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MemElection 2012: What if Memes Chose The President?

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Nov 05, 2012 | 11:57am EST

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There’s no denying that while careful political analysis has played an essential role leading up to Election Day 2012, the Internets (that’s the social media-heavy, meme-loving, GIF-collecting portions of the online community) have played a heavier role than many of us expected. You cannot look back on this election without thinking of your favorite Mitt Romney GIF or the President Obama meme that gets you every time. And as we’ve continued towards the finish line, the thirst for pictures with bold words written over them has only increased. In the hours following every presidential debate and each night of both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, we were greeted with wave upon wave of meme-ified reactions.

Now, we get that while memes and other such internet reactions are visible and easily digestible, they’re not really the determining factor in the election. But what if they were? What if these Interwebbian commentaries were what decided which candidate is qualified to lead the country? If rather than using the issues to detemine votes, we evaluated the candidate's ability to withstand different levels of meme? We imagine it would go something like this:

Classic, Mean-Spirited Memes

Scumbag Obama

This meme simply takes promises made during Obama’s 2008 campaign and refutes them. Fair enough, but does he have to be the new Scumbag Steve to prove the point?

Relatable Romney

Romney is wealthy. Like, multiple McMansions and enough horses to open a dude ranch wealthy. And sometimes he says things that make this painfully obvious. Naturally, this meme aims to highlight that disconnect between Mitt’s wealthy living and America’s average Joes.

Winner: Obama

While the meme aims to take him down with his own promises, it undermines its effectiveness by preying on a quality Obama hasn’t really earned. Scumbag? Way harsh, Tai. The Romne meme, on the other hand, has turned his common gaffe into a funny meme that play on policy and social issues. Ding, ding, ding.

Overused GIFs

Obama: Door-kicking Obama and Skateboarding Obama

Oh, you thought that press conference was over? Well, it’s over when Barack says it’s over... when he kicks down the damn door on his way out. Oh, and I’m sorry. What’s that? You need the President to stop standing way over there? Just give him a second while he hops on his skateboard and glides right over. He’s just that smooth. (Yeah, they’re fake. That doesn’t stop them from being awesome.)

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Romney: Giant Jenga Fail

We’re not sure what this has to do with anything, but Romney knocked over a giant Jenga set in his backyard during a news segment called “At Home With the Romneys.” He later used Jenga as his pre-debate activity — somehow that seems like a bad move now.

Here's the GIF on loop because we care.

Winner: Obama

Sorry, Romney. We’re not sure why this GIF is your most famous one, but it’s pretty hard to argue with a skateboarding, door-kicking president. Obama’s may be fake, but none of these GIFs really represent anything relating to leadership or aptitude, so badassery bests teetering Jenga.

Vice President Memes

Obama: Laughing Joe Biden, Malarkey

While Biden is widely regarded as the winner of the 2012 Vice Presidential debate, his claim to fame that night is a bunch of stuff. And by that, we mean malarkey. Other than the VP’s apparent favorite old man word, Biden was seen uncontrollably laughing throughout the debate, meaning we now have the Laughing Joe Biden meme. Guess what? It’s Biden laughing.

Romney: Hey Girl, It’s Paul Ryan and Beefcake Paul Ryan

These two overlap a bit in that neither can resist using Ryan’s famous workout photos. Now, on one hand, the Hey Girl permutation (which of course started with Hey Girl, It’s Ryan Gosling) sheds some pretty positive light on Ryan, making him an almost political hearthrob. I mean, just look at those dreamy eyes. But when we hop over to Beefcake Paul Ryan, he’s lost his sensitive edge and it’s been replaced with a willful, beefy ignorance about women’s issues and an abhorrence for facts. Still, he looks good doing it.

Winner: Romney

These memes don’t do much, except establish Uncle Joe as a goofy old guy and Ryan as a hunky, suave politician. Who did you think was going to win that fight?

Candid Photos-Turned-Memes

Obama: Obama Calling, Too Busy Killing Bin Laden Obama, Wizard Obama, Upvoting Obama, and Obama Rage Face

Somehow, in all five of these memes, Obama comes off as a pretty cool dude. The Obama Calling photo has run the gamut from the president being nonchalant, to cute and "just talking ‘bout president stuffs,” to Hey Girl-ing, to shaking off a threat from Liam Neeson. Too Busy Killing Bin Laden Obama is just reaping the benefits of that coup’s glory... while wearing sunglasses. Wizard Obama comes from a photo in which Obama’s hand gestures make it look like he’s holding the sun... or an all powerful crystal ball. Upvoting Obama gives the President the good-natured relatability of a beer-drinking guy watching a baseball game in ye old local pub. And it’s a really great expression. It’s basically Obama Rage Face (or the “Not Bad” meme) part deux. All in all, Obama’s looking pretty cool in candid pics.

Romney: Romney Mom Jeans, Greasy Face Mitt, Sudden Realization Mitt Romney

Oh man, I feel bad just naming these memes. It’s unfortunate that the biggest Mitt memes all come from his more embarrassing moments. But that’s the way comedy goes. Romney’s Photoshopped (but inspired by real life) mom jeans picture has been passed around the internet like wildfire in image and dancing GIF form, but hey, at least he’s having fun in that one! Sudden Realization Mitt is a funny one, in that it does to Romney what many memes did to Obama when he first took office: It pits Romney against the crushing realizations of the highest political office in the land. It’s just too bad that realization is that he’s heading for a smaller paycheck. Finally, we have Greasy Face Mitt, which is the longest-lived and cruelest of the memes. This unfortunate image pops up all over the internet in some of the most inappropriate places; it practically works to lend sympathy to the candidate rather than ire.

Winner: Obama, with a few sympathy points for Romney

Obama definitely wins this round, but it feels a little like the cool guy winning student body president because his less-popular opponent suffered a campaign-killing social tragedy. We know Obama won, but we’ve got the urge to sit with Romney at the lunch tables and give him the extra cookies from our lunchboxes.

Convention Speaker Memes

Obama: Inappropriate Timing Bill Clinton

Oh Bill. You cad. Look at you jumping in on Obama’s press conference with that “Here’s Uncle Bill” goofy smile. Can’t you see the president is busy? Aw, it’s okay. We miss you, buddy. You lovable goofball, you.

Romney: Eastwooding

You see that? Yeah, across the room. That chair that no one’s sitting in. You think President Obama might be sitting there? Clint Eastwood probably does. After Eastwood lectured an empty chair at the Republican National Convention, the Internet took to Instagram and Twitpic to capture average citizens lecturing their own outspoken easy chairs. Nothing says credibility like yelling at an empty chair.

Winner: Obama

Look, we want to find merit in Eastwood’s strange little speech, but it’s been months and we couldn’t do it. Clinton’s funny picture, which emerged after he brought down the house at the Democratic National Convention is cute and funny, but it doesn’t point out a fatal flaw, but rather something lots of folks like about the former president.

Busted! Gaffes-Turned-Memes (And Twitter Accounts)

Obama: Obama Eater of Dogs, You Didn’t Build That

In his memoir, Obama admitted that he once ate dinner consisting of dog meat when he was a boy living in Indonesia. The Romney campaign decided to use this long-public tidbit as ammunition and it elicited a plethora of facetious “Obama Eater of Dogs” memes in which Obama was chasing his dog Bo... to the kitchen or taking dog-cooking advice from rapper Xibit. Similarly, when Obama’s quote “You didn’t build that” was taken out of context and applied to small business owners, it became a meme. Most notably, the phrase was applied to an image of Obama making a goofy face while helping a little girl build a tower out of blocks. Yeah, little girl. Who bought those public school building blocks? Not you! Take that.

Romney: 47 Percent Video, Etch-a-sketch Policies, Amercia, Romney Storm Tips

Romney said in a bootleg video that 47 percent of Americans don’t pay taxes, and the internet responded with sober memes showing various working tax-free Americans like part time workers in menial jobs and soldiers overseas giving Mitt the old F.U. When a top Romney aide said Romney’s post-nomination campaign would be like an Etch-a-sketch and could start all over again, that gave rise to a policy-based meme in which many of Romney’s old views are pitted against those he expresses as a presidential candidate. Of course, we can’t forget the infamous Romney iPhone app, which seemed to either forget how to spell America, or was aiming to create an entirely new nation. God Bless Amercia! And finally, after Romney had expressed his desire to disband FEMA over and over again throughout his campaign for the Republican ticket, his reaction to Hurricane Sandy’s recent wrath was crucial. But not everyone was onboard with Mitt’s dedication to relief. Thus, we find the Romney’s Storm Tips Twitter (though the account has since been suspended):Folks if you do not have a vacation home to go to on higher ground, borrow one from your parents. #SandyWinner: Obama

The fact of the matter is that the gaffes the Internet seems to gravitate towards aren’t so bad on Obama’s side. But to be fair, almost all of these “Gaffes” aren’t even things Romney himself influenced. So hey, it could be worse.

Debate Memes

Obama: Horses and Bayonets, Daydreaming Obama

Throughout the debates, Obama was a bit all over the place. The first debate saw an Obama who seemed willing to sit back and take a beating from Romney, hence the GIF that went ‘round the Internet of a seemingly knocked out Obama debating an excited Mitt Romney. But come the third debate, Obama was not only awake, he had zingers. The Navy’s not what it used to be, eh, Mitt? Well, neither are our war tactics! We used to use horses and bayonets — ZING. And the Internet exploded with every possible interpretation of the phrase. Blammo.

Romney: Binders Full of Women, Menacing Josh Romney, Unemployed Big Bird

Romney’s post-debate meme contributions consist mostly of terrifying things. After he said his advisers brought him “binders full of women” the Internet went crazy, getting Texting Hillary in on the convo and of course proclaiming, “Nobody puts baby in a binder.” And the Halloween costumes, oh the numerous costumes. Romney’s son Josh’s unyielding stare at the town hall debate became an image seen across the Internet that makes him look more like a sinister movie character than the son of a presidential candidate. Finally, images of Big Bird waiting on a bread line after Romney said he’d cut PBS, but still liked Big Bird, were a haunting, yet hilarious look into the possible future.

Winner: Obama

It mostly comes down to the zinger here. Romney thought he had a comeback with “binders full of women,” but even he knew that was over after he said it. Obama, however, got his swag back when he threw out that colonial zinger in the face of Romney’s military views.

Miscellaneous Interwebbian Evidence

Obama: Over 10 Times the Twitter Followers

Obama’s got 21 million and change while Romney’s got just over 1.5 million. The Internet really, really likes Obama.

Romney: Google “Completely Wrong”

You probably thought a herd of nerds somewhere out there in the Internet wasteland figured out how to rig the search term “completely wrong” to produce Romney as a result, but according to Google’s statements, this hyperbolic batch of results is a product of the Google algorithm. The likely culprit was the backlash as a result of his comment that 47 percent of Americans are victims. That means a lot of folks were taking to the Internet to say just how wrong they thought he was.

Winner: Obama

Man, this is just unfair.

Clearly, the Internet is an Obama-friendly place and it’s not so safe for the Romney side of things. Luckily, we don’t vote with memes or Twitter followers. Tomorrow, the country will choose a president based on criteria that digs a little deeper than a funny picture. Still, it’s interesting to see that meme culture apparently has a political slant.

Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler

[Photo Credit: Getty]

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