GIPHY, a popular online GIF database, which told us that these perplexed and horrified reactions from an Italian translator in the Oval Office in October were the year’s most shared political GIFs.
At one point, Trump said of Syria, “They’ve got a lot of sand over there. So there’s a lot of sand they can play with.”