With Donald Trump on one side and a field huge enough for a seventies ensemble comedy on the other – Michael Bloomberg is the record 29th entrant in the Democratic primary – the 2020 election is already, by far, the weirdest presidential campaign we’ve seen.
Because it’s taking place in an era when everyone has a cell phone and every fart, stammer, cough, and exploding eyeball is recorded by someone, it’s an especially perilous time for candidates. The enormous field on the Democratic side has put pressure on entrants to go to extreme lengths to get attention, which has added an additional layer of camp and crazy to an already strained process.
On this week’s episode of “Useful Idiots,” Katie Halper and I are unveiling a new feature: the “Most Stoned Campaign Moments” list. Each week on the show, we’ll review the video clips from the campaign that most make you feel like you’ve been getting high all day. We’ll then ask viewers to vote on which was the most stoned of these moments via Twitter polls.
Then, at the conclusion of voting, we’ll tweak the overall list. Our hope is that by the end of the campaign, we’ll have a substantial collection, with a democratically-elected choice for the single most stoned moment of the 2020 presidential campaign.
Two quick notes before starting the list. One, it’s going to be very Joe Biden-heavy for as long as he’s in the race. We’re sorry about that, it’s unavoidable. Two, Donald Trump hasn’t done a lot of campaigning yet, so the list is light on TrumpMania as yet.
Give it time. Without further ado, the Most Stoned Moments of the 2020 Presidential Race so far:
- JOE BIDEN’S EYE FILLS WITH BLOOD
“What China’s doing, they’re building coal plants on their… their belt road era,” said frontrunner Joe Biden in a town hall in September, while audience members leaned forward and frowned: What the hell is that? Americans soon learned the term “subconjunctival hemorrhage,” and learned that a former Vice President’s eye can become engorged with blood if he rubs too much or “sneezes, coughs, strains while using the toilet, or otherwise experiences a spike in blood pressure.”
- KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND: “I’M JUST TRYING TO GET SOME RANCH.”
The 2020 race has seen some unusually painful candidate efforts to “seem relatable,” including a ghastly episode involving former New York Mayor Bill de Blasio in which he posted text messages with his son Dante, asking him how to come off as cool in a debate (Dante suggested he should “clarify some NBA trade rumors”). Few were more panned, however, than early-exit candidate Kirsten Gillibrand posting a video of herself lifting weights while wearing a specially-printed self-referential t-shirt that read, “I’m just trying to get some ranch.” The shirt referred to a non-memorable episode in which Gillibrand earlier in the campaign had, in a restaurant, approached a woman who was actually trying to get past her to get some salad dressing. “Do you like my new workout shirt?” Gillibrand’s tweet read.
Good to be back in Iowa. Do you like my new workout shirt? pic.twitter.com/0YVX0zZCvj
— Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) March 20, 2019
- BETO O’ROURKE “CUT OUT SOME OF THIS EAR HAIR THAT YOU GET WHEN YOU GET OLDER”
The Texan-who-almost-but-didn’t-beat-Ted-Cruz was a pioneer in Too Much Information campaigning, sharing visits to the dentist, solo drum sessions, and, most stoned of all, a visit to a barber that included an electric neck massage and commentary about dude’s ear hair.
- DONALD TRUMP: “WE DON’T WANT TO BE POLITICALLY CORRECT”
This will be less funny later in the race when someone is pummeled to death under a pile of MAGA hats, but Donald Trump is already reprising his “Did he really just say that shit?” routine from 2016. In Hershey, Pennsylvania, a woman heckled Trump and was politely escorted out by security, prompting Trump to mock the guard: “That particular guy wanted to be so politically correct, oh-oh-oh!” he said, recalling his Serge Kovaleski mime. Then, to a cheering crowd, he said, “We don’t want to be politically correct!”
- ELIZABETH WARREN: “I’M GONNA GET ME A BEER.”
The Massachusetts Senator and almost-frontrunner has pushed the envelope on the relatability-attempt front, slipping out of Harvard-speak and into Oklahoma homilies about home and Mama with regularity. Here she posts a video of herself appearing to “enjoy” a beer-like beverage with her familial sharing unit, who amusingly declines.
- MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: “CORY IS VERY WELL-SPOKEN.”
The New York Mayor, who spent a staggering $100 million on ads in the first few weeks of his campaign (earning about 5% in polls for his trouble), spoke on CBS about fellow Tri-Stater Cory Booker, who noted there will be twice as many billionaires on stage at the next Democratic debate as minorities. “He’s very well-spoken, has got some good ideas,” Bloomberg said. It wasn’t quite “articulate and bright and clean,” but it was close.
Oh hell no. This man literally called @CoryBooker “well spoken.” A tired racial trope.
Cory Booker is literally one of the single smartest human beings I’ve met in my entire life. Every time I’m around him, I leave thinking he’s a genius. pic.twitter.com/i2gQjv0clf
— Shaun King (@shaunking) December 6, 2019
- PETE BUTTIGIEG: “NO”
Asked if he would “stop taking money off billionaires and closed-door fundraisers,” Mayor Pete Buttigieg answers with a curt, “No.” Honestly rules!
Buttigieg: “I’m going to fight the influence of Big money in politics”
— Amir (@AmirAminiMD) December 8, 2019
In a similar episode, when asked why if he would open his fundraisers to the press, he answered, “No.” Asked why, he said there were considerations. Asked if he could list the considerations, he said, “No.” How many other “No” moments are coming? (“Mayor Pete, is there any reason I shouldn’t go f— myself?”)
— phil (@PrettyGoodPhil) December 7, 2019
- JOE BIDEN: “WHAT YOU DO HERE IN IOWA”
It might be worth keeping track of how may times Joe Biden misidentifies the state in which he is currently standing. In Keene, New Hampshire, he said, “What’s not to like about Vermont?” Then in Nashua, New Hampshire, while pacing in front of a sign that read BIDEN NEW HAMPSHIRE, he said, “What you do here in Iowa…” On Useful Idiots, we discussed the concept of being “Bidenized,” with John Kerry being one of the first to formally earn the dubious honor.
- CORY BOOKER: “YOU’RE PAW-SOME!”
Addressing a supporter’s dog, named “Hillary,” New Jersey Senator Cory Booker goes into mega-pun mode, spinning an impressive nine dog-themed puns in a 1:14 video message.
- ELIZABETH WARREN: “I AM LIZHOLIO!!!”
Elizabeth Warren running with arms akimbo in a gesture of religious devotion toward Big Structural Bailey, a giant inflatable replica of her 16-month-old Golden Retriever, meant to be a symbol of her big ideas, while crowds chant “Medicare for All!” (a policy she does not seem to fully support), is easily the most stoned moment of 2020 and will not easily be dislodged from the top spot.