The Internet Got Really Creative With This Bernie Sanders Meme

After an image of Sanders sitting uncomfortably at the presidential inauguration went viral, the Vermont senator became further enshrined in meme history. This time, artists and designers weighed in.

Bernie makes a special appearance in Michael Lobel's (@mlobelart)—Professor of Art History, Hunter College & CUNY Graduate Center— doctored version of Nighthawks the infamous 1942 painting by Edward Hopper.

Inauguration Day may have belonged to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, but the Internet’s ever-inventive memelords made Bernie Sanders steal the spotlight. The beloved Vermont senator and former presidential candidate was spotted sitting cross-legged, masked, bundled in a bulky coat, and equipped with an excellent pair of fuzzy mittens during the socially distanced swearing-in ceremony, which took place in the frigid Washington weather. Within hours, edited versions of the image—taken by the photographer Brendan Smialowsky for Getty Images—were unleashed on social media. Once again, we all started feeling the Bern.

Doctored images depicted the Democratic Socialist in a wide array of artworks, movie scenes, and famous photographs. Suddenly, Bernie was starring in Thelma and Louise, Boogie Nights, and Hustlers, where he was cradled by Inauguration Day performer Jennifer Lopez. He was perched on the austere wooden chair from Joseph Kosuth’s One and Three Chairs (1965), lending the chilly Conceptualist masterpiece fresh new context. He faced Marina Abramovic during her performance of The Artist Is Present (2010) at the Museum of Modern Art, seemingly unfazed by her steely glare. (“Bernie is present,” the museum quipped.) He also appeared alongside Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion in the over-the-top music video for sex-positive feminist anthem WAP, which unfolds inside a trippy, snake-filled mansion. 


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The design world was quick to weigh in, too. We imagine Bernie felt much more cozy on Mario Bellini’s timeless Camaleonda Sofa for B&B Italia, or perhaps BuzziSpace’s soundproof BuzziSpark Original by Alain Gilles. His crossed legs dangled from the luminous glass tubes of Mathieu Lehanneur’s ethereal Les Cordes chandelier to surreal effect. And we’ll never shed the image of Bernie sitting next to maximalist interiors maven Kelly Wearstler in one of her signature interiors. In an industry that tends to take itself too seriously and often plays by the rules, the cascade of memes proved that design doesn’t always need to stay in its lane.

Sanders, it turns out, wasn’t aware that his pose and attire was creating instant iconography. In an appearance on The Late Show with Seth Meyers, he innocently admits to “just sitting there, trying to keep warm, trying to pay attention to what was going on.” It’s not terribly surprising, though, that the Internet would further enshrine an unassuming Sanders—who remains popular among young voters—in meme history. (Who could possibly forget Bernie Sanders’ Dank Meme Stash, the 388,000-strong group that took Facebook by storm during his 2016 presidential campaign?) The influx of memes offered a refreshing dose of levity after four years of nonstop political turbulence, unofficially ushering in a new political era marked by public health, environmental, racial, and financial crises. Frankly, we could all use a laugh. And we couldn’t help but join in:

You’ll find our favorite memes from around the web below. Happy scrolling!

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