After the 2016 election, we saw an upsurge in memes about Obama and Biden being best friends. While this wasn’t a new concept, the amount of new memes that played with this idea was significant.
There are two things going on here: first, a celebration of the charisma that we seek in elected officials, and second, the expression of the shared emotions of nostalgia and fear of change.
First things first, let’s talk about the celebration of charisma. It should be abundantly clear now, more than ever, that we value charm and smooth-talking in our political candidates. One of the huge draws of Obama, regardless of his political stances, was that he was a brilliant orator during his time in the senate. He drew people in, made connections with them, and felt like someone you could have a beer with.
Someone you could have a beer with. While I don’t want to make any unconfirmed assertions about history, I have a feeling that is a relatively new consideration for presidential candidates. We heard this phrase about President Bush. People voted for Bush in part because they felt like he was someone they could have a beer with.
I want to pause a little here. This is insane. We, as voters, need to stop voting for people we would want to meet in a bar. Instead, we should be voting for people we feel can handle foreign and domestic crises, and can promote economic growth, and can be trusted with the nuclear codes, people! But I digress…
Instead, we’re voting for people we want to have a beer with. And while I think that’s a bad voting criterion, there is something to be said about wanting to build a relationship with a political official. You’re probably not going to have beers with people you despise. And that’s partly what this meme was about. It was about having the feeling of building a relationship, and of being friends with the two highest officials of the United States.
We all wanted to imagine and take part in this friendship, fictitious or not, in part because we had, as a nation, just elected President Trump. Further, the electoral college was not representative of the popular vote. This means that millions of people were disappointed and disheartened by the results.
And nostalgic. Even though Obama and Biden were still in office when most of the memes were coming to light, the country was already nostalgic for the pair of politicians.
These are the emotions that many Americans were feeling, and the memes were expressions of those emotions. Some of them were more outright about their anger and disdain towards Trump, while others were more sentimental in nature.
They all focused on the charisma and friendship between the two men, and the emotions that the majority of the nation felt when thinking about their respective terms ending.
Memes are more than just the absurdity that I’ve sometimes described them as. Memes, while often absurd, can also be a form of communication that allows both senders and receivers to share emotional connections.
Featured image by Chuck Kennedy via Wikimedia Commons [public domain].