Politics

What Was Happening Exactly One Week Before the 2016 Election

A slightly alarming reminder of what we were talking about at this moment four years ago.

President Obama makes a silly face while he points to and holds a crying baby and two girls lean in for pictures.
President Barack Obama holds 10-month-old Brooks Breitwieser as he greets supporters after a Hillary for America campaign event in Columbus, Ohio, on Nov. 1, 2016. Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Jane the Virgin lost her virginity. The Chicago Cubs were playing in the World Series. It was #DMYourCrushDay on Twitter. These are just a few of the things that were going on one week before the 2016 election.

You may think you remember what the week before Nov. 9, 2016, felt like in excruciating detail, but in truth, you’ve probably either forgotten or purposely blocked out those final days—and who could blame you? Now that we’re a week out from another presidential election, I couldn’t help but torture myself with everything we were saying, thinking, and reading on Nov. 1, 2016, seven days before … you know.

Early voting was in full swing (and it seemed to be working great until we started seeing the long lines that have become a familiar sight in 2020). Hillary Clinton was up between 1 and 6 points in national polls, and FiveThirtyEight had her chances of winning at 76 percent. Still, not everyone was expecting a sure thing: “Are you a Democrat? Should you be freaking out? Yes, maybe,” one politics writer tweeted before linking to one of her pieces. Cher, too, tried to warn her followers that a Trump victory was possible.

The previous week, the FBI had announced that it was investigating a new round of Hillary’s emails. On Nov. 1, Slate’s Jim Newell explained why a particular John Podesta email was not the smoking gun Republicans thought it was, and Christina Cauterucci lamented, “With the Weiner Email Dust-Up, Idiot Men Might Have Ruined It for Clinton.” (Not wrong!) There was an open seat on the Supreme Court, and one Republican senator suggested that if Clinton won the election he hoped to put off filling it for all four years. Elsewhere, a Texas official called Clinton the “c word,” and Trump was dropping hints to his supporters that if he lost, voter fraud would be to blame. Democrats hoped proof that Trump avoided paying fair taxes might matter.

But truly, there was so much going on that had nothing to do with politics. Apple redesigned its peach emoji. “Ranch dressing is what’s wrong with America,” posited a piece in the Washington Post. Actress and entrepreneur Kate Hudson was quoted in a magazine saying, “I have a passion for wanting to do things. I want to be a part of things that are going on,” and I wrote a whole blog post wondering what those words could possibly mean. In Tennessee, a couple sued Amazon after a hoverboard set their house on fire.

Meanwhile, “Closer,” by the Chainsmokers, was the country’s No. 1 song, as it had been since August. Not to read too much into that or anything, especially considering the duo’s troubling recent history of social distancing violations, but this lyrical snippet is standing out as pretty meaningful to me in 2020: “Four years, no calls/ Now you’re looking pretty in a hotel bar.” What if the thing looking pretty in the hotel bar … was democracy?