Barack Obama is the internet's president. There’s an endless bounty of GIFs, mash-up videos, and memes to prove it. A big part of the president’s online appeal is that he is a participant: he can be funny on Twitter, play to your emotions on Instagram, make not terrible playlists on Spotify. He even dared to sit down Between Two Ferns.
For all of his engagement, it’s no surprise that Barack Obama is the subject of one of the longest-lasting and most prominent memes on the internet. A search for “Thanks, Obama” returns about 23 million results on Google: images, GIFs, Reddit posts, videos, and entire tumblrs.
Nona Willis Aronowitz, who wrote about the meme for Matter, says “Thanks, Obama” has a lot to say about American politics in 2015. “The backdrop is a river of problems for the United States,” she says, recalling the meme’s 2009 origin. “Conservatives almost immediately started blaming everything on him and saying ‘Thanks, Obama’ in a pretty sincere way. The phrase is sarcastic, but the meaning was sincere.”
Before long, Obama-supporters and budding internet comedians found a way to flip the phrase on its head. “The Washington Post pegs it to one not very funny video on YouTube that’s supposed to be funny,” says Aronowitz. “People started using the hashtag to mock people who blame him for everything.”
What started as a conservative refrain became one of the internet’s favorite jokes in no time, but the third act of “Thanks, Obama” was the most satisfying. In February of this year, Barack Obama himself starred in a BuzzFeed video and employed the phrase after failing to dunk a coaster-sized cookie in an unaccommodating glass of milk. As we enter the final year of Obama’s second term, there’s not much more to expect from this particular meme, but don’t be surprised if the internet keeps thanking Obama long after his presidency.