It was eight years ago this week, just three days before the 2008 election, that Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin went “rogue” during a Saturday Night Live sketch with the real John McCain and started hawking “Palin 2012” T-shirts on QVC behind her running mate’s back. The joke — one that McCain was willing to gamely participate in — was that everyone knew by this point he was going to lose to Barack Obama.
The final Gallup daily tracking poll before Election Day 2008 had Obama up a whopping 13 points on McCain. Hillary Clinton has not been so lucky. So with the race tighter than ever, how did SNL seize the moment this time?
By giving viewers a truly triumphant ending to this brutal slog of a presidential election.
It began with an episode of CNN’s Erin Burnett Out Front in which both candidates made their “case to voters one last time.” Alec Baldwin’s Trump was pleased that his supporters are “still buying it” and Kate McKinnon’s Clinton said her favorite part of this final week was “when I lost that big huge lead I had.”
Much to Clinton’s disappointment, all Cecily Strong’s Erin Burnett wanted to talk about was the FBI's renewed focus on her private email server. “Am I crazy, or does it kind of seem like the FBI is trying to get Donald Trump elected president?” Clinton asked.
“No, no. That is crazy, cuckoo. The FBI is not trying to help me, the FBI doesn’t like me. I mean, what even is the FBI?” Trump asked before kissing an FBI agent on the mouth. The pattern continued as Clinton accused Trump of being in cahoots with Vladimir Putin, an assertion he vehemently denied before giving a kiss to the shirtless Russian leader. And that was before he made out with a KKK member.
Then it was time for SNL to give Clinton her closing argument for the election. “What is happening?” Clinton asked. “Is the whole world insane? Donald Trump has single-handedly ruined so much of what we Americans hold dear. Kindness, decency, Tic Tacs. Skittles. Taco bowls. Father-daughter dances. Bright red hats. The word ‘great.’ The color orange. Men.”
“But look, if you want to elect him president on Tuesday, go ahead,” she continued. But in four years, when Americans start to regret their choice and start begging her to run again, Clinton added, “Guess what, idiots? I’ll do it.”
When Trump started to deliver his closing message about how corrupt Clinton is, Baldwin suddenly broke character. “I’m sorry, Kate,” he told McKinnon. “I just hate yelling all this stuff at you like this.” He asked the audience, “Don’t you guys just feel gross all the time about this?”
As the opening chords of Arcade Fire’s “Wake Up” began to play, the two actors decided to get out of the studio and onto the streets of New York. Hand-in-hand, they ran through Times Square. Trump hugged a black man, Clinton embraced a man in a “Make America Great Again” hat. They shared a soft pretzel and for once looked truly happy.
Back on home base in Studio 8H, Baldwin implored viewers, “None of this will have mattered if you don’t vote.”
“And we can’t tell you who to vote for,” McKinnon, a strong Clinton supporter added, her voice cracking with emotion, “but on Tuesday, we all get a chance to choose what kind of country we want to live in.”
“Live from New York, it’s Saturday night” has never sounded so cathartic.