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The VICE Guide to the 2016 Election

A Look at the Human Suit Malfunctions of the 2016 Election

Sometimes we get a glimpse of our politicians' true human forms.

by Mike Pearl
Oct 30 2015, 2:00pm

You know who's got the best costumes this Halloween? Think it's the lady in your office going as Sexy Pizza Rat? Nope. It's the collection of reptilians and robots attempting to pass themselves off as human so we'll vote them into elected office next year. And unlike some sticky store-bought Pixar costume, these getups are almost believable.

The 2016 presidential debates, like the one that happened last night in Boulder, Colorado, have showcased these remarkable costume pieces, allowing these creatures' true forms to peek out momentarily from their fleshy exteriors.

For instance, it definitely looked like the wiring in Donald Trump's facial animatronics went haywire during the second Republican presidential debate. But because it's Trump we're talking about, there's always the possibility that his puppeteers were making that face on purpose.


Scott Olson/Getty Images

Last night, for example, Carly Fiorina took a stab at the facial expression we humans use to communicate emotions like trust and warmth. But the imitation wasn't quite the same:

It was a little like when Jeb Bush read the words "turn down for what" off a cue card on the first episode of Late Night with Stephen Colbert. The moment failed to derail his campaign, but it likely won't be the last time the youngest Bush Cyborg reveals himself.

Not all nonhuman creatures are Republicans, of course. At the first Democratic presidential debate earlier this month, for instance, short-lived 2016 candidate Jim Webb cracked a very weird joke about a person who threw a grenade at him. He alluded to the fact that that person wasn't around anymore, because Webb had blown him up, along with several other people. But instead of saying it aloud, Webb just went like this:

...which makes it seem like Webb's human suit is draped over some kind of ghoul.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton has famously struggled throughout her campaign to do anything that makes her relatable to her "fellow" humans, particularly human young. She's also having problems with FBI looking into her secret emails. So she recently tried to kill two birds with one stone, struggling through what seems to be some sort of attempt at a joke about Snapchat.

It's a really telling moment. "By the way," Clinton says, reeling a bit, "you may have seen that I recently launched a Snapchat account." The "S" in Snapchat is hissed, and Clinton seems uneasy about the word "account," as if she's waiting for someone to reassure her, like, "Yeah, they call them 'accounts.' Keep going. You're doing great!"

More than any other candidate, Clinton's grasp on human behavior is so tenuous, it seems like she could slip completely into her true form at any moment—something the reptilians only do once a year at Bohemian Grove. Clinton has practically lived in the Uncanny Valley ever since Bill Clinton became governor of Arkansas in 1979.

But while she may have never seemed fully human in those 36 years, she's also never seemed fully alien either. Which is more than can be said for most of this year's presidential candidates—and for politicians in general for that matter.

In fact, the most remarkable human suit malfunctions have happened outside the US. Like this one time, in 2011, when the thing that calls itself former Labour Party leader Ed Miliband went on TV to give an interview about a labor dispute. But Miliband apparently lost his data connection with the home planet, and had to just keep firing off different combinations of the same 30 or so words.

And earlier this year Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott had to be replaced with a newer model in his own party after his malfunctioning food receptor gave him the wrong instructions on what to do with an onion:

This was after Abbot had a meltdown similar to Milliband's, in response to an interview question in 2011. The entire Abbott Operating System took 21 seconds to reboot, at which point Abbott mistakenly claimed he had responded, apparently unaware that he had just stood there, silently convulsing.

Not all human suit malfunctions are necessarily bad, though. Take former US presidential candidate Herman Cain, for example: When filming an ad for his 2012 presidential campaign, the creature living inside Cain forgot to say "I'm Herman Cain, and I approved this message," and instead just stared into the camera, curling up the corners of his mouth in an imitation of a smile.

Around the same time the ad was released, Cain opened up a 20-point lead in GOP primary polls. Coincidence? You tell me.

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