Cold Bernie, Flawless Michelle: the best memes from the inauguration

Inauguration day memes
(Micah Fluellen / Los Angeles Times; Getty Images)

A former first lady arriving at an inauguration shouldn’t be a show-stopping moment, but these are unusual times.

After four years of a chaotic Trump administration, the young content creators on the internet — on TikTok, Instagram and Twitter — were ready to find the fun in politics again.

Cue Michelle Obama, the most admired woman in America three years running (according to Gallup polls), dressed to the nines in a purple outfit, a gold accent belt and silky curls bouncing in the cool winter air. It was reminiscent of Beyoncé strutting across the stage at Coachella, complete with the cheers of adoring fans — at least online.

“Why is Michelle Obama out here serving?” asked one TikTok user, Rekcut, before showing a clip of Obama walking through the capitol as “Walk” by Saucy Santana plays. The “walk” challenge asks users to “put on a cute” outfit, film themselves walking at 0.3x speed and feel like a bad bitch as the song asks, “Let me see if you can walk.” In a matter of hours, the clip has been viewed more than 2.7 million times.

If Wednesday signaled a peaceful transition of power, it also marked a continued shift in the kind of memes floating on the internet that started with Trump’s loss in the November election. The chaos of the Trump administration — which closed out with a coup attempt and 400,000 COVID-19 deaths — generated some incredible, anxiety-fueled dark humor. But the memes of inauguration day were delivered with levity. More jokes about musical performances. More riffs on bizarre outfit choices. The meme makers ushered in what NBC News described as the “radical normalcy” of Joe Biden’s presidency with a tapestry of content — a heavy dash of “Bye Don” irreverence.

Here’s a roundup of the best jokes, videos and memes ushering out President Donald Trump and welcoming President Biden:

The Trump memes

In one video, comedian B Mo the Prince captured the shift with a burst of wind. “I believe that was the global sigh of relief,” he says. Trump’s departure also has created a genre of “turn in your badge” memes on TikTok and Twitter.


On TikTok, comedian Jazmyn W has a series portraying the last days of President Trump and members of his family. In a skit about Ivanka Trump’s last day, the comedian asks who approved $3,000 in spending on bathrooms, a reference to news that the Secret Service detail for the first daughter’s family had to rent a bathroom after being blocked from using the ones in the Kushner household. “Baby, you owe my auntie a stimulus,” she says.

The celebrities being extra memes

The ceremony itself was emotional and solemn but also filled with the types of excessive flourishes only top-tier celebrities bring. From Jennifer Lopez sneaking in a reference to her 1999 hit “Let’s Get Loud” between “This Land Is Your Land” and “America the Beautiful,” to Lady Gaga’s “Hunger Games”-inspired gown, the inauguration marked the return of well-liked pop stars to presidential politics.

(Trump reportedly was upset that A-list stars agreed to attend Biden’s inauguration after several boycotted his 2017 ceremony.)

The style icon memes

Sanders, the runner-up for the Democratic nomination, showed up dressed for comfort over style in a winter coat and wool mittens given to him on the campaign trail. “Bernie dressed like the inauguration is on his to do list today but ain’t his whole day,” comedian Marie Faustin tweeted.

Corey Townsend, an editor at the Root, likened Sanders’ pose — legs crossed, gloved hands crossed in front of him — to a marching band dance line performer.


“Cold Bernie” also has been posted posing with the cast of “Sex and the City,” on the cover of Drake’s “Views” album and throughout New York City.

If Sanders’ jacket looks familiar, it’s because he is indeed wearing it once again, having worn it during a viral fundraising video for his 2020 presidential campaign.

Ella Emhoff, Vice President Kamala Harris’ 21-year-old stepdaughter, drew attention for her eyebrow wiggle at former Vice President Mike Pence and the Brooklyn art student energy she brought to the inauguration (she’s studying textiles at Parsons School of Design).

The BFF memes

A running joke during the Obama administration — and Biden’s presidential campaign — was the close friendship between the 44th and 46th presidents. The bromance inspired many memes, including on inauguration day. “Hey, want to get ice cream after the ceremony,” Biden says in a mock text conversation with President Obama created by TikTok user Rachel Wiser. “Of course, on me,” Obama replies.

The clip continues with Biden lamenting it’ll be weird for him to be in the White House without Obama and inviting him for a sleepover. “Obviously, we can watch Death to 2020,” Obama replies.


A similar friendship may be brewing between Biden and Harris. One of Harris’ most viral moments was her “we did it” phone call to Biden.