Clay Bennett plows no new ground with this piece and, as is often the case with his work, you have to sort through how much you like the art versus how much you like the message, because, aside from the caricature, check out the desk itself, the coloring, etc.
But if he’d drawn it with his elbows, the message would remain at once relevant but familiar, because people have been comparing Trump’s attempted shakedown of the Ukrainian government with a mobster’s racket since the matter came to light.
You have to keep saying it until people hear you.
Granted, a good number don’t want to.
Bennett himself did this depiction of the Republicans’ defense strategy last week, and Washington Post Eugene Robinson explains it in some detail:
They complained that the House had not taken a formal vote to proceed with impeachment … but then the House held such a vote. They complained that the House impeachment investigators were taking depositions of witnesses in secret … but Republican committee members already had access to those hearings. They complained that transcripts of those interviews had not been released … but now they are being released, and one of the loudest complainers, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) says he will refuse to read them.
The fact that the Republicans even have a unified defense strategy is telling: They have built a red wall around the President and will stick with him no matter what he has done.
Mike Luckovich employs what is, as I’ve noted before, a misinterpretation of the old sailors’ belief that rats knew when a ship was doomed and would desert it dockside, before it sailed.
But he depicts the current flood of departures accurately, while as he notes, the rats are not citing honor as their motivation for jumping ship: Eighteen GOP House members and four Senators are headed for retirement — mirroring, as this Atlantic piece notes, the desertions of 2018 that opened the way for the “Blue Wave” — but they are doing so pledging to help burn the lifeboats and punch additional holes in the hull before they leave.
Which is to say that, however the metaphor has been mangled over the years, we’re still crystal clear on what is meant by the term “rat.”
Mike Thompson makes the charge that Dear Leader is incapable of understanding a man like Lt. Col. Vindman, and that’s likely, but what’s more important in the current crisis is that GOP members joined in sliming Vindman in order to undercut those public professions of duty, honor and integrity.
They know what the words mean. They simply assign them a very low priority.
All of which brings us back to my insistence the other day that Trump supporters among the public are less “stupid” than they are “trusting” and, in a fundamental way, “loyal.”
When their leaders say that something is right, and true, they believe it, which, historically, is how perfectly decent German people believed the complex on the edge of town was a factory, and the smoke coming forth was from burning coal.
An extreme example, yes, but this is the way the world ends: Not with a bang, but a whimper.
So we go back to Bennett’s depiction of an organized crime figure at the desk in the Oval Office, and that’s also somewhat extreme, but the mission — if you want to forestall the building of those “factories” — is to awaken the people, to disrupt their misplaced trust and loyalty before it becomes needlessly toxic.
And that, in turn, is the mission of editorial cartooning, to put into “those damn pictures” the things that people won’t bother to read.
Tom Tomorrow goes further than Bennett, creating an absurd cartoon scenario in which the President’s defenses and defenders are applied to a more obvious crime.
The flaw in this approach was spotted at the very start of our nation.
When Jefferson remarked in a letter to a friend that he trusted the instincts of the people over partisan politics, he added an important qualifier:
The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.
The question, then, is how to distribute and display political cartoons so that they become not simply a rallying point for those who already agree but a turning point for those who might not.
As it happens, Bennett’s newspaper, the Chattanooga Times Free Press, is in an unusual structure that includes two editorial pages, one liberal, one conservative, which means that his progressive voice is matched by staunchly conservative cartoons, yielding a result that is either “bipartisan” or “bipolar,” depending on how you view such things.
But what it does mean is that the good people of Chattanooga — at least the ones who bother with the daily paper in print or on-line — see both points of view and cannot hide their heads in a newspaper that simply confirms their prejudices.
Meanwhile, Tom Tomorrow does brilliant progressive work, but who sees it?
Even in its print heyday, “This Modern World” was in alternative publications and unlikely to be found lying around the waiting room down at NRA headquarters.
Getting the rubes into the tent is fundamental.
Leadership of the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists recognizes the value of sharing cartoons on-line while simultaneously recognizing the need for cartoonists to receive some compensation for their time and efforts.
The two goals are hard to reconcile.
The obvious answer, given the falling number of staff positions at news outlets, is Patreons and similar support sites (like Tom Tomorrow’s), which has been the answer for NPR and other worthwhile ventures.
I know of no master list of such things, but it seems an extremely worthwhile project.
(Don’t look at me: I have a belly-ache.)
One thought on “CSotD: Redirecting the loyalty, reframing the trust”
I was hoping you’d have Matt Wuerker’s comic from today’s GoComics (https://www.gocomics.com/mattwuerker/2019/11/12), since I need a clarification: Did Trump actually defraud veteran’s groups of $2 million, or did they eventually get the money? I know it wasn’t handled legally, but who actually ended up with the money? My research is inconclusive.
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