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Well, That Happened: Remembering The Worst Of The 2016 Election Cycle

It’s almost over, everyone. (We think.)

After 28 years of Donald Trump pretending to run for president and then somehow winning a nomination, and 10 years of Hillary Clinton running for president or saying she definitely wasn't going to run for president, we are finally here. The election is one day away — and after it's over, one of these two will be president. At least we think so. After this year, it's probably unwise to predict that this will happen with 100 percent certainty. I mean, what if there's a tie?

We lived through a lot to get to this point. Most of it sucked, and you’re probably not ready to relive it just yet — or ever. But here's a haphazard recap of the whole dang thing anyway.

Please RT

It feels like most of this election cycle has taken place on social media, with Trump's confidence growing based on the more opportunities he had to retweet all the nice things white supremacists were saying about him. As a pregame to the rest of the post, let's try to recap as much of this campaign season as possible by using only tweets and vines.


Real Americans

It felt like Trump's presidential campaign didn't really begin until he said that Mexican rapists were invading our country and he would build a wall to keep them out. It was a continuation of a pet project he's been working on for years: trying to be America’s official arbiter of Americanness. He challenged Barack Obama's right to be president before moving on to question whether Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz were real Americans either. He said that immigrants were coming to the U.S. to steal American jobs and promised to bar other immigrants from coming to the U.S. at all. In the wake of this activity, hate crimes against American Muslims are at a height not seen since the moments after 9/11.

The violence extends to all who aren't sufficiently American to support Trump. On the Saturday before the election, his supporters beat up a guy holding up a "Republicans Against Trump" sign in Nevada. For a brief moment, there were fears that the man had a gun, but it turned out that his only weapon was his refusal to support the GOP nominee. “The people who attacked me," he told The Guardian, "I’m not blaming them. I’m blaming Donald Trump’s hate rhetoric.” Less than two weeks earlier, a black Trump supporter was kicked out of a rally after the nominee himself assumed he was a protester. On a previous occasion, Trump pointed at a black man (who wasn't supporting him) and yelled, "Look at my African-American over here!" At other rallies, supporters have yelled things like "light the motherfucker on fire" or punched and shoved people of color. "Maybe he should have been roughed up," Trump said after one incident, "because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing."

For some reason, it seems like more Latino voters are turning out than ever before this year.

Hillary Is Dying, or Is She?

Hillary is dying. Not in the sense that we’re all, at different rates, losing our battles with mortality; her death is imminent. She's hiding the fact that she has epilepsy, that she has brain damage, that she has some terminal illness, that she has handlers propping up her infirm body, that there is a doctor disguised as a Secret Service agent at her side at all times unless she collapses or faints or has a seizure or her skin sloughs right off her body like parchment or something. She's wearing a portable defibrillator under her pantsuit. She has to take lots of naps, she's self-medicating with alcohol, she's at death's door. Or so Trump and his fanboys wanted us to believe, for some reason. Kinda weird, to be honest.

“Please Clap”

Did Jeb ever want to run for president? There was always a sense of resignation, a hint of melancholy in his campaign. He is a president's son and a president's brother, and he dutifully went into the family business, but it was clear his heart was never entirely in it. As he slowly fell from frontrunner to punchline, he couldn’t even summon the desperate fire that Cruz and Rubio did as their respective candidacies petered out. He just played out the string.

Some People Are Saying

Did you know that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are demons who smell like sulfur? Or that the pyramids were actually used to store grain? Did you hear how this entire election is rigged? Clinton's campaign manager definitely attends satanist dinners, right? Are we all just living in a computer simulation and this election never happened?

It's easier than ever to only consume news that confirm what you already believe, and Facebook's increasingly powerful role as curator of all content means that a lot of the information that makes you feel pleasantly outraged by the world is completely and totally fake. In most cases, however, you didn't have to click on a news hoax to be misinformed; you could just listen to Donald Trump: A majority of the statements made by the GOP nominee judged by Politifact have been deemed false. Trump's campaign manager's pants literally caught on fire while writing an address for his candidate.

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

Your Mother Was Low-Energy, and Your Father Killed JFK

Ted Cruz was "lyin'." Hillary Clinton was "crooked" and a "nasty woman." Donald Trump spent most of his brainpower this campaign season coming up with pithy ways to challenge anyone who might bother to take him on — whether they were opponents, reporters, or regular citizens. When Alicia Machado told the world that he'd called her "Miss Piggy," he tweeted, "check out sex tape" (Trump is the one who has appeared in softcore porn). When Khizr Khan said that Trump should read the Constitution, he tweeted, "This story is not about Mr. Khan, who is all over the place doing interviews, but rather RADICAL ISLAMIC TERRORISM and the U.S. Get smart!" He mocked a reporter with a disability who challenged his story about the cheers from Jersey City on 9/11. When multiple women accused him of sexual assault, he called them liars and threatened to sue. He called Mexicans "rapists." By the end of the year, he’d insulted basically everyone except white men, and those guys were busy being upset about being called a "basket of deplorables" by Hillary Clinton. Elizabeth Warren made fun of Trump in turn, but her efforts were mostly in vain, as the insult that Trump hates most was perfected decades ago, and the "short-fingered vulgarian" has spent all the years since trying to devise a single cutting remark that is quite as good. He's still working on it.

Michelle Obama’s Speeches

This was a grueling year for politics, but the First Lady was a rare bright spot. She's the most popular politics-adjacent person in America, and she’s done a better job than anyone else of explaining just why this year felt so wrong. "This is disgraceful," she said in a campaign speech last month, alluding to Donald Trump's behavior with women and the accusations against him. "It is intolerable. And it doesn't matter what party you belong to — Democrat, Republican, Independent. No woman deserves to be treated this way. None of us deserves this kind of abuse." And, she reminded everyone during her convention speech, voters won’t just be making decisions for themselves tomorrow. "This election," she said, "and every election, is about who will have the power to shape our children for the next four or eight years of their lives." It was nice that someone was there to step in every once in awhile and steer the national conversation away from the obsessive search for the one detail that would change everything about this election. Sometimes, the big picture gives you plenty to think about.

Look at Those Big-League, Beautiful Polls

Have you seen Trump's polls? Probably not lately, because, as he has said on the campaign trail, "when we do badly, I don't talk about the polls. When we're doing well, I talk about the polls." At this moment, less than 24 hours until Election Day, everyone who cares about the election is constantly refreshing their polling aggregator of choice, but Trump is the one who started this trend way back in 2015, expending so much energy recounting every single data point showing he was ahead that there was no time left to discuss policy. When the numbers went south, Trump still had to kill time during his rallies, so he’d usually end up insulting people for an hour, which never turned out terribly well. The lesson of this election season is that you should always have backup talking points for when your poll numbers are bad, or else you’ll end up saying, "If I don’t win, it will be the single greatest waste of time, energy, and money.”

Poll-Tested Principles

One of the amusing subplots of the election has been the storyline where GOP politicians try to decide the optimal distance to place between themselves and Donald Trump's policies. On the one hand, Trump's toxic candidacy is a betrayal of Republican rhetoric and norms, and GOP politicians would like to flee as far away from this man-made disaster as possible. On the other hand, lots of Republican voters like Trump, and GOP politicians need their votes to win elections. On top of that, those politicians don't want to be blamed for a close Trump loss by their base, and they definitely don't want to have rejected a President Trump. All this calculation is chained to Trump's polling numbers, which means GOP politicians have to bend with the wind while pretending that they're acting on rock-solid principle. This has led to passive non-endorsements, aggressive non-endorsements, retracted endorsements, retracted-then-reinstated endorsements, and the whole gamut of wishy-washy flip-floppery that fills out the spaces between those types. There's no better example of this than erstwhile presidential candidate and conservative Ted Cruz. Cruz pledged to support the GOP nominee, then made a showy spectacle of pointedly omitting an endorsement of Donald Trump from his speech at the GOP convention, then finally retracted his non-endorsement and gave Trump a proper endorsement. Inspiring!

Spencer Platt/Getty Images


Two million young voters cast ballots for Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primary — more than Trump and Clinton got combined from this demographic. Sanders may not have won the race, but he did make clear what millennials, the biggest bloc of eligible voters right now, want from their politicians — and the power they could have if enough of them took part in the political process or gave a few bucks to a candidate. Unaffiliated voters also constitute an increasing chunk of the total voter pie across the country. What will happen if fewer and fewer voters join political parties? Who will twentysomethings turn to if politicians keep ignoring problems like climate change and student debt? Who knows - but 2016 made clear that there is an audience for someone who talks about these issues, one that challenges the politicians who claim to champion them to do more.

Lock Her Up

The unofficial battle cry of the Trump faithful — because even if they're not sure what he'd do as president, they're positive that he's not Hillary Clinton. Last Friday, supporters at a rally in New Hampshire started yelling, "Execute her!" There were the "Trump That Bitch" t-shirts and the people who shouted, "Hillary sucks — but not like Monica." Trump has complained that Clinton doesn't have a "presidential look," which seems to mean that, unlike all of our previous presidents, she has never been the type of person to say, "My favorite book is Infinite Jest.” Ultimately, though, the most memorable sentence of the entire election will probably end up being "Grab her by the pussy," instead of anything about Hillary. There are plenty of valid reasons to disagree with Clinton, but there's no doubt that this election season has proved that being the first woman to become a presidential nominee isn't fun — and that simply being a woman in America isn't a picnic either.

The Reagans Solved AIDS

After Nancy Reagan died earlier this year, Hillary Clinton went on TV and said, “It may be hard for your viewers to remember how difficult it was for people to talk about HIV/AIDS back in the 1980s. And because of both President and Mrs. Reagan — in particular, Mrs. Reagan — we started a national conversation, when before nobody would talk about it.” That is, of course, the polar opposite of true. Clinton soon apologized, but the episode reminded everyone how slowly she "evolved" on LGBTQ issues — and how frustrating she can be on many other points of policy, most of which she wouldn’t be properly challenged on in this email-obsessed election year.

The Only Metaphor for the Republican Primary That You’ll Ever Need

Voting as Obstacle Course

Before winning reelection in 2012, President Obama said of long lines at polling places, "By the way, we have to fix that." The four years since have been a constant ping-pong game of expanding the right to vote and curtailing it. Today it's still hard for many Americans to vote, and the lines are still long. In 2013, the Supreme Court broke the Voting Rights Act, and many states passed voting restriction laws that usually have the biggest effect on minority voters. Some of those laws were invalidated this year; in North Carolina, the judge noted that the legislation targeted people of color with "surgical precision." Kansas's dual voter registration system — which made people prove that they were citizens before they could vote in state or local elections — was just struck down last week. But even without laws, access to the ballot has been complicated in other ways this year. According to Vox, "counties previously monitored through the Voting Rights Act have closed down at least 868 polling places since the Supreme Court’s decision." In Ohio, a federal judge issued a restraining order against the Trump campaign barring them from voter intimidation. An attempt to give the right to vote back to felons in Virginia was blocked by a court. There have been some big advances in making voting easier in the past four years — more states now offer voting-by-mail and automatic voter registration — but the fact that they have been paired with attempts to make voting harder elsewhere is one more sad trend of this election cycle.