The 2010’s brought us a lot: From “YOLO” to Baby Yoda, Unicorn Frappuccinos to Bitcoin, and, thanks in part to social media’s proliferation, the rise of memes.
You’ve definitely seen a meme before (the current President tweets them frequently), but let’s also define it: A meme is a “an amusing or interesting item (such as a captioned picture or video) or genre of items that is spread widely online especially through social media,” according to Merriam-Webster.
So, let’s look back on the decade through this very special (and decade-specific) lens: Political memes. Enjoy!
“I’m not a witch”
Christine O’Donnell started off the decade with an instantly memorable campaign ad.
O’Donnell, a Republican who was running for Delaware’s Senate seat vacated by then-Vice President Joe Biden, made her case to voters with a line that instantly sent the clip viral: “I’m not a witch. I’m nothing you’ve heard. I’m you.”
It all started when an interview from 1999 surfaced in which O’Donnell said she dabbled in witchcraft: “I dabbled into witchcraft – I never joined a coven. But I did, I did. I dabbled into witchcraft. I hung around people who were doing these things. I’m not making this stuff up. I know what they told me they do.”
The clip earned the classic mark of a political meme-dom: Its own SNL parody.
“Miss me yet?”
Before the 2016 Republican presidential primary sent new political memes ricocheting through corners of the internet (looking at you, Zodiac Killer Ted Cruz), the George W. Bush “Miss me yet?’ meme gave the 43rd President’s fans a chance to gloat amid the Obama administration.
Things got started in 2010, when a billboard depicting Bush’s coy wave appeared off a highway just north of Minneapolis. It was spotted by a reporter and went viral.
As CNN reported at the time, “While the identities of the sign owners are still unclear, the general manager of the advertising company who owns the billboard space told Minnesota Public Radio it was financed by ‘a group of small business owners who feel like Washington is against them.’”
It was an insult that got twisted into a compliment (which is so fitting for the decade). The Washington Post called it “a meme that defined a presidency.”
Depending on whether you mean it or not, “Thanks Obama” is dripping with sarcasm or a sincere thanks. And on the internet, you can do both!
Texts from Hillary
This image of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2011 began as a Reuters picture of Clinton checking her PDA upon her departure in a military C-17 plane from Malta bound for Tripoli, Libya, October 18, 2011.
It was transformed, in part, thanks to another hallmark of the 2010’s: Blogging platform Tumblr. Thus, “Texts from Hillary Clinton” was born.
“Binders full of women”
Mitt Romney delivered the line during a 2012 presidential debate against President Barack Obama just three weeks before Election Day. He meant to show how he worked as governor to hire women to his administration, not just men, and was brought “binders full of women” as potential candidates. His delivery was awkward, and that four-word phrase immediately inspired memes – including a quickly popular Tumblr, and even Halloween costumes.
Fun fact: Those binders actually exist (and were rediscovered in 2017).
Trump’s been on Twitter for over a decade, now, which makes him uniquely attuned to how information bounces around the platform.
He’s the first president to dabble so heavily in online memes – and his more than 67 million Twitter followers don’t seem to mind.
Obviously, there are so many more – what was your favorite? Email suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org and you might see your answer in The Point newsletter!