The 2016 year-end cultural review has been redolent of all the absurdity, horror, frustration, and angst that dominated a year marked by Brexit, a stranger-than-fiction presidential run by Donald Trump, and reported attempts by the Russian government to sway the result of the U.S. election. Why should the 11th annual update to the Yale Book of Quotations be any different?
Accordingly, number one on the list of quotes is Trump’s notorious ― and threatening ― burst of chest-puffing about the strength of his poll numbers. “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters,” he declared at a campaign rally in Iowa on January 23.
The list of new quotes from Fred Shapiro, an associate director of the Yale Law School library, drips with outlandish Trump quotes and Hillary Clinton moments widely circulated as gaffes. The other Trump quote on the list: “I alone can fix it.” Clinton’s most notable quotes were “You could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the ‘basket of deplorables’” and “(In politics) you need both a public and a private position.”
The other entries on the list also focus primarily around the election, mostly through sharp jabs at Trump or other Republican presidential candidates. Michelle Obama’s oft-repeated mantra, “When they go low, we go high,” clocked in at number two.
In past election years, the Yale quote selections have also been overpowered by statements, faux pas, and commentary from campaigns. In 2012, the top choice was Mitt Romney’s infamous comment to a private fundraiser: “There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what ... who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims.” The list also included Barack Obama’s “you didn’t build that” quote that outraged many business owners.
In 2008, the number one quote was not a political candidate ― exactly. Rather, it was Tina Fey, as Sarah Palin, cracking, “I can see Russia from my house.”
Shapiro chose to highlight a story that dominated news earlier this year, quoting the father of Brock Turner, a Stanford swimmer who was convicted of sexual assault only to receive a controversially light sentence. “His life will never be the one that he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve,” his father Dan wrote to the judge prior to sentencing. “That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.”
The AP specified, in a report on Shapiro’s top 2016 quotes, “He chooses quotes that are famous or revealing of the spirit of the times, and not necessarily eloquent or admirable.”