(The Root) — The 2012 election marked the first in which Twitter emerged as a media form just as relevant as any other, and sometimes more so, with campaigns, candidates and those covering them using it to break news, make news and respond to news. Below, take a look at the defining political tweets of 2012. Feel free to add yours in the comments section.
March 22, 2012: Geraldo weighs in on the Trayvon Martin tragedy. Most of us end up wishing he hadn't.
Though not technically a story about politics, the Trayvon Martin tragedy — in which an unarmed black teen was killed by George Zimmerman, who claimed self-defense — became one of the most politically volatile stories of the year, even leading President Obama to weigh in. Fox News personality Geraldo Rivera weighed in, too, but given the angry reaction he evoked, he probably wishes he hadn't.
Referring to Trayvon's attire on the night he was killed, Rivera tweeted "His hoodie killed Trayvon Martin as surely as George Zimmerman." The backlash to Rivera's remarks not only resulted in an eventual apology from him but also spurred a movement nationwide in which celebrities and others sported hoodies as a tribute to Trayvon's memory. One good thing about Rivera's tweet is that it sparked a nationwide conversation about racial profiling that would not have happened without this tragedy and Rivera's response to it.
April 12, 2012: Michelle Obama defends moms, including Ann Romney.
When Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen said that presidential candidate Mitt Romney's wife, Ann, had "never worked a day in her life," she sparked one of the biggest controversies of the 2012 presidential election. The incident restarted the so-called mommy wars that attempt to pit stay-at-home mothers like Ann Romney against moms who work (or worked) outside the home, like Michelle Obama.
But the first lady threw everyone a curveball by immediately leaping to the defense of all moms, including the woman who was seeking to replace her in the White house. Michelle Obama, who was relatively new to Twitter at the time, settled the matter in the eyes of many with this tweet: "Every mother works hard, and every woman deserves to be respected."
Aug. 31, 2012: A Hollywood legend talks to a chair — setting Twitter on fire.
It was one of the most memorable moments of the 2012 presidential campaign and may end up becoming one of the most memorable moments in presidential-campaign history. Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood was a surprise special guest at the Republican National Convention in August, there to rev up the crowd before the official acceptance speech of party nominee Mitt Romney. Only, things did not go quite as planned.
In lieu of a more traditional speech, Eastwood spent most of his time onstage having an imaginary conversation with an an empty chair, which he claimed represented the commander in chief. The moment may not have been particularly helpful to Romney, but it was a gift to comedians, the traditional media and social media, where "Eastwooding," photos of empty chairs, quickly became a meme.
But one social media response bested them all: The Obama campaign tweeted a photo of the president's chair in the White House, complete with a nameplate reading, "This seat's taken." It soon became the most retweeted tweet of the GOP convention. How's that for irony?
Oct. 12, 2012: Sarah Palin tweets for relevancy. It doesn't work.
For those of us disappointed that we wouldn't be graced with Sarah Palin's intellectual heft and words of wisdom this election cycle, we needn't have feared, because she couldn't resist the limelight and made sure she weighed in on high-profile stories. As the conservative media attempted to convince voters of some sort of White House-orchestrated cover-up regarding the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, just before the election, Palin couldn't help adding her two cents with the following tweet: "Obama's Shuck and Jive Ends With Benghazi Lies."
Though some tried to give Palin the benefit of the doubt by presuming that she was unaware of the saying's racial connotations, she didn't help her case by doubling down with the following reply on Facebook to her critics: "For the record, there was nothing remotely racist in my use of the phrase 'shuck and jive.' " Apparently now we can add "racist" to the list of words, phrases, geographic locations and overall subjects that Palin knows next to nothing about.
Nov. 6, 2012: Alec Baldwin delivers the saddest, yet funniest tweet of the election cycle.
Besides blaming whichever campaign consultant thought the Eastwood thing was a good idea, Mitt Romney might want to blame two other guys for his loss. When Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin said, "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down," the remark proved problematic, helping to paint the entire GOP as extreme on social issues and out of touch with women voters.
But a remark by GOP Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock arguably proved fatal to the Romney campaign. Just before Election Day, Mourdock said, when asked in a debate about abortion in cases of rape, "I came to realize life is that gift from God, and I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen." Romney had recently endorsed Mourdock and had the bad luck to have filmed an ad for him that had just begun running before Mourdock's gaffe.
On election night, all three men lost, but when it became clear that one of the Senate candidates would definitely lose, liberal actor Alec Baldwin tweeted the following: "You know your party's in trouble when you read this: A: The rape guy lost. B: Which one?"
Nov. 6-7, 2012: Racist tweets make us wish that Twitter required all users to take an IQ test.
Not everyone shared Baldwin's sense of humor about the outcome on election night. President Obama's win spawned so many racist tweets that they became the subject of countless articles and resulted in a valuable reminder for many that while the Constitution does protect your freedom of speech, no matter how gross that speech, it doesn't protect you from the fallout from that speech, such as losing your job or facing disciplinary action at school.
Nov. 6, 2012: A presidential picture is worth a thousand words, and even more retweets.
The political-victory tweet has become a staple of American politics, right up there with the concession call and victory speech. On election night, candidates usually post words of gratitude to their supporters, but this election, the Obama campaign opted for the power of an image over words. Accompanying a photo of the president embracing his wife were the words, "Four more years." It became the most retweeted image in Twitter history.
Dec. 14, 2012: The man who gave the world Fox News tweets a surprise.
Some of the best tweets are those that are completely unfiltered and unexpected. When Rupert Murdoch, the owner and founder of News Corp., which owns Fox News, immediately expressed his support for gun control — specifically, an assault-weapons ban — in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., school tragedy, he not only surprised a lot of people but also won some new fans.
"Terrible news today. When will politicians find courage to ban automatic weapons? As in Oz after similar tragedy," he tweeted. He followed up that tweet with another one, imploring the president to take action on the issue, meaning that Murdoch now officially has something in common with progressives.
Keli Goff is The Root’s special correspondent. Follow her on Twitter.