Saturday, November 9, 2019

Faces in the Crowd

The cartoon I posted on Sunday employed caricatures of a number of House Republicans, when I could more easily have drawn a single GOP elephant at a microphone. So why didn't I do that and knock off an hour earlier?
June, 1996 for the UWM Post.
Pardon me if I step back a few years in order to answer that. In 1996, I drew a crowd of (hopefully) recognizable Republicans, grinning smugly, because that made more sense than drawing a single elephant, and was more effective than a bunch of smugly grinning elephants. Behind Bob Dole in this cartoon, mocking GOP claims of having a "big tent" on the abortion issue in spite of the hardline plank in the party platform, stand, from left to right: Dick Armey, Newt Gingrich, Trent Lott, Phil Gramm, Jesse Helms, Gary Bauer, Pat Robertson, and Ralph Reed.

(Since the UWM Post didn't put out any editions that summer, the above cartoon was never published, but I ended up drawing another one a lot like it for them in September.)
in UW-M Post, March 5, 1991
My cartoon of sheepish Democrats at the peak of George H.W. Bush's popularity would have been less pointed if I had drawn a donkey or donkeys among the sheep. (From left to right: Sam Nunn, Bill Bradley, Dick Gephardt, Tom Foley, Al Gore, Mario Cuomo, Lloyd Bentsen, and George Mitchell.)
in UWM Post, September 28, 1989
Which is not to say that every editorial cartoon has to include caricatures of actual politicians. I liked the idea for my cartoon about multiple ethics investigations going on in the nation's capital in 1989, but there weren't enough politicians actually leading one investigation while being the target of another for me to have drawn a bunch of real people.

This idea is not far removed from Thomas Nast's "Who Stole the People's Money? Do Tell. 'Twas Him" cartoon showing easily recognizable members of the Tammany Ring standing in a circle, each pointing fingers at the man to his right. It's a great cartoon that had great impact when it was published and has stood the test of time, even though the real Richard Connolly was not accusing Peter Sweeney, who was not accusing Boss Tweed, who was not accusing James Ingersoll, etc.
for Q Syndicate, June 21, 2004

Here again, I could have drawn specific Republican senators pulling a prank in 2004, but I think this particular cartoon works better this way artistically.

Still, I believe it is useful for cartoonists to hold actual politicians accountable for their stands on issues. Thomas Nast's cartoons would have had little impact if he had tamely drawn generic "City Hall" characters — or comical Tammany Tigers — every week. Likewise, it's all well and good to draw a cartoon highlighting Lindsey Graham's or Matt Gaetz's craptasm du jour; but if one doesn't hold their feet to the fire, the effect is likely to be ephemeral.

We can't all be Thomas Nast, but we can still try.

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