CSotD: Servants of Two Masters

Carlo Goldoni found the prospect of a fool serving two masters hilarious; Matthew was less impressed with the notion. And at the moment, cartoonists seem to be falling on both sides of the matter, torn between farce and outrage.

For my part, I was tempted to leave the whole thing to resolve itself and run an entire page of Alex Trebek tribute pieces instead.

But let’s have a look.

Clay Bennett (Times Free Press) offers the basic premise, from which you can spin either direction, because, while it is absurd, it’s neither comic nor despairing.

Instead, he captures the odd standoff of a man who simply will not or does not or cannot hear opposition, and I particularly like it because there is no psychoanalysis implied.

Trump has, throughout his administration, demonstrated an utter lack of empathy, not as the considered choice of a rational mind but, rather, as a simple fact: He honestly cannot relate to other people’s emotional needs.

Dylan asked “How many ears must one man have before he can hear people cry?” but the ears are only portals. Lack of empathy is a failure of the heart.


Steve Breen (Creators) uses a clever play on words to illustrate the choice made, and we really did face a pair of opposites: On the one hand, an utter inability to empathize, which his opponents labeled sociopathic, and, on the other, someone with such an instinct to comfort that his opponents accuse him of sexual deviance, offering, as proof, a photo of him hugging one of his grandchildren at his son’s funeral.

But even without those extremes, the election largely balanced on the contrast offered and the choice made, and, while Breen’s take is clever, it’s not particularly humorous, nor is it intended to be.


Kal Kallaugher (Counterpoint), by contrast, offers a combination of striking art and humorous commentary on Trump’s inability to accept the facts in front of him, with the elephant’s sidelong glance an indication that his political allies recognize his inability to face things but haven’t decided what they are going to be able to do about it.


Bill Bramhall (NYDN) is less tolerant of their willingness to indulge Dear Leader’s insatiable need to be right. Many of them may be failing to speak up, but others, as he accuses, have stepped up to actively assist in undermining America’s trust in our system of government.

The Washington Post has an article this morning stating that, while he still insists that he’s going to pull this election out, Trump is beginning to concede his loss behind closed doors, and to speak of running in 2024 instead of continuing to contest the results this time around.

No recount is going to provide the number of errant votes to reverse results, with Georgia being the only logical place it might happen, and switching Georgia’s electoral votes from blue to red wouldn’t change the outcome.

Trump’s only hope for victory lies in uncovering some massive voting fraud which is as likely as uncovering pederastic cannibalism in the basement of a pizza parlor built on a concrete slab.

At the risk of admitting my optimistic naivete, when I saw headlines that Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick was offering $1 million for proof of voter fraud, I thought it meant he was defending the system, much as James Randi used to offer million dollar rewards for anyone who could prove the validity of telekinesis or Ouija boards.

Silly me.

And Silly Dan Patrick, though only one of us is working to destroy faith in the Constitution.

I don’t know how anyone could be comfortable for very long dealing with “I won, but in case I didn’t” as their boss’s operating philosophy, but that WashPost piece offered an explanation for the instinct to support Trump’s claims in practical terms:

“If the party doesn’t fight on the recount, the grass roots is going to leave the party,” said one senior Republican involved in the discussions. “That’s the choice they have. That’s why they are doing it. It’s less about the president than it is his voters.”

And, given the razor-thin margins of the vote, there’s a lot to be said for maintaining the loyalty of the Deplorables, though it’s a bit like hiring the Hell’s Angels to provide security at a rock concert: It sounds better than it’s likely to work out.

Beyond that and philosophy aside, simply the changing demographics of this nation are such that a political party exploiting white supremacy has a very limited future, regardless of how vocal their supporters may be.

Which brings up the topic of the next generation and where we stand with the younger GenX’ers and the rising Millennials.

Jen Sorensen (Ind) doesn’t so much decry the notion of behaving decently as she points out the futility of drinking from a poisoned well.

And the well has been poisoned, a process not of the past four years but of the last 30 or 40. I saw something promoting a Showtime series that says it all began with Reagan, and my response is not “I have to see that!” but “No shit, Sherlock.”

Reagan? Sure, but also with Nixon, the Silent Majority, Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America and the death of the Fairness Doctrine.


In fact, over at GoComics, Tom the Dancing Bug has been running classics like this piece from a decade ago, which is particularly relevant at a moment when well-intentioned reformers want to do away entirely with the Electoral College and are questioning the Senate, without any explanation of how they intend to protect against tyranny of the majority.

Could their well-intentioned attempts at reform do more harm than good?

Well, Mitch McConnell wouldn’t have been able to pack the Supreme Court if well-intentioned Democrats hadn’t changed the Senate rules back when they held the majority.

In the necessary post-Trump cleanup, we’d do well to remember “Defend me from my friends; I can handle my enemies,” because our system is equally vulnerable to either.

And the louder you swear you won’t get fooled again, the likelier it becomes.


12 thoughts on “CSotD: Servants of Two Masters

  1. You are always such a reasonable voice in this tumultuous sea of shrieking commentators, many of whom owe their jobs to the abolition of the Fairness Doctrine, and your reasonableness is greatly appreciated.
    The rescinding of the doctrine, which, at the time, went largely unnoticed by everyone except Republican strategists, IMO, opened the door to decades of screaming partisan misinformation from every available radio and television mountaintop in America. And if people think Fox News is a scary right wing propaganda machine just wait til Sinclair Broadcasting hits its stride. And on that happy note I am going now to draw next week’s totally non-political cartoon. It’s about leftovers for dinner.
    Thanks Mike. Keep on keepin’ on.

  2. I’ve always appreciated and been persuaded by your defense of the Electoral College as a bulwark against Tyranny of the Majority, but I’m wavering. I think the fact that you live in a little state and I live in a big state is instructive.

    Living in California, not a single presidential vote I’ve cast in my entire life, either for or against the eventually winner, has mattered. No presidential candidate has ever come to my county to explain why I should vote for him. Meanwhile, every hog farmer in Ottumwa has the RNC and DNC on speed-dial and is on a first-name basis with the last six presidents.

    The winner-take-all EC mischaracterizes and misrepresents the big states as well. Sure, urban California is overwhelmingly liberal, but drive a hundred miles out into the fields, mountains or desert and you’ll meet some of the most conservative people in the nation. Those folks are REALLY disenfranchised. Why shouldn’t candidates compete for my vote and their votes as well?

    I’m dismayed that every election seems to come down to 1,000 Cubans in Florida, 1,000 Amish in Pennsylvania, or 1,000 comics bloggers in New Hampshire, but will never ever hinge on 1,000 garlic farmers in California or 1,000 drag queens in Manhattan.

    I also think that if Biden had gotten 5 million more votes than Trump but LOST the EC, that would’ve been the end of the country. I know I’d be raising hell. Of course nobody would notice if a writer/cartoonist went on general strike, but I’d probably do something stupid and get my head cracked open.

    I am no longer convinced of the Founders’ profound wisdom in creating the EC. One person one vote works for me.

  3. One can argue that the Senate might provide protection against the whims of public opinion (although I don’t find the argument appealing), but the Electoral College does not, and never did, serve to protect human rights in any way, shape, or form. It was written into the Constitution as a result of horse-trading with Southern states, extending the 3/5 benefit of their enslaved population to presidential elections in addition to representation in the House. Suppression of the vote of black Americans after Reconstruction ensured that this freebie for white Southerners continued.

    It was a bad idea then and it’s a bad idea now.

  4. I defend the EC only because nobody has proposed a better system of protecting us against tyranny of the majority. As I’ve said several times, democracy seems to work best in smaller communities and we can’t blame the Founders for designing an engine to drive a Fiat that we’ve transplanted into a Peterbilt.

    Perhaps we should be capping and subdividing states, or providing a Constitutional formula for them to do the same. I don’t know why San Diego and Fresno need to be under one gov’t. We might, for instance, say that when a state’s population is X% of the national population, it can vote (perhaps by 2/3) to divide.

    I would think the chance to have more locally responsive Senators and Electoral College reps would be a good motive for voting yes, while it wouldn’t impact representation in the House.

    Just a thought, mind you, but I’d rather hear a call to abolish something with a proposal of what should replace it.

  5. Presidential election by popular vote, of course. Instant runoff by rank choice ballot, if you’re worried about someone getting elected with 34% in a 3-way race.

    In what sense do you think the EC protects us against “tyranny of the majority?”

  6. I agree with Brian. Right now the minority party voters in the die-hard red and blue states might as well not even vote for President. Of what use is a Democratic vote in Wyoming, or a Republican vote in Vermont for President? With a pure popular vote for President (with an instant runoff so nobody gets in with 39%!) every person gets one vote that weighs an equal amount. The minority is no more “endangered” than they are with the current system.

  7. The problem with a pure majority vote is that it changes “Why doesn’t California count?” to “Why not have California and New York choose the president?”

    I believe in Federalism, despite my misgivings over how it can work in such a humongous polity. I don’t think Wyoming and California should have equal weight but, as noted above, I wouldn’t mind a solution that balanced things out better so that rural voters and urban voters were both represented.

    Rank choice is an interesting option, though it works better with more than two viable choices. I really wish the Greens would put more effort into local races and stop playing Don Quixote with the presidential race — don’t they know where Bernie came from???

    SCOTUS ruled unanimously that states can compel electors to follow the will of voters. I can’t imagine they would favor state laws that dictated electors not do so.

  8. It wouldn’t be California and New York – or any other combination of states – choosing the president, it would be a majority of those voting. States are not monoliths. The last time a Republican won a majority of the popular vote – Dubya, in 2004 – both California and New York went for Kerry.

  9. So why have states at all? Why not transform their state capitals into branches of the national government and let majority rule truly rule?

    That would help ex-Mississippi’s school system, as long as the majority didn’t elect a DeVos-friendly national administration, which would dismay the folks of the locations formerly known as California and Michigan.

    As said, I think the Founders were wise. We’d have never passed the Civil Rights Act on a pure referendum.

  10. “Why not have California and New York choose the president?”

    Why is that worse than having Wisconsin, Ohio, and Michigan choose the President?

    As it is, the vote of a voter in Wyoming is worth almost FOUR TIMES that of a voter in California.

    And in my entire life until Bush-Gore, I never saw an election where the popular vote winner didn’t win the electoral college. That was at least a very close election. But then, a candidate got THREE MILLION MORE VOTES and lost? How can that be right? And now, a five million vote margin is a squeaker.

    If we are going to keep the EC, we have to expand it.

    The Constitution allows for 1 Congressperson every 30,000 people. So we can have more than 10,000. As it is, we have 435. They froze it early in the 20th Century, and it just keeps getting more out of whack.

    If the population of Wyoming (the smallest state) equaled one Congressperson/Elector, California would have 70 Electoral votes, not 55.

    We cant just continue to disenfranchise the majority of Americans, and claim that we’re doing it to oppose “tyranny.”

  11. You’ll note I did suggest expanding the number of electors. I just tagged it to expanding the number of states so that Wyoming and California were no longer seen as equals, but Wyoming still had a stake in the game.

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