It’s a lyrical reference. In her song, Lizzo goes, “I just took a DNA test, turns out I’m 100 percent that b ----.”
On the set, Buttigieg starts jerking his hands around like a Japanese carebot and responds, “Um, yes, and I am 100 percent that nominee to …” Polite laughter cuts him off; another painful fusion of political pandering and pop culture for the history books. “He looks like he’s trying to sell her a Toyota,” quipped @IanJSchwartz as photos of the meetup circulated on Twitter.
Don’t feel too bad, Mayor Pete. It was just two days earlier that the Trump campaign decided to inject some cool into the 73-year-old president’s brand by superimposing his face onto the Marvel supervillain Thanos, which was mocked no less than the time two weeks earlier when Trump shared a picture of himself as Rocky Balboa.
Looking back on the past few years, it’s basically a rite of passage in national politics to embarrass oneself on social media with crude bids for mass popularity. Here are our 10 cringiest moments from the Trump era.
10. Ripped Ted Cruz
This one falls low in the list because Sen. Ted Cruz didn’t go out looking for it. He visited Hollywood one day in 2014 to discover a conservative street artist had plastered walls with a rendering of the Texas Republican as a tattooed, six-packed rebel, smoking a cigarette in what looks like a jail mug shot.
So Cruz tweeted the poster. “I wanted to make one thing clear: I don’t smoke cigarettes,” he cracked. Be honest: You would have done the same if it were you.
But then he kept talking about it for the next two years. His presidential campaign sold the posters for $50 apiece. At the Conservative Political Action Conference in March 2016, Cruz told the story of discovering the poster all over again, made the same “I don’t smoke” joke, and told the crowd how funny it had been.
“And people laughed; they had fun,” he said. We’ll take his word for it.
9. “Get in [loser] we’re getting Brexit done”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson earned a sweeping victory in the British election Thursday night. We refuse to believe it was helped by his “Get Brexit Done” campaign, which appropriated the “get in loser” meme from the 2004 movie “Mean Girls,” replacing the word loser with Johnson’s thumb.
He also did this. Don’t click on it; it’s possibly even worse.
Anyway, some 14 million voters are in the car with Johnson now.
8. Hillary Clinton dabs, and worse
A brief history of presidential candidates dancing on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show”:
Barack Obama did it in 2007, and it was surprising and kind of good, and he won the presidency.
Bernie Sanders did it in 2015, and it was weird because there was no sound on the clip that got passed around, and he lost.
She lost the election, and we all lost a bit of our souls.
7. Joe Biden texts a Snapchat, I mean snaps a webchat, I mean …
Born in the middle of World War II, Joe Biden is sensitive to criticism that he is too old to lead the Democratic Party. (He recently challenged an octogenarian to a push-up contest.)
Hours before he appeared at a presidential candidate debate in July, Biden announced that he had joined Snapchat. His zippy promo ad featured Bitmoji Biden in sunglasses, jogging energetically toward his fellow youth.
The Internet was broadly skeptical that Biden even knew what Snapchat was. Doubts grew that evening, when at the end of the debate Biden asked voters to “go to Joe 30330 and help me in this fight,” suggesting he had not fully grasped the distinction between a text message and a website, let alone snaps.
6. Everyone who interacted with Taylor Swift in the 2018 midterms
There was like a half a news cycle last year when it seemed that someone had finally bridged the chasm between pop culture and politics. Taylor Swift, possibly the most influential millennial singer in the country, announced on Instagram that she was endorsing the Democrat Phil Bredesen for U.S. Senate in her state of Tennessee. “Happy Voting! 🗳😃🌈,” she wrote, and some 2 million fans clicked a heart beneath her message.
And then Bredesen broke 2 million hearts by responding to the endorsement with a tweet crammed full of dad puns and political cliches: “[L]ook what you made her do,” he told his Republican opponent, Marsha Blackburn. “@taylorswift13 doesn’t like your little games and she wants Tennesseans to know that you’ve been in the swamp long enough. It’s time for some fresh air up in Washington.”
Blackburn retaliated in the only way a mainstream Republican could: by going on “Fox & Friends” and saying, “I hope Taylor will shake it off.”
Swift’s candidate lost. Pretty much all that’s left of the singer’s endorsement is an Instagram photo of her and her mom posing with an oversize Bredesen for Senate sign in front of a cattle trailer.
5. Ben Carson’s rap ad
There’s not much to say about this, except to note that Ben Carson later blamed his staff for splicing excerpts of his speeches into an Aspiring Mogul rap song and releasing it on the radio in eight states. To paste the lyrics verbatim:
[Aspiring Mogul:] Heal (vote, vote) inspire (vote, vote) revive (vote, vote).
Ben Carson 2016 (vote, vote).
Vote and support Ben Carson
For our next president, it’d be awesome.
[Carson:] America became a great nation early on, not because it was flooded with politicians but because it was flooded (vote, vote) with people who understood the value of personal (vote, vote) responsibility, hard work (vote, vote), creativity, innovation, and that’s what will get us (vote, vote) on the right track now.
[Carson:] I’m very hopeful that I’m not the only one who’s willing to pick up the baton of freedom, because freedom is not free and we must fight for it every day. Every one of must fight for it, because we’re fighting for our children and the next generation.
[Mogul:] If we want to get America back on track,
We gotta vote Ben Carson, a matter of fact.
Go out and vote.
[Carson:] I’m Ben Carson, and I approve this message.
4. Elizabeth Warren Instagrams a beer
A few hours after announcing her candidacy for president on New Year’s Eve, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) decided to humanize herself by inviting voters to hang out in her kitchen via Instagram.
The live stream began with Warren immediately walking off-screen “to get me a beer,” and then announcing with a note of surprise, “Oh, my husband Bruce is now in here!”
Warren offered Bruce a beer, but he declined, so she told him she loved him and “thank you for being here.”
“Pleasure, enjoy your beer,” Bruce said as he walked off-screen. Home sweet home.
3. Beto O’Rourke Instagrams his oral cavity
The week after Warren’s virtual house party, her presidential rival Beto O’Rourke Instagrammed a dental cleaning. He did this ostensibly to show off his dental hygienist, Diana, who grew up in his native El Paso.
“It’s a beautiful community,” Diana said through a surgical mask as she vacuumed saliva out of the candidate’s mouth.
2. “LOOK AT THIS PHOTOGRAPH”
When students in the year 2119 visit the Donald J. Trump Presidential Twitter Library, they will be confused by many things, but most of all the Oct. 2 tweet in which the president typed “LOOK AT THIS PHOTOGRAPH!” above a broken video link.
“What photograph?” the kids will ask. “Why is he yelling?” The curator will explain that in those days there was a band called Nickelback, with a famous music video called “Photograph,” and there was also a scandal involving Trump’s baseless attempts to link one of his political rivals, Joe Biden, to Ukrainian criminals.
In an attempt to popularize the smear, the curator will explain, Trump tweeted an altered version of the Nickelback video and used technology of the time to replace the titular photograph with a picture of Biden standing near a Ukrainian man.
And then, the curator will say, as the children’s attention begins to wander and several pull out telepathic fidget spinners, Twitter removed the video because it was a potential copyright violation, and so the tweet was archived in its broken state.
“But why does he write in all capitals?” a student will ask. “And what is a copyright?”
“We don’t really know,” the curator will say. “Those were weird times.”
1. “Pokémon Go to the polls.”
We had to limit a politician to no more than two entries on this list, or else Clinton would have taken up half of it.
Her dancing has been discussed above. During her 2016 race, she once asked voters to describe their feelings about student loan debt “in 3 emojis or less.” Her Vine video — “I’m just chilling in Cedar Rapids” — was arguably worse than Warren’s beer or O’Rourke’s bicuspids. She is the candidate who started a racial controversy by appropriating a Beyoncé lyric to claim she literally carried hot sauce in her bag.
But none of those measure up to what Clinton did at a Virginia campaign stop in July 2016, as people all over the world were obsessed with the mobile game Pokémon Go.
The infamous line began with Clinton rattling off a list of good things that will happen if she is elected president. “Jobs,” she said. “Jobs from creating infrastructure to coding, creating new apps.”
She thrust an arm out toward the crowd, obscuring the face of her running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who was already starting to crack up at the hilarity he must have known was coming.
“I don’t know who created Pokémon Go,” Clinton said as the crowd whooped, “but I’m trying to figure out how we get them to have Pokémon Go to the polls.”