The 2016 election season will mercifully come to an end just a few short hours form now. Thank fucking God. Before we say our final goodbyes to the election from hell, we thought it would be fun to take a look back at our favorite moments from this march towards the abyss.
When the Republican candidates were forced to pick their own Secret Service codenames
The hardest I laughed this election season was during one of the early Republican debates, when each of the 11 candidates was asked to propose their own Secret Service code name, should they become president (none of them would become president). This came during a rapid-fire, light-hearted end to the debate, but unlike the question that came before it—“Which woman would you put on the $10 bill?”—this one did not have an obvious answer teed up in front each of podium. So instead we got what was, I think, the most pure and honest look at each Republican candidate’s psyche, each huckster, liar, and faux-hero inadvertently revealing him or herself to America. Here is each candidate’s answer:
Chris Christie: “True Heart”
John Kasich: “Unit One”
Carly Fiorina: “Secretariat”
Scott Walker: “Harley”
Jeb Bush: “Ever-Ready”
Donald Trump: “Humble”
Ben Carson: “One Nation”
Ted Cruz: “Cohiba”
Marco Rubio: “Gator”
Mike Huckabee: “Duck Hunter”
Rand Paul: “Justice Never Sleeps”
A bunch of these don’t even make sense or aren’t remotely practical, such as Rand fucking Paul wanting himself to be referred to as “Justice Never Sleeps,” which is almost indescribably absurd. But my favorites were the one-word phrases that could theoretically be actual code names: Carly Fiorina, who would drop out after the second primary, choosing the name of the most celebrated racehorse in history; Scott Walker, a man who proudly eats two ham sandwiches a day every day, trying to co-opt the swagger of Harley-Davidson; Ted Cruz, whose lack of friends as a young man clearly animates his political ambitions, referencing Cuban cigars as the apex of cool; Marco Rubio, a defective robot straight off the line from the Focus Group Factory, remembering to reference his home state; and, of course, Donald Trump, as compulsive a liar as this country has ever seen, calling himself, yes, “Humble.” I cried that night. - Jordan Sargent
When Carly Fiorina had to deny kidnapping children
My favorite short-lived news cycle this election was the one involving Carly Fiorina “ambushing” a bunch of tiny children on a field trip to the botanical garden in Des Moines and herding them into an anti-abortion rally. Carly denies that she lowkey kidnapped children for her cause, but I like believing that she thought that inflating her rally’s headcount with the balloonish heads of children would make her look better.
From The Guardian:
“Taking them into a pro-life/abortion discussion [was] very poor taste and judgment,” Beck said. “I would not want my four-year-old going to that forum – he can’t fully comprehend that stuff. He likes dinosaurs, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Transformers.”During the rally an anti-abortion activist, carrying a scale model of four-month-old foetus, joined Fiorina at the front of the room.“This is the face of abortion,” the activist told the crowd as Fiorina looked on. The foetus model was sucking its thumb.In answer to a detailed series of questions from the Guardian, a Fiorina spokeswoman said in an emailed statement: “We were happy that these children chose to come to Carly’s event with their adult supervisor.”
“He likes dinosaurs, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Transformers” is just beautiful. Have we not all found ourselves just wishing to think about metaphorical Ninja Turtles and instead being bombarded with election bullshit this year? We are all Carly’s child victims of politically motivated ambushing.
When I got in an argument with a Trump supporter in South Carolina
My favorite moment of the campaign came last week at a small BBQ place in Charleston, S.C. I live in Washington, D.C., and I’ve been inside the Beltway my whole life. If you grow up here there’s pressure to follow not only everything taking place inside the U.S. Capitol and in Peoria and in Timbuktu, but also to care deeply about everything taking place. But because of age or the length and relentlessness of this presidential campaign, I’d pretty much tuned out for the first time ever. I assumed Hillary was going to rout Trump, but couldn’t work up the energy to follow along.
I wasn’t happy about apathy being my new normal. But here I was, in Charleston for a wedding, first time I’d been out of D.C. for a couple months. I told the BBQ’s owner while ordering where I was from and that I’d eaten there eight years ago and how excited I was to be back at her restaurant again. The house TV was tuned at full volume to CNN, which was airing a Donald Trump speech. My wife and I were the only ones in the room other than three Latino laborers. Before our food even came, the owner came from behind the counter and sat at our table and began to talk about the election. She was going on about Donald Trump’s intelligence and how he was going to build up the military and make America great again.
The food came and she still went on, talking over Trump on the house TV and hitting all the cliched talking points about Hillary Clinton’s evilness and emails and Benghazi and lying, and how she was going to close up her shop the day after election day if Hillary won because any raise in the minimum wage would kill her business. She nodded toward the laborers and said Hillary would take all her money and give it to “people who don’t want to work.” In my D.C. vacuum, I had only encountered people saying these things on TV.
When she got to how Trump was going to win even though the system is rigged, I finally snapped. I began yelling over her and the TV. I said that I have to agree with her that Trump is a genius, because he somehow convinced her and some portion of Americans to repeat his whopper that the system is rigged against powerful billionaires. It got so ugly that my wife got up and moved to another table saying that the tension was making her literally nauseous, and she begged me to stop engaging. But I couldn’t stop. The ribs were fantastic, but I barely touched them. I left with a hefty take-home bag and feeling sorta surprised and amused that I could still care about shit in Peoria and Timbuktu and Charleston. I was true to my roots. Good talk. - Dave McKenna
James Comey’s flip-flop
This campaign has been nothing but roiling waves of anxiety, all over the awful possibility that the evil, stupid man could become president. It came and went, the stomach-dropping terror, like the polls mirroring a topographical map of the world’s barfiest roller coaster, increasing as the polls neared a toss-up, subsiding when sanity occasionally interjected itself. Nothing felt more crushing than the RNC, or the pre-debates poll tightening. Nothing felt lighter than the DNC bump, or the Times’s tax story, or the Access Hollywood tape.
It was only this past Sunday, with the FBI’s announcement, finally, that the latest twist of the Clinton email scandal was not a serious one, that the terror ended. It was the best, purest moment of this campaign—James Comey’s “oops, nothing to see here, our bad” memo—because it was the last one. There is no time left for another shitshow. The roller coaster has no more track left for another turn. It is almost over. We are covered in vomit, but we are nearly free. - Barry Petchesky
Alex Jones’s body of work
As a consumer of strange, fucked-up internet things, it’s been hard for me not to enjoy the gifts this election season has brought, despite what those gifts say about just how doomed we are.
I know every CNN panel that devolves into a surrealist shouting match is poison to the minds of the people who watch it; I know that Tomi Lahren is the raging personification of everything there is to fear about this country; I know Alex Jones is genuinely unwell. I know all of this, and yet I still drink it all in every morning, and Jones is the source of bile I come back to most often.
How is anyone ever supposed to take their eyes off something like this:
How am I supposed to go through my day without watching this 18 times:
The “goblin vomit” Vine ran my life for a few days:
This election has filled me with impossible amounts of dread, and every morning I come into work knowing that I am going to end the day feeling worse than I did when it started. On the really bad days, I spend a few minutes searching Twitter to see if anyone has uploaded a new Alex Jones clip. I’m not totally sure what I aim to accomplish by doing this. It makes me laugh, I guess?
Anyway, did you know that they’re turning the frogs gay? - Tom Ley
The completely fucked-up debate entrance
At one of the 57 Republican primary debates, we get to witness perhaps the only good and pure thing of the election season: Ben Carson causing the most beautiful walk-out clusterfuck you have ever seen. Supposedly, the moderator’s mic was turned down too low for Ben Carson to hear his name being called. I like to believe that Dr. Ben juts likes to take his sweet-ass time. Either way, it’s the only thing that gives me hope any more. I’ll be watching this on loop until Wednesday.
The look on Marco Rubio’s face
The one undeniably great part of this campaign was getting to watch the looks on the faces of various candidates during the Republican debates as they realized that all their grand aspirations really were being undone by a game show host. The best such look came as Marco Rubio, who clearly had it in mind that a strategy of lowering himself to Trump’s level would allow him to somehow pull the primary out in the end, was forced to stand there grinning while Trump brushed Rubio aside by talking about how big his dick is. This somehow wasn’t one of the, say, two dozen most degrading moments of the campaign, but it was really something. - Tim Marchman
Donald Trump lying about his celebrity endorsements
My favorite election moment is Donald Trump assuming he had the endorsement of Ben Roethlisberger and planning to have him speak at the convention, only to find the Steelers quarterback outright rejecting the premise and saying he definitely does not endorse the GOP nominee. Trump, who said Big Ben was “with us 100 percent,” also saw his plans for Tom Brady to speak at the convention fall through—with Mr. Gisele not only no-showing but refusing to talk about the man he’d previously called a “good friend.” - Tim Burke
Watching Hillary master the “woman listening” face
Years ago, a female editor gave me some unsolicited advice. Never take down your boss in a meeting, she said. Wait until afterward and then pull him aside and tell him why all the idiotic things he suggested won’t work. I didn’t ask why she decided to tell me that while editing a random newspaper article, and never thought much about it for several years. I was young! The newsroom was filled with women! Meetings were for old people!
I’m older now. My newsroom is not filled with women. In a digital way, I go to meetings. And I have found myself, more times than I care for, giving similar counsel to younger women. Be gracious. Nod. Smile. Pick your battles. Don’t show up your male boss in front of everyone. I don’t like giving that advice—I admit this is far from the feminist ideal. But the feminist ideal hasn’t always included the practicalities of surviving in the real world, and that includes the art of being a woman in a meeting because, dammit, you need a paycheck.
So perhaps watching Hillary Clinton practice the art of “woman listening” face during the first debate isn’t my favorite moment, but it was for me the most powerful. She navigated the debate with the care, skill, and calm of a woman who had been the only woman in a lot of meetings. And I hold out hope that the next female president comes from a future in which women don’t even know what “woman listening face” is.
Katrina Pierson using the history of airplane manufacturing to refute sexual assault accusation
Nothing quite captured the absurdity of Donald Trump’s drawn out fart of a campaign quite like Katrina Pierson going on CNN and vociferously denying that Trump groped a woman on an airplane with a defense that relied upon extremely detailed analysis of the armrest setup in a variety of airplanes. This is a story best told in screenshots. - Patrick Redford
Bill Mitchell’s Twitter account
Bill Mitchell is a Guy on Twitter, who supposedly hosts a conservative radio show host. Sure. I don’t know if that’s true, I don’t know if it gets five or five million listeners. He became a central player, and my favorite player, in this election because of his tweets.
They’re different from the tweets of other prominent Trump boosters in that they’re less wildly negative and racist, and occasionally show a sense of humor. Mostly he just tweets crazy things that make no sense, and numbers that show Trump winning that are wholly made up, a sort of 2016 version of the Unskew The Polls guy. He has insane views of what racism is, and occasionally makes being a Trump supporter seem vaguely endearing. Make no mistake, Bill Mitchell sucks and is awful, but at least he gave me something to genuinely laugh at, and occasionally, with. That’s more than I can say for most commentators this election. - Kevin Draper
Hillary Clinton’s answer to a debate question about abortion
My favorite moment of the election was Hillary Clinton’s response to the question about abortion in the third debate. Her lack of hedging—she wasn’t just defending abortions as outside the government purview, she was defending them as an unfortunate but understandable choice reasonable women are often forced to make—was truly historic. The urgency with which she spoke and her specific perspective as the first female candidate of a major party helped to illustrate how disturbingly absurd it is that government would attempt to regulate such a personal and private aspect of a woman’s health. Hillary Clinton is always going to have to navigate her historic position as a female candidate (-cum-president) while not being seen as Woman Politician who only speaks to other women. I don’t know what the right balance is, but it was inspiring to see that, when necessary, she can stop equivocating and demonstrate exactly why it matters on a policy level to have a woman in the White House.
I can’t claim to have enjoyed, genuinely enjoyed, any of this extremely long nightmare. I have laughed at stuff now and then—Lincoln Chafee blaming his bad votes on the fact that his father died; Jim Webb leering horribly at the memory of the time he killed a guy; this tweet; this photo; this Vine; “You’re the puppet”; and so on—but on the whole I, like probably most people reading this, have spent the past, Christ, the past year in a state of mounting dread spattered here and there with bursts of vivid horror. The worst part of pretty much every day is being reminded that the great national conversation of the year 2016 was whether Donald fucking Trump—a bacon-wrapped horse’s ass too stupid and degenerate by half to be trusted with the passenger seat of a clown car, much less any elected office, to say nothing of the one with the power to nuke the fucking planet—should be the President of the United States.
My favorite part of the campaign is today, because the campaigning part is over. I know it’s a cheap answer, but it’s the truth. This has been awful misery. Whatever comes next, at least it will be different. - Albert Burneko