I have to start with the admission that there may not be a sentient being on this earth who enjoys watching people fall down as much as I do. I credit America's Funniest Home Videos with cultivating a reflexive joy and laughter at the sight of people falling (and men being hit in the groin by toddlers swinging Wiffle ball bats). Obviously, it's not funny if someone sustains lasting damage, but I had no problem guffawing with the best of them when I watched the clip of Carly Fiorina falling when introducing Ted Cruz — at least at first.
Look, it was the perfect kind of fall. Fiorina, the pretend running mate for Cruz, was warming up the crowd at a rally in La Porte, Indiana on Sunday for the pretend first family. All was good as Heidi Cruz hit the stage with her two daughters. Then, suddenly down goes Fiorina. Not only did she have that fleeting expression of bafflement-meets-concern that says "Oh no, I'm really going down, folks" a fraction of a second before it actually happened, but the pratfall was laden with political symbolism. The former Hewlett-Packard CEO had just uttered "The next president of the United States — Ted Cruz" before plummeting to the ground. You don't exactly have to be Nate Silver to interpret that.
To add insult to (hopefully non-serious) injury, Cruz appeared to ignore Fiorina's fall or be totally oblivious to it having happened at all. Mediaite countered that watching the fall from another angle suggests Cruz didn't actually ignore it; he just may have not seen it. While Cruz is getting a bit of flack for not helping Fiorina, she's got a fair bit of social media bruising (yes, really bad pun intended). Sure, some Twitter users expressed concern about Fiorina:
But many more appeared to be focused on mocking her:
The skewering was hardly restricted to the left. Some tweets from Trump supporters had an edge of bitter glee. Ladies for Trump tweeted "#SmartWomen don't fall off stages."
Other accounts of self-identified Trump supporters took jabs at Fiorina's stage slip:
As easy as it would be to add to the Fiorina pile-on, I must admit that the fall has, ultimately, only made me more sympathetic to her. Let me be clear: I don't mean politically sympathetic to her. My own beliefs certainly haven't changed, and neither have hers. Among other views she holds, I find her take on abortion rights to be repugnant, and I worry that the inaccurate claims she helped spread about the infamously doctored videos of a Planned Parenthood clinic will continue to damage the fight to secure reproductive services for women.
But mocking politicians for mundane, everyday errors and flaws sometimes has the unintended effect of making them more relatable. When Hillary Clinton struggled to swipe a MetroCard through the New York City subway system, the internet went nuts, but more than a few of my friends told me that was when they found the former secretary of state most empathetic (even if they didn't plan on voting for her). Watching Chris Christie mocked for his weight so often inspired me to write a piece for The Week in 2013 about how the more fat jokes I heard about the New Jersey governor, the more I found myself, someone who struggles with body insecurity and weight issues, relating to him. And I never thought I would find something I shared with the staunchly conservative governor.
Now, finding something about a politician to be empathetic or relatable doesn't necessarily change people's voting patterns (or at least, not mine), but it does have that potential. I would just warn Fiorina's critics, regardless of their party affiliation, from having too much fun with her fall. Those of us who have ever slipped busting a move on a wedding dance floor or walking across a graduation stage may find Fiorina's fall remarkably relatable — and "relatable" was probably the last word I would have used to describe my feelings towards her up until now.