Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Q Toon: The Trumply Trio

Hard to believe, but it was less than a week ago that Donald Joffrey Trump named Amy Coney Barrett as his third nominee to the Supreme Court.

During Tuesday night's sh!tshow, Trump argued that he gets to fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg's seat, even as votes are being cast in the 2020 presidential election, because he was elected president in 2016 for four full years, not three. It's the same argument that Democrats used four years and eight months ago, because Barack Obama was elected president in 2008 and reelected in 2012 for eight years, not seven.

And yet there is Neil Gorsuch, sitting comfortably in Merrick Garland's seat.

Well, as we've already discussed, it's patently obvious that Republican arguments as to who gets to name whom to the Supreme Court in an election year are nothing but self-serving. Republican presidents get to do it, Democrats don't.

As if Mrs. Coney Barrett's nomination were not enough of an affront to the legacy of Justice Ginsburg, Republicans instantly commandeered the late Justice's nickname and cranked out "Notorious ACB" t-shirts for their faithful throng.

To paraphrase a memorable moment from a gentler era's debate, we knew RBG. RBG was a friend of ours. You're no RBG.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Take It Back


 Honestly. Not only is it silent, it doesn't even make the second "e" long or the "g" soft. It's derelict in its duties. Get rid of it.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Saturday, September 26, 2020

The News or the Blues, Depending, of Course, on Your Perspective

Smokeback Saturday takes a break from the 1920 election campaign this week so that I can dredge up share a few of my cartoons from September, 1990.

in UW-Milwaukee Post, September 4, 1990
1990 was an election year, too — not for the presidency, but for Congress and several governorships including that of my home state, Wisconsin. The liberal student newspaper at University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee asked me to draw a cover for their election feature section; I've stitched together four scans of the poster-sized (17.5" x 23.5") sheet.

I have no idea what's the deal with the blue guy in the foreground, or that bunch of people sitting under the traffic light. Whoever did the colorizing of the cartoon did just fine with some of the African-Americans in the crowd, while others could use a little yellow shading. 

I guess blue lives matter, too.

in UW-M Post, Sept. 13, 1990
Meanwhile, the George H.W. Bush administration was enlisting our NATO allies to go join us in declaring war over Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait. Saddam Hussein's idea of diplomacy was to keep NATO citizens from leaving his country.
in UW-Parkside Ranger, Sept. 20, 1990

By coincidence, Republicans had an opportunity to replace one of the Supreme Court's most liberal justices with a conservative thirty years ago this month. Justice William Brennan had resigned from the Court in the summer, and George H.W. Bush nominated David Souter to replace him. Despite Bush's claim not to know where Souter stood on abortion, affirmative action, or other divisive issues of the day, liberals suspected that Souter would prove to be a right-wing ideologue in the mold of William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia, and Robert Bork. But Souter made it through his Senate confirmation hearings without saying much of anything controversial, and handily won confirmation.

To Republicans' dismay, within the next decade, Souter tended to vote with the Court's liberals more often than its conservatives on closely decided cases. He voted in the minority in Bush v. Gore, and generally left precedents stand in the cases Republicans hoped to overturn. He left the Court in 2009 and was replaced by Obama nominee Sonya Sotomayor.

Souter now lives in New Hampshire, and celebrated his 81st birthday Thursday of last week.

in UW-M Post, September 25, 1990

With social pressure against smoking depressing domestic sales, Phillip Morris and RJR Nabisco, the two largest tobacco sellers in the U.S. in 1990, secured deals to export more than 34 billion cigarettes to the USSR. No such social pressure existed in the Soviet Union; in fact, demand for cigarettes exceeded supply.

It may have been a quickly forgotten news item, but gosh darn it, I spent a good long time with a straight-edge and ballpoint pen on all that tedious shading, and I liked how this cartoon looked in the end.
in Journal Times, Racine, Wis., October 3, 1990
A couple months ago, I included a cartoon about the local shopping mall refusing to allow the city bus system to have a bus stop at its doors. In September, 1990, the city of Racine had its way, getting the stops on route #7 moved in from the ring road around the parking lot's perimeter. (The Journal Times ran this cartoon in October, but my cataloguing notes indicate that this was the penultimate cartoon I drew in September.)

Someone at the JT must have decided that Mayor Owen Davies, speaking in the cartoon, needed a label. Maybe they thought that readers would confuse him with Christopher Columbus. Or Sir Francis Drake. I used white-out, ballpoint pen and felt-tip pen to add a medallion bearing his name around Davies's neck; everything else in the cartoon, including the shading, is drawn with India ink.

I dunno... I thought it was a reasonable caricature of Hizzoner.


The headline for today's post, aside from referencing the blue men in today's color cartoon, pays homage to a Milwaukee radio institution, the late Ron Cuzner. His phrase led every one of his hourly news breaks.

But of course, you don't care. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

QToon: In Fairness


Today's cartoon quotes from a tweet by Republican Senator Susan Collins over the weekend:

The danger in drawing about something because it didn't happen or wasn't said is that while you're waiting for your syndicate to send the cartoon out and newspapers to print it, that thing that didn't happen or wasn't said might just get itself happened or said.

But Senator Collins has racked up such a long history of raising the hopes of liberals and moderates only to dash them when time comes for her to act, I thought there was every likelihood that she would knuckle under to Republican Party Orthodoxy in the end.

So yesterday, Collins did say that she wouldn't vote for whomever Trump nominates.

The catch to what Collins said yesterday is that she hasn't — yet — said how she'd vote on a Trump nominee after November 3. She's merely against voting before the election. Voters in Maine may wish to know how she intends to vote, especially if Joe Biden were to beat Donald Trump, before they decide whether or not to vote for her.

The handful of Republican moderates in the Senate may recognize their ethical dilemma, but they are vastly outnumbered by doctrinaire Republicans who have been salivating at the prospect of a permanent Republican majority on the Supreme Court for over half a century.

Doctrinaire conservatives still have difficulty coming up with a coherent explanation why refusing to give any consideration to President Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland nearly a year before the next presidential inauguration was a matter of constitutional principle, and so is confirming whomever Trump nominates with just a month and a half until the next election.

As recently as July, Sen. Chuck Grassley, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee back in 2016, told reporters that if he were still the committee chair this year and a Supreme Court vacancy occurred, “I would not have a hearing on it because that’s what I promised the people in 2016.” Now that it's September and that vacancy is reality, he's content to let Mitch McConnell and current committee chair Lindsey Graham have hearings and a confirmation vote if they want.

Sen. Ron Johnson, whose position in 2016 was, "In the politicized atmosphere of an election year, you probably shouldn't even nominate someone. It's not fair to the nominee, it's not fair to the court," now claims that having a Senate majority of the same political party as the president has de-politicized the atmosphere this year. Or something like that.

Sen. Ted Cruz was on CBS This Morning yesterday morning and offered the idea that since the 2020 election might go to the courts, it's imperative that it not be possible for the Supremes to split 4-4. He didn't offer any explanation why that possibility was acceptable in 2016.

Here's what other Republican senators were saying in 2016:

“I don’t think we should be moving forward with a nominee in the last year of this president’s term. I would say that even if it was a Republican president.” — Sen. Marco Rubio.

“I think we’re too close to the election. The president who is elected in November should be the one who makes this decision... Our next election is too soon and the stakes are too high; the American people deserve a role in the process as the next Supreme Court justice will influence the direction of this country for years to come.” — Sen. Cory Gardner, interview on KNUS radio

“I believe the American people deserve to have a voice in the selection of the next Supreme Court Justice, and the best way to ensure that happens is to have the Senate consider a nomination made by the next President.”—Sen. John Cornyn, official statement

“We will see what the people say this fall and our next president, regardless of party, will be making that nomination.”—Sen. Jodi Ernst

But the poster boy for principle whiplash is Sen. Lindsey Graham, who said four years ago:

“I want you to use my words against me. If there’s a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsey Graham said let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination.”

Turns out there's a simple explanation why you shouldn't use Lindsey's old words against him, though. Those nasty Democrats were mean to Brett Kavanaugh over some silly old sexual harassment allegations, so naturally, Lindsey's panties have been in a wad ever since. 

And after Republicans were so polite to Merrick Garland!

Monday, September 21, 2020

This Week's Sneak Peek


The stage now moves to the McConnell-run Senate. Pinning one's hopes on the party of lockstep fealty to their f├╝hrer seems futile.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Toon: Speedy McConnell

 

I give 2020 zero stars.

Would not recommend.

The Show Must Go On

"Any Porch in a Storm" by Nelson Harding in Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Sept. 14, 1920

The wayback machine here is stuck on 1920, so we might as well check in on how that year's presidential candidates are getting along.

"Delivering It to the Wrong Door" Jay N. "Ding" Darling in New York Tribune, Sept. 10, 1920

Reliably Republican cartoonist "Ding" Darling was disaffected with his party's nominee, Warren Harding, and his passive opposition to the League of Nations — his "junk" in this cartoon reads "The Democrats wanted to move the U.S. capital to Geneva — and send all our young men to fight Europe." But instead of defending the League, Democratic nominee James Cox kept harping on charges that the Republicans had raised a $15 million slush fund for the election; so "Ding" ended up unable to support either candidate.

"Will They Never Change the Subject" by Wm. C. Morris for George Matthew Adams Service, by Sept. 22, 1920
Cox's charges achieved little traction outside of a few Democratic-leaning cartoonists such as Nelson Harding (at the top of this post), Daniel Fitzpatrick, and Rollin Kirby. Cox would probably have been better off detailing his own vision for America.
"Following the Boss" by Daisy L. Scott in Tulsa Star, Sept. 18, 1920
As amateurish as the artwork of Daisy Scott's cartoon is, I find it interesting in that it is a depiction by a cartoonist I assume to be a Black woman — the Tulsa Star was a weekly newspaper for Tulsa's then thriving Black community — of a nascent disaffection of Black Americans with the Republican party. The Star was not in the habit of printing editorial cartoons, but ran this one on the front page.

Your Trump-worshiping aunt on Facebook is right: once upon a time, the Republicans, the party of Lincoln, were for Black civil rights, and the Democrats were against them. Democrats depended on the Solid South, and therefore couldn't hope to get anywhere by opposing the KKK. This made the Democrats more successful as a local or congressional party than on the presidential level; only two Democrats, Grover Cleveland and Woodrow Wilson, had been elected president since the Civil War.

But here we have a Black cartoonist and her newspaper looking at the Republican Party record and wondering, "What has the GOP done for us lately?" Nearly half a century had passed since passage of  the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution and the Civil Rights Acts of 1866, 1871, and 1875; enforcement of them was practically non-existent since the end of Reconstruction in 1877. (For a modern perspective, add 100 years and change the issue to Republicans on environmental protection.) With the end of World War I, lynching and White race riots were on the rise, and not just in Dixie; but the Republican majority in Congress was doing nothing about it.

Republicans didn't realize it yet, but Black Americans were ready for the political realignment that would begin to shift under Franklin D. Roosevelt.
"They're Not Falling for the Decoy" by Albert T. Reid in National Republican, ca. Sept. 20, 1920
A couple Saturdays ago, I mused that I was unlikely to come across any more cartoons about either 1920 vice presidential candidate. I stand corrected.

Franklin Roosevelt was Assistant Secretary of the Navy when nominated for the vice presidency, a nomination which he actively pursued. As a moderate, he balanced the Democratic ticket headed by the progressive reformer Cox. Roosevelt took up the cause of defending Wilson's League of Nations, while Cox stuck to domestic issues and those slush fund charges. 
"Not His Style" by Orville P. Williams for Star Publishing, by Sept. 13, 1920
Albert Reid certainly was diametrically opposed to Roosevelt on the League issue, which was the dominant issue of 1920 as far as Republican cartoonists were concerned. Orville Williams is typical of many of William Hearst's cartoonists, who took a completely serious approach to warning their readers about the League as a danger to American sovereignty...
"Imperialists Want Feathers for Their Caps" for Star Publishing by Winsor McCay, by Sept. 16, 1920
...as did Winsor McCay.
"Freeneasy Film Co. Presents: Thrilling Geographical Reel" by Frederick B. Opper for Star Publishing, by Sept. 20, 1920
Frederick B. Opper, on the other hand, employed a more humorous touch while still toeing the Hearst party line. The creator of Happy Hooligan and Alphonse & Gaston launched a series of "Freeneasy Film Co. Presents" cartoons depicting Cox as the hapless brand new stepfather of Wilson's Fourteen Points. Point #10, the most controversial, requiring military action by League members to enforce its will when called upon to do so, always wears black in these Opper cartoons.
"Freeneasy Film Co. Presents: Great Educational Natural History Reel" by F. Opper for Star Publishing, by Sept. 23, 1920
This is off topic, but remember that cartoon from Labor Feature Service that I used to close this Labor Day weekend post a couple weeks ago? It appeared in the Oklahoma Leader of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Leader editorial page boasted Labor Feature Service cartoons throughout the month of August, 1920.

My intention for that Labor Day weekend post was to use a cartoon printed closer Labor Day of 1920, but I found that come September, the Oklahoma Leader editorial page abruptly switched over to cartoons from Hearst's Star Publishing, including the four cartoons immediately above.

Do you suppose that the publisher of the Oklahoma Leader returned home from his August vacation and blew his top when he saw what the staff had been printing in his newspaper in his absence? Were editors sacked?

(I did also look in the Non-Partisan Leader for a 1920 Labor Day cartoon, but none of their cartoons in late August and September addressed labor issues.)
 
So anyway, this post has been all over the map, so I'm just going to wrap things up by circling back to the work of Nelson Harding. Because I feel like it.
"The Grand Old Band Wagon" by Nelson Harding in Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Sept. 19, 1920

Thursday, September 17, 2020

QToon: Bachmann Terror Overdrive

Retired Congresscritter Michele Bachmann (R-Oort Cloud) was on the radio last week, claiming that "transgender Black Marxists" are trying to take down the United States government.
"These are transgender Marxists — transgender Black Marxists — who are seeking the overthrow of the United States and the dissolution of the traditional family," Bachmann said in the interview on The Victory Channel, televangelist Kenneth Copeland's right-wing Christian network, while discussing the Black Lives Matter and anti-racism protests taking place around the country.

Mrs. Bachmann may be safely out of the halls of Congress, but lest you congratulate the American electoral system for shedding her and fellow batshit crazy ass Steve King, let me remind you that Louie Gohmert, Jim Jordan, and Matt Gaetz ain't going anywhere. At least one solid GOP district in Georgia and another in Colorado are poised to send a QAnon conspiracy-spewing mouth-breathers to Washington to augment the GOP's loony bin caucus this November.

President Donald Berzelius Trump, crackpot extraordinaire, is not a bug of the Republican machine but a feature (as Daily Cartoonist columnist Mike Peterson is wont to note). The party was heading this way before Sarah Palin, even before Dan Quayle. 

Republicans have ridiculed intelligence at least as far back as 1950's (Adlai Stevenson is an egghead!), attaching ever-increasing value to ignorance and superstition. From insisting that creationism is equally valid as empirical science, to believing that natural disasters are evidence not of climate change but of God's homophobia, it's barely a bunny-hop of faith to accepting that injecting bleach will cure disease.

All the scientific evidence to the contrary can't hope to refute "I don't think science knows, actually" from our willfully ignorant president and his doggedly ignorant followers. These are people who still believe the out-and-out lie that Barack Obama is a Muslim born in Kenya in spite of all the proof that he isn't and in spite of the complete lack of a shred of evidence that he is. They happily swallow and regurgitate the absurd notion that Democrats are drinking the blood of children in the crawl space below a pizza parlor because immortality flat earth trickle-down economics.

I tell you one thing, though: when the transgender Black Marxists do take over, they're going to have a big challenge before them if they try sending all those Trumpletons to reeducation camps. Which they will do, being Marxists, of course.

You can't reeducate someone who was impervious to education the first time around.

Monday, September 14, 2020

This Week's Sneak Peek

Here's a square inch or so from this week's cartoon, and a little clarification of one of the details regarding Joe Biden's visit to the church where I work.

The Grace Lutheran church council saw fit to meet in emergency last Thursday, and produced a letter of explanation to the congregation in which they noted that Grace had wanted Biden's dialogue meeting to take place in the narthex. The narthex is a good-sized open space just outside the sanctuary, with an open stairway leading up to the choir room and organ balcony and down to the courtyard entrance and basement level.

The Secret Service, however, decided that the event had to be held in the sanctuary, which could be closed off at all entrances. In the event of an emergency, the candidate and his wife could be quickly removed from the room and away from danger; whereas the danger could easily follow them out of the narthex.

For what it's worth, Mr. Biden at no point stepped into the chancel, even though, being raised up two steps from the rest of the nave, it would have made him more visible to the gathered participants.

The Daily Caller and other Trumpletons have asked sarcastically whether Mr. Trump would be welcome to use the church for a campaign event. Well, he hasn't asked. Grace would probably give such a request due consideration, as long as he promised not to have troops tear gas everybody on his way in.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Wall Street Bombed

This week marks anniversaries of two terrorist attacks on New York City: 9/11/01, of course, but also 9/16/20.

"Murdered to Make Me Tremble" by Lucius Curtis "Lute" Pease in Newark News, Sept. 1920
At the start of the lunch hour on Thursday, September 16, 1920, a horse-drawn carriage blew up in front of the J.P. Morgan & Co. offices at the corner of Wall Street and Broad Street. The blast killed 38 and injured hundreds more, the most casualties of any peacetime attack in the U.S. up to that date (but superseded the following year by the white race riot in Tulsa, Oklahoma).
There was no claim of responsibility, but suspicion immediately fell to anarchists and communist sympathizers, who became the focus of Attorney General Palmer's investigation.

Uncaptioned, by Clifford Berryman in Washington (D.C.) Evening Star, September 17, 1920

The bomb was found to have been made of TNT and the iron weights commonly used for window sashes, connected to a timer; investigation into window sash weight makers all over the U.S. yielded nothing. One Pietro Angelo, who was connected with a bombing the previous year, was able to produce an alibi but was deported to Italy anyway. Another suspect was champion tennis player Edwin P. Fischer, who had made earlier warnings to friends predicting a mid-September Wall Street explosion; but it turned out that he happened to be in Canada that day and had developed a habit of making similar predictions.

"New York" by Bill Sykes in Philadelphia Public Ledger, Sept. 17, 1920

As for a motive for the bombing, a theory that it was an assassination attempt against J.P. Morgan was discounted because the banker was in Europe (although his son Junius was injured and his chief clerk, William Joyce, was killed). The bombing may also have been an attempt to rob a scheduled shipment of 900 gold bars to the U.S. Treasury building next door; if so, it failed in its mission.

"Seems About Time to Clean Them All Out" by Fred Morgan in Philadelphia Inquirer, Sept. 18, 1920

The FBI and Secret Service eventually dropped the investigation in 1940; the bombing remains unsolved to this day.

"The Fuse" by Nelson Harding in Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Sept. 18, 1920

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Q Toon: Exemption Card

 

So here's the deal with those phony "Face Mask Exemption Cards" wielded by right-wing snowflakes who feel entitled to ignore the fact that there's a goddamn pandemic going on.

To begin with, they have no weight under U.S. law. They cite the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1989 (ADA), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), and in at least one version, the Unruh Civial [sic] Rights Act. The card threatens that the bearer will report violations to the "Freedom to Breathe Agency," possibly resulting in a fine of $75,000 to $150,000. 

Said agency has nothing to do with federal, state, or local government. The FTBA is just another one of those Tea Party, Proud Boys, Sinclair Broadcasting, or Rush Limbaugh's Dittohead clubs with all the legal authority of a Facebook group. The Justice Department published a notice in June regarding a version of the card displaying the Department of Justice official seal:
U.S. Attorney [Matthew G.T.] Martin urges the public not to rely on the information contained in these postings and flyers and to visit http://www.ADA.gov for official information about the Americans with Disabilities Act. For more information and technical assistance about the ADA, please contact the ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 (voice) and 800-514-0383 (TTY).
There is, one assumes, some tiny fraction of the population who might actually have some physical limitation that prevents wearing a face mask. Having no ears, for example. Or having an allergy to all manner of cloth, which must make it difficult to get dressed in the morning. (There is also mast cell activation syndrome, but check out what this woman with MCAS is wearing.)

If you are an earless victim of MCAS, I don't mean to make your life more difficult than it already is. You might want to invest in a plastic face shield or something. As for the rest of you MAGA snowflakes, there's a good chance that this country would be on its way to getting back to normal if you'd mask up... or put a sock in it.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

A Rising Tide Swamps Trump's Boats


On Lake Travis you'll hear sailors tremble in fear

And they'll sigh like a lovelorn gorilla.

Their face will turn pale as they tell you the tale

Of the wreck of the Donald Trumptilla!

Oh, they all flew the flag of the Lord of the MAGA

That fateful weekend in September;

How they flapped in the breeze as they set out to sea

On a day that they'll always remember!


The larger boats' wake, more than others could take,

Soon washed over the lesser sized cruisers.

"We've got water on board!" But their cries were ignored:

"Take a swim, you're just suckers and losers!"

And so up rose the cries as each vessel capsized,

"Grab your life jackets now if you've got 'em!"

"It's a communist plot!" and "Abandon the yacht!"

As their ships slowly sank to the bottom.


So, my friend, if you sail, just remember this tale

Of the hubris-resulted disaster:

If you follow Lord Trump, get a clue, you sad chump,

For the sea is a bitch of a master!

All the yachts 'neath the waves in their watery graves

With their chocolate eclairs and vanilla

Will set sail nevermore, nor return to the shore:

'Twas the wreck of the Donald Trumptilla!

Monday, September 7, 2020

Behind the Scenes of Biden's Visit


During the week, I work at Grace Lutheran Church in Kenosha, Wisconsin. It's an old church on a main thoroughfare in the city's uptown, located between that used car lot you saw burning on TV two weeks ago Monday and the uptown business district where fires continued well into the next day. The stench of the smoke was strong inside our building all that Tuesday.

The presidential limo speeds by on September 1

A week after that, Donald Trump's motorcade passed in front of the church on its way to the burnt down shops of uptown so he could walk around the rubble in his granny heels and talk to the guy who sold Rode's Camera Shop eight years ago to the guy who didn't want to be part of Trump's campaign video.

Wednesday morning, I was told that Joe Biden was coming to Grace the next day to have a dialogue with a select group of religious and community leaders, an event closed to the public. 

I don't know how the event was arranged. I imagine that Biden's office called the local Democratic Party and asked where they could set up a meeting; the local people know Grace's pastor, who is passionately active on social justice issues and a committed Green New Dealer (you can buy his book on amazon), a young pastor still burning the candle at both ends. He had just returned from two weeks in California on Tuesday, so he had been away for all the turmoil since Jacob Blake's shooting.

I was sworn to secrecy about Biden's visit, which was kind of awkward. Just that morning, I had posted a graphic here and on Facebook chiding Biden and his running mate for not coming to Wisconsin despite having the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee and despite Trump and Pence chalking up frequent flyer miles to the Dairy State lately. 

I felt I couldn't delete my posts without possibly letting the cat out of the bag (although by afternoon, that Biden was coming to Kenosha on Thursday was all over the media. Just not the specifics of his visit).

Complicating matters, the church had already scheduled a major prayer vigil and rally for Wednesday afternoon, involving the local and national bishops of the ELCA and other clergy from around town.

While about 100 people were participating in the prayer vigil outside, the Secret Service, local police and sheriff deputies, and advance members of the Biden campaign were busy inside: determining which entrance Biden would use and which room he and his wife would wait in; what room the event would be held in and what path he would use to get from one room to another; where the pool reporter and media cameras could be set up; and who would be allowed to be in the building after 10:00 a.m. Thursday.

That latter bit meant that Grace could have its free breakfast program on Thursday morning as usual, but that we would have to cancel the free diaper program for the second week in a row. The diaper program volunteers had not felt safe to open up the previous Thursday afternoon. Having confirmed with the volunteers and having assured some mothers that the program would be open on September 2, I had to get back in touch with them to tell them it couldn't.

For the Bidens' waiting room, the campaign laid claim to a room used for Sunday School by a Latino congregation that shares Grace's building. The food pantry coordinator and I had to clear all the Sunday School equipment out of the room, trying to make sure we would know where to put everything back in its proper place. I called Amistad Cristiana's pastor to let him know we had messed with his stuff — although I couldn't tell him why.

Thursday morning, I arrived at work to find that a Milwaukee television crew was already parked across the street. One of the invited clergy had posted about the event to Facebook, so the secret was out. I began fielding calls from Chicago TV stations and other media asking whether Grace was hosting the former Vice President. I told them I had no comment, which was as good as saying yes. (What was I supposed to do? Lie?)

More TV crews gathered across the street, and so did a crowd. A congressional candidate from Indiana showed up at the front door; Biden's staff were out of the building for the moment, but instructed me via email to turn her away. She wasn't on the guest list. (Some good came from her trip to Kenosha, however. At the same time, there was a woman in the office seeking financial assistance — Grace gets a lot more requests for help with rent, utilities, prescriptions, car payments, etc., than it could hope to handle in its wildest dreams — and the Indiana candidate was able to connect the woman with someone willing and able to help.)

The local Democratic Party delivered a bunch of Biden-Harris lawn signs for the neighbors to put up in their yards. This, even though the Biden entourage would not be coming down 60th Street at all, but would arrive by side streets at a back service door that leads down to the basement kitchen.

I followed the Secret Service's bomb-sniffing dog around the church, locking rooms up after his handler declared them cleared. After that, I stood outside ready to direct the invited guests to the entrance where they would have their body temperature checked and be issued a mask if they didn't have one already. COVID-19 protocols were strictly enforced; security procedures included issuing a clip-on pin to those of us allowed to be on the premises, then swapping them out at a set time for a different pin, each of which had to be returned and accounted for at the end of the event.

Outside, the crowd outside kept growing. Residents and reporters freely passed back and forth across 60th street. There were cars and pick-ups festooned with political signs driving up and to the street. By contrast, while waiting for Trump to pass by on Tuesday, the street was closed for hours, and everyone was required to stay off not just the street but the sidewalks as well. 

Early in the afternoon, a crowd of local Black Lives Matter activists — the newly formed group is Black Lives Activists of Kenosha, or BLAK — came parading down the middle of 60th Street, blocking traffic, as police with bullhorns ordered them to get off the roadway. A portion of the BLAK group gathered in the courtyard outside the window of my office and seemed to be dealing respectfully with the woman there who was the first level of security for the entrance behind her.

One press photog knew to wait out back.
All the invited guests had arrived, and, unknown to the people out front, so had the Bidens. Since I didn't have clearance to go into the sanctuary where Biden's meeting was, I went into my office to continue writing up the previous day's prayer vigil and rally for Grace's weekly newsletter. Then, starting right at 2:00 sharp, the phone started ringing off the hook. An organized harassment campaign accused the church of harboring a baby-killer, of defending a rapist, and of not being real Lutherans. (Grace is a member congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; there is a separate, much more conservative Wisconsin Synod Lutheran sect that considers every other Lutheran church apostate.)

After answering calls from the first three harangutans, I just let the phone ring. When I checked the answering service for the church's message the next day, I found that not one of the calls left there before the service filled up was from our 262 area code. I realize that with cell phones, area codes don't necessarily equal geography, but none? Calls came from Colorado Springs; Buffalo; Seattle; north central New Jersey; Macon, Georgia; and several widespread area codes in California.

Connolly, one of the people from the regional Biden campaign office, took pity on me for my incessantly ringing phone and invited me to come sit in the back of the sanctuary with the press pool and the directors of our food pantry and breakfast program. I did not get to meet the Bidens, but I did get a few good photos thanks to my telephoto lens.

The woman in the orange headdress was a representative from the BLAK group; I don't believe she was on the original guest list, so I guess someone must have offered to let one BLAK protester in. When I came in, she was telling her story from the microphone set up on the side of the room for guest questions. Biden gave a sympathetic if lengthy answer; I missed some of it when his voice lowered to a near-whisper, the pews under the balcony not being acoustically optimal. As the event ended, Joe and Jill Biden came into the pews for an off-microphone minute with this woman.


And then they were off. The press pool, Secret Service, and campaign people gathered up their gear and headed for a meeting with a teacher in a Milwaukee suburb. Connolly stayed behind with us; we still had a few Biden-Harris yard signs in my office, so she took one for her mother, who lives in Illinois where the Biden-Harris campaign is less active.

Meanwhile, someone had hacked or spoofed the breakfast program/food pantry's email and sent out some bizarre diatribe to its entire contact list. Including, of course, its many donors.

On the other hand, Friday morning, one of the phone callers to whom I had actually talked to (or rather, listened to) live Thursday afternoon called back to apologize for his tone of voice. One of the Wisconsin Synod callers, he didn't take back what he said; indeed, he repeated a lot of it. Just how he said it. 

I'll can be satisfied with that.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

The Front Porch Campaign

You, if you happen to be the most corrupt president in the history of the United States, might mock Joe Biden for (supposedly) campaigning from his basement this summer. But in a way, Biden's low-travel campaign hearkens back to the way things were a century ago. As this year's campaign kicks off in earnest, here's what editorial cartoons had to say about the campaigns of 1920.

"And Everybody Was Expecting Turmoil" by Billy Ireland in Columbus Dispatch, August, 1920

I've enlarged Mrs. Buckeye's dialogue balloon, but since it's still hard to read on most screens, I'll copy it here: "Everybody said when they heard it was twins that we Buckeyes were in for an awful busy summer but things have been slipping along so quiet you wouldn't know the twins were in the house!"

"Interpreting the Oracle" by Rollin Kirby in New York World, August, 1920

Warren Harding's front porch campaign was itself a throwback to an earlier time. William Jennings Bryan and Teddy Roosevelt embraced the whistlestop style, campaigning to large crowds of citizens from the back of a train or in packed civic squares. Once upon a time, however, such pandering to the hoi polloi was considered beneath the dignity of the presidency. Campaigning was done by surrogates — assuming that the candidate's message remained intact through the surrogates' interpretation.

"The Burning Question" by Clifford Berryman in Washington (D.C.) Evening Post, August 17, 1920
Harding promised a return to what he called "normalcy," adding a new word to the English language. What "normalcy" would look like was largely up to the voter's imagination. 

Mr. Harding would in fact venture out on the hustings in September, not unlike the tradition up until recently of starting the presidential campaign in earnest only after Labor Day. The Democratic ticket, however, was already waging a much more active campaign.

"The Beauty and the Bathers" by Jay N. "Ding" Darling in Colliers, September 4, 1920

This is an unusual cartoon in that "Ding" Darling includes the Democratic Vice Presidential candidate, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. There have occasionally been editorial cartoonists who drew the Veep candidate often (e.g., Thomas Nast and B. Gratz Brown; R.C. Bowman and Adlai Stevenson); but as a rule, you didn't find a lot of ink spent on the #2 spot on the ticket.

I'll be surprised if I run across any more cartoons about either FDR or Calvin Coolidge between now and — frankly — the centennial of Harding's demise.

"What's Detaining You?" by T.E. Powers for Star Company, ca. Sept. 2, 1920
Whether the U.S. ought to join the League of Nations may have been the dominant issue in the 1920 campaign, but there were others.
"Everything but the Crowd" by Albert T. Reid in The National Republican, ca. August 27, 1920

Republican cartoonist Albert Reid crammed as many complaints against the Democratic Party as he possibly could into this cartoon, and you can easily imagine Antonio Branco, Ben Garrison, Mike Lester, or any of the other partisan Republican cartoonists regurgitating the same cartoon today. Just replace Cox with Biden, Europe and the League of Nations with China and the World Health Organization, and Murphy and Taggart with Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

"The Dickens of It..." by Jay N. "Ding" Darling in New York Tribune, August, 1920

Darling here packed in even more "political garbage" than is in Reid's sideshow; "U.S. Snail Service" taking up the left barge resonates anew today. Yet there is a distinct sense in this cartoon that the Democratic nominee is saddled with "8 years accumulation of political garbage" unfairly. Cox wields his "League Issue" oars against the "tide of public opinion that the Democrats have bungled"; Democratic bungling is not presented as actual fact.

Darling, a loyal Republican, departed from most of his party on the issue of the League of Nations. He did not support Warren Harding, although he was ultimately not impressed with James Cox, either.

"Vox Pop Versus Vox Cox" by John T. McCutcheon in Chicago Tribune, ca. Sept. 1, 1920

John McCutcheon put forth the same vague sentiment as the tide of public feeling, but without bothering to mention any specifics. "Solid South" demands "four more years of office holding," while Cox complains that "The Republicans are trying to buy you." More on that in a moment.

"The New Housekeeper" by Cyrus Hungerford in Pittsburgh Sun, September 4, 1920
The ratification of the 19th Amendment added a new wrinkle to political prognostication. Plenty of cartoons poked fun at couples whose votes would now cancel each other out; Cy Hungerford instead predicted that women's role would be to clean up the mess menfolk had made of things.
"The New Campaign Issue" by Ted Brown in Chicago Daily News, Aug./Sept., 1920

James Cox tried to add another issue to the campaign, accusing Republicans of amassing a $16 million slush fund. The GOP denied it, and when Cox personal representative E.H. Moore testified before a congressional committee, he proved short on specifics.

"The Old Porch Chair" by Rollin Kirby in New York World, Sept. 4, 1920
What one believed depended upon what one was predisposed to believe. (Sound familiar?)
"It Almost Awakened the Dog" by John McCutcheon in Chicago Tribune, Sept. 4, 1920

Since it is Labor Day weekend, let's close today's entry off with an election year labor cartoon from the summer of 1920.

"Labor's Laboratory" by Wallen for Labor Feature Service, August, 1920

Keep the Labor in Labor Day, and have a safe and happy weekend!