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Is Bernie Sanders our most meme-able congressman?

Bernie might be our most relatable politician.


Katherine Huggins


Posted on Nov 20, 2023

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has been the source of a number of viral images and memes over the years, as the curmudgeoenly elder statesmen developed a Millennials and Gen Z fandom during his runs for president in 2016 and 2020.

But what are the best Bernie Sanders memes?

Bernie Sanders Memes

‘I am once again asking’

One of the most popular formats is an image of Sanders taken from a fundraising appeal for his 2020 presidential campaign, in which he says he is “once again asking for your financial support.”

The image was quickly repurposed for personal requests, advice, and a variety of jokes.

Sanders dropped out of the 2020 race in April and threw his support behind President Joe Biden, becoming the subject of another meme at Biden’s inauguration less than one year later.

Inauguration Mittens

Sanders—captured donning mittens and the same winter coat seen in the video above at Biden’s inauguration in January 2021—quickly spurred an onslaught of memes that have continued to circulate online nearly three years later.

The photo was taken by Agence France-Press photographer Brendan Smialowski, who later told CNBC that he thinks the “picture is really not that great” but that it resonated with people because Sanders “has a very well defined brand and image” and the photo captures “Bernie being Bernie.”

The photo itself quickly spread with quippy captions before being turned into a meme.

“This could’ve been an email,” wrote one user on X the day of the inauguration. That post gained over one million likes and more than 100,000 reposts.

The image was photoshopped into movie scenes, artwork, and historical images, among other backdrops.

One person developed a website enabling users to place the image of Sanders anywhere in Google Street View photographs, while even The Bachelor reality TV show franchise got in on the trend.

Sanders laughed off the attention his inauguration outfit gained, saying in an interview that “in Vermont, we know something about the cold, and we’re not so concerned about good fashion.”

He added in a later CNN interview that he was glad the photo went viral because it “makes people aware that we make good mittens in Vermont.”

Sanders also created a sweatshirt using the image with 100% of its proceeds going to Meals on Wheels Vermont. The crewneck sweatshirt sold out right away.

The mittens in question were made by Jen Ellis, a Vermont schoolteacher, who said they were “made from repurposed wool sweaters and lined with fleece (made from recycled plastic bottles).” According to the New York Times, Ellis gave Sanders the pair after he lost the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016.

While those are two of the most prominent examples of Sanders becoming a meme, other moments of his have gone viral as well.

Soccer Mommy

One instance of this is when Sanders thanked a number of Indie bands for their support, including a singer-songwriter called Soccer Mommy.

Capitol Steps

Another meme moment comes from an image depicting a dejected Sanders lounging on the steps of the Capitol during the push to pass the Inflation Reduction Act in August 2022.

“It really do be like that,” one X user wrote while comparing Sanders to an image from Schoolhouse Rock‘s educational song “I’m Just a Bill.” The post garnered more than 100,000 likes.

TikTok bombing

The Vermont senator became a meme again in February when he accidentally stumbled into a TikTok creator’s video.

“The man is just a meme machine. It’s uncanny,” wrote one X user in response to the TikTok.

“Unbelievably relatable man,” concluded someone else. Which is perhaps why so many Sanders’ memes wind up going viral.

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*First Published: Nov 20, 2023, 8:23 am CST