This Year Was a Blast It Went So Fast!!!: The 2011-12 Election Yearbook

A presidential campaign is like senior year. It takes forever. You mentally check out about halfway through. Everyone gets sick of the jocks and the BMOC types. The hot women are all going out with exactly the WRONG guys. You eagerly anticipate never speaking to or hearing from almost all of these people ever again. And years later, everyone wakes up and realizes that the nerds secretly won.

Still, there are a few things and people that I can't help but be sad to see go—fun or quirky or wonderful little details that can't be replaced in the resumption of normal life. I've studied and written about these people, events and things for 12 months, and letting go is hard. OMG, wow, what a long strange trip it's been.

Here are just a few things I will miss:

  • Rafalca.
    Despite running for president for most of a decade, Mitt Romney did remarkably little to divest his life of those elements that screamed, "This guy is so rich that he might as well live on another planet." Instead, incredibly, he kept all of them around, and then his wife went on Good Morning America to be really sad at the camera about how Americans mocked her husband's greeting the day with a three-Fabergé-egg omelet. So when it turned out that they owned a dressage horse named "Rafalca," everything was pretty much perfect. I have no idea what the etymology for the name Rafalca is, but it's easy to imagine that it was very fashionable in the court of Aquitaine in the 12th century or that it's the name of a wife who poisoned a later, shitty Roman emperor. Anyway, Rafalca is a beautiful animal meant to run and gallop and leap, and instead her owners trained her to dance around in tiny circles like a dipshit, which is kind of like taking a pure-bred bloodhound able to track vanishing scents over a hundred miles and training it to shit into its own nose. I also texted Rafalca a bunch of times, and she never hit me back. Bitch.
  • "We like minorities. Honest!"
    Basically every Romney or Ryan rally wide shot where you could tell that someone on the advance team had found the three black people in the audience and said, "Would you like to sit up at the front, sir?"
  • Left-wing BOOYAH cheerleading.
    During the Bush years, lefties expressed inexhaustible disgust for right-wing crowing on Facebook or MySpace. (Remember MySpace? Good times. You think Tom ever logs in and is like, "Where are all the updates? I just finished this quiz about which member of The Walking Dead I am"? FUCK YOU, TOM. Here's my embedded autoplay MIDI of Aqua's "Barbie Girl.") When Bush scored political points, supporters posted their "we did it!" updates, prompting observations like, "I doubt he knows you're alive, dude." But fans have short and hypocritical memories, and your Democratic buddies probably spent the last six months posting more OORAH and THAT'S MY PREZ bullshit than you could ever have imagined. Macros, animated gifs, mashup videos, "I GOT THIS"—everything that translated the presidential election into, basically, Caturday. But just as Bush wasn't a regular dude who was going to have a beer with you, Obama, to quote Charles Davis, isn't coming over to watch Community. He's a well-off, incredibly powerful politician who lives in a bubble and spent his post-election hangover atomizing Yemenis. Of course, now that the election is over, most of those people claiming personal victory for things Obama has chosen to do will go back to not knowing what he's up to at any given time.
  • Gail Collins mentioning Seamus the dog as often as possible.
    Look, any time you strap a dog to the top of a car for a 12-hour highway drive, stop the car when it shits itself in terror—not to rescue the poor creature but to hose off the rear windshield and then put him back up there—you deserve to be flayed for that anecdote for the rest of your life, because you are a fucking monster.
  • Dick Morris.
    There aren't many people more improbably heterosexual than Dick Morris, who seems to be LARPing every day of his life as "Harvey Fierstein: Politics Edition." But Morris was drummed out of the Clinton administration after toe-sucking female prostitutes, so the idea that the hatefulness of this little gloaming gnome stems from closeted self-loathing is a non-starter. Still, Morris is a joy just for his innate ability to reach any conclusion antipodal to reality. He's like Bill Kristol but with poll numbers. Watching Dick Morris call anything for the GOP was like watching someone make an indelible hash mark under the DNC column.
  • Simultaneously having to acknowledge George W. Bush's economic and foreign policies while pretending he didn't exist.
    There's something pretty special about watching a virulently anti-science party wrestling with Heisenberg on a day-to-day basis.
  • Paul Ryan on TV every day.
    I've written about Paul Ryan here (scroll to the bottom) and here and here, and while everything he believes in is still terrible and unburdened by the rigors of correctly adding and subtracting, we have lost something now that he's no longer criss-crossing the country and failing to fire up crowds. What was frankly kind of grand about Ryan's stump appearances was his inability to efface his peevishness at the fact that he had to keep speaking to people with such low Q-ratings and net worth. When he was tired or not into a speech—which was often—his tone gained this exasperated sense that he couldn't believe he still had to explain this basic shit to YOU PEOPLE. If anything, this probably explains how little effort he put into lying to America, delivering D-grade howlers so artlessly that it sounded like he himself was unwilling to put in a moment's commitment to thinking they might be true. Also, I have never seen a politician lick his lips and part of his face as much as Paul Ryan did at paragraph breaks in his speeches. He was one loopy dose of antihistamines away from licking the side of his hand and then using it to try to pat down his cowlick, like a cat. We will not see a national candidate so capable of constant self-moistening until Peyton Manning runs for senator in Louisiana or Tennessee or the Unincorporated Territory of the Associated Free State of DirecTV. RUB A L'IL DIRT ON IT, PAUL.
  • Think pieces about debate performances.
    "There is no quantifiable way to support my conclusion about this mass of words, but here's why Barack Obama just lost this election." "Was this the moment that Barack Obama won?" "Were these three sentences that Mitt Romney said in a November, 2011 debate in front of 57 people in Idaho the moments when he lost the election?" "Now that Mitt Romney has already lost the election, what will be the watershed moment in the 2016 democratic primaries? Here's Andy Borowitz's satirical take that might make you laugh, but it might make you think, too."
  • Jennifer Rubin's torturous defense of Mitt Romney.
    There are many things depressing and wrong about Jennifer Rubin—like repeatedly dehumanizing Palestinians—but by far the saddest was her slavish hackery for whatever the Romney campaign's line of the day was. Being inside the Romney campaign is one thing. When you're trying to control the narrative and pummel your enemies, there's a moderate acceptability or at least reason in declaring, from day to day, that black is white, up is down, and that in Rand McNally people wear shoes on their heads and hamburgers eat people. But Rubin's checks were signed by the Washington Post, and the Romney campaign gave her no reason to write blog after blog in which the world became an endless succession of paradoxical 1984-like declarations. It's one thing to lie from the inside, for yourself or your team. It takes a hysterically inept contempt for the truth and a total lack of self-respect to contradict yourself day after day, on the record, under your byline, and carry yourself as if the act of self-humiliation is its own reward.
  • Mitt.
    Even his most ardent critics probably have to admit that they already kind of miss the bugger, with his Reed Richards hairstyle, his ironed mom jeans and his total inability to relate to human beings. There were enough flashes of genuinely trying to Mitt Romney's campaign to make you feel that there might be a vulnerable, confused, utterly inapt person locked inside the campaign and "candidacy demeanor" machine. I felt myself vacillate between a complete lack of respect and a sad pity for whatever person was trapped beneath a consuming desire to vindicate his father and efface his own political losses. And because there were, even briefly, signs of a person in there, it was easy to laugh off his stumbling boobery and feel sort of bad about it—dust yourself off, Mitt, and get back on the bicycle and keep pedaling. It was easy to feel a little defensive for him, too, when the carrion birds of the conservative commentariat gutlessly pecked at him to bolster their pundit cred and pave the way for an "I CALLED IT" column in the weeks following the election. Then, just as that empathetic wave would start to crest, he'd lie about something remorselessly. He'd lie about welfare, or Libya, or an apology tour, or his deficit reduction plan, or the efficacy of his naval expansion plan, or his abortion views, or his Obamacare views, or Obamacare's impacts, or Social Security, or Medicare, or tax revenues, or "religious freedom," or whatever. And all the goodwill would wash away, and he'd still be standing there—smugly, proudly, saying things that you knew he was too smart to think could possibly be true. Then he'd take some Inspector Clouseau-esque nosedive off the end of a precipitous sentence; someone would cue the slide-whistle noise; you'd think, "Oh Mittens-chan..." and the cycle would begin anew.

Maybe he can run again in 2016. Until then, I hope he stays cool, has fun in the sun and gets laid in the shade.

DON'T EVER CHANGE.

Photo via Getty]