US News & World Report examines editorial cartoonists’ influence

US News & World Report has an interesting report on the history of the impact of editorial cartoonists on presidential politics. The article goes back to Ben Franklin up through Thomast Nast, Homer Davenport and then into the Herblock, Pat Oliphant era.

The birth of television in the 1950s and the spread of color photographs in newspapers and magazines gave political cartoons even more competition. This time, artists struck back with bolder, angrier, and more-irreverent work. Leading the fledgling movement was Herbert L. Blockâ??better known by his pen name, Herblockâ??who was so out front in combating Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s communist witch hunt that he coined the term “McCarthyism” in a cartoon that showed a reluctant GOP elephant being pushed toward a “McCarthyism” platform.

The brash new cartoonists questioned Richard Nixon’s ethics and John F. Kennedy’s youth in the 1960 election. Even with Kennedy’s assassination still fresh during the 1964 race, they refused to hold back on Lyndon Johnson and Barry Goldwater. “I wanted to be humorous without being lightweight,” says Pat Oliphant, who arrived in the United States from Australia during the Johnson-Goldwater race and joined the new breed of hard-edged cartoonists. “A legitimate political cartoon has to draw blood.”