Thanks to the pandemic and the risk of spreading the coronavirus via large gatherings, turning the 2020 Democratic National Convention into a virtual event has called for some sharp pivots and incredibly nimble footwork. But if there’s one thing the DNC knows, it’s sharp pivots and nimble footwork.
Just ask Hillary Clinton, whose enthusiastic hand-clapping and hip-swiveling along to “Macarena” at the 1996 convention in Chicago continues to live on in internet infamy. With this year’s DNC kicking off Monday night, video footage of the then-first lady gamely joining delegates in the ‘90s dance craze is flooding social media timelines — thanks in part to Clinton herself.
The former senator, secretary of state and 2016 presidential candidate couldn’t resist responding when former spokesman Tim Hogan shared her dance video on Twitter to wish followers a “Happy Democratic National Convention Day.”
“I’ll be clapping from home this year,” quipped Clinton, who, in addition to cheering on husband Bill Clinton at the conventions in 1992 and 1996, was of course guest of honor at the party’s last convention, in 2016. This year, she’ll be participating as a speaker, addressing delegates online, rather than in-person in Milwaukee as originally planned, on Wednesday.
Though the 2020 convention certainly isn’t short on musical talent — John Legend, Common, the Chicks and Billie Eilish are among those slated to perform — the pivot to a virtual convention makes the possibility of another viral dance moment unlikely. There will be no rafters packed with flag-waving delegates getting down to dance breaks between speeches; indeed, most viewers will presumably be off-camera, their pelvic thrusts and spins free from the watchful gaze of C-SPAN coverage. What’s more, and with all due respect to “WAP,” there’s currently no two-for-one international pop hit and dance craze sweeping the entire world by storm.
If anything, Clinton’s “Macarena” moment is lightning in a bottle — the perfect convergence of two cultural phenomenons colliding at the exact same time. The 1996 DNC took place over Aug. 26 to 29, just as the Bayside Boys remix of Los del Rio’s 1993 Spanish-language song hit its pop zenith. The remix, which added a dance beat and an English-language verse sung by a female singer as the eponymous temptress “Macarena,” secured the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart beginning the week of Aug. 3, 1996 — and would stay there for 14 weeks. Resisting its power, or its basic arm-crossing, hip-shaking choreography, was thus futile, whether you were a delegate from Oklahoma or a first lady looking to score a second term.
Even then-Vice President Al Gore referenced the dance in a self-deprecating shot at his wooden image during his DNC speech. At around the 2:45 mark in the video below, he offers to demonstrate “the Al Gore version of ‘the Macarena’” — and then stands still.
Per a 1996 Democracy Now! transcript recapping the event, journalist and commentator Salim Muwakkil remarked that the song projected a “hip, energetic, multi-culti image of the Democratic Party.” When Republican rival Sen. Bob Dole took a fall off a campaign rally stage the following month, he cracked, “I was trying to do that new Democratic dance, ‘the Macarena.’ I’m not going to try that anymore.”
It was BLACKstreet’s “No Diggity” which ultimately knocked the tune from its top perch, and the timing feels fitting from a political standpoint. “Macarena” dropped to fourth place the week of Nov. 9, 1996 — three days after President Bill Clinton declared victory over Dole.
Wedding DJs aside, the one-hit wonder’s grip on the world has weakened after 24 years. But, barring a Joe Biden breakdown to the “Renegade” or more Cardi B moves from Kamala Harris, the Hillary Clinton “Macarena” meme shows no signs of slowing down come convention time. Roll on 2024