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8 things that made the 2016 election weird this week

Democracy has never felt so strange.


Aaron Sankin


Posted on Jan 30, 2016   Updated on May 27, 2021, 7:17 am CDT

On Monday, the 2016 election really begins. Iowans will head to public schools and libraries around the state to caucus for the first official tally of the presidential primary season. 

The fact that a reality TV star is dominating the Republican race heading into Iowa is so strange, it’s caused pundits’ talking heads to spin for months. But that doesn’t even scratch the surface of baffling things about this race. Here are the eight things that made the 2016 election weird this week.

1. Baked beans

Iowa is such a frost-blasted, post-apocalyptic cornscape that even Mike “I Heart” Huckabee was reduced to making music video parodies of pop songs to express the deep existential despair that comes from spending weeks of your life in the state only to end up trailing a guy who has appeared on WWE professional wrestling multiple times by 27 points.

Sadly, Huckabee’s video, a play on Adele‘s ‘Hello,’ was taken down by a copyright claim from EMI, so you’ll just have to take it on faith that it was, in every imaginable way, something nobody asked for. In honor of this important moment in the history of American democracy, please change your Twitter avatar to this screenshot taken from the video when it was still up.

2. Militiaman challenges Chris Christie to sumo wrestling match

Back in the heady days of earlier this week, it looked as if the standoff at a remote Oregon wildlife sanctuary between an anti-government militia and—you guessed it—the U.S. government would go on indefinitely, punctuated only by care packages full of dildos and hot takes scolding people for sending care packages full of dildos.

The whole situation was ridiculous and funny. Until it stopped being ridiculous and funny and started being scary and tragic when one of the militia members was killed in a shootout with police and the remaining members openly fantasized on a livestream about murdering government employees.

It is in that context that America must now process the free-floating belligerence of one of the militia members, who challenged New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to a sumo wrestling match. 

Prepare to feel super awkward for laughing.

3. Pop quiz, hotshot: What is a caucus? 

You don’t know how a caucus works. Nobody knows how a caucus works. It’s a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped an ethanol subsidy. Here’s everything you need to know about how the Iowa caucuses work. Feel free to turn it into a drinking game. Or just keep drinking nonstop until President Donald Trump is declared Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico.

4. Ben Carson, mumblecore icon

Ben Carson is a character in a Wes Anderson movie wherein a famed brain surgeon mounts a charmingly incompetent, quixotic campaign to become president of the United States with the help of his chief campaign adviser, a matching set of vintage luggage. During a crucial scene, Carson, played by a delightfully deadpan Danny Glover, practices reciting the preamble to the Constitution in the bathroom mirror while “Strangers” by the Kinks plays in the background. Cut to the debate, Glover’s face dead center of the frame, and he bungles it.

5. Rand Paul Is Thirsty To Debate Bernie Sanders

Lately, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has been pretty into challenging Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to a debate, where they will get a little high and then agree on everything from gun control to NSA spying. It will be just like Thanksgiving, where everyone decides ahead of time not to talk about money or abortion.

At the very least, Paul can give Sanders advice about how to cut your own hair and make it look not weird.

6. A preview of how the Trump administration will approach the delicate art of diplomacy

Trump got angry at Fox News because Megyn Kelly had the temerity to ask him actual questions during previous debate, so he demanded Kelly be removed from moderator lineup. Fox News refused, and Trump reverted to a tactic that’s made him a very successful politician: reminding voters of the dire threat posed by brown people.

Billionaire Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal swooped in with a solid own.

Trump responded by calling Talal “dopey.” Congratulations, Talal, you’ve entered an exclusive club of the 110 individuals Tump as publicly insulted since launching his camping seven months ago.

7. Martin O’Malley’s base in Iowa is undocumented immigrants

Fusion talked to nine undocumented immigrants in Iowa, and six of them support the former Maryland governor. Targeting people legally prohibited from voting, but who are still human beings whose rights are undeniably worth protecting because generosity directed toward those from whom we can reap direct recompense is the highest form of altruism, is a bold strategy. Let’s see if it pays off.

8. Barnie Sandlers talks the talk

Barnie Sandlers is the only candidate who will ensure that the top 1 percent of memes will no longer greedily hoard 99 percent of the dankness.

Feel the Barn, America. Feel the Barn.

Correction: The article originally implied the militiaman who challenged Christie to a sumo wrestling match was from Oregon. He actually hails from Idaho. As one Oregonian reader wrote in, “none of the major players of the standoff are from or [are] living in Oregon, and we never wanted them here.”

Illustration by Max Fleishman

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*First Published: Jan 30, 2016, 9:38 am CST