There is No Ukraine

There is No Ukraine

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The Sorensen Monologues

Right Wing Punk

This was inspired partly by various accounts of conservatives describing themselves as the true punks of today, as well as the recent fiasco of SNL hiring and firing comedian Shane Gillis, who described his hackneyed racist and misogynist comedy as “pushing boundaries.” Apparently the word “transgressive” now applies to the culture of a 1950s segregationist backwater. (For truly weird, envelope-pushing comedy, I’d recommend A Black Lady Sketch Show on HBO.) 

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Fear of a Female Wonk

Let me say up front that I’d be fine with Warren or Sanders as the Democratic nominee, or even some of the other candidates who are polling behind them. As American democracy collapses, I’m not that into splitting hairs beyond wanting a leader who understands what’s happening and is willing to make some bold moves to stop it. And while there’s certainly nothing wrong with asking critical questions of presidential contenders, it does strike me as absurd how Warren is spun as some kind of scary “radical leftist” by mainstream wags, and “mainstream corporate lady” by some leftist wags. I don’t have the energy to elaborate on all the things Warren has done for working people. Perhaps America is too anti-intellectual and sexist to vote for someone like her. But it depresses me to hear this stuff.

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The Court of Public Opinion

I get that many Americans still aren’t fully on board with impeachment, although those numbers seem to be changing. But there comes a time when the illegality and corruption are so eye-poppingly egregious, to do nothing isn’t really an option. At this point, the talking heads still fixated on the partisan horse race are focused on the wrong question. There will be no turning back if we don’t at least try to stop this assault on what remains of our democracy.
 
Though I couldn’t fit this into the cartoon, I realize that changes in law such as those during the Civil Rights Movement did in fact depend on changing public opinion. Simple enforcement of the law, though, is not in principle a matter of partisan politics.
 
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Cartoon: Calling for Impeachment

I decided to make this a very straightforward narrative about Trump and Ukraine, as I get the sense that some people might not be up on all the details. There is, in fact, no scandal involving Joe Biden’s son, but the Trump administration has been extremely successful at laundering such stories into mainstream media outlets prone to parroting the words of Very Important Officials, and eager to report “both sides” even when one side is the equivalent of a hot, steaming democracy-crushing cowpie.

As this TPM article notes, we’re in uncharted territory here. A former Obama staffer noted:

“When you withhold military assistance to a country at war with Russia because you want to compel the country to launch a political investigation into your opponent, that’s outside the bounds of anything that’s happened in U.S. political history,” the official said.

Meanwhile, the GOP has paralyzed the Federal Election Commission and Mitch McConnell is blocking anti-corruption measures. Just FYI.

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Honest Democratic debate questions

I have trouble watching the debates these days because they feel like a gigantic farce. They’re like a holdover from another era, normalizing events that gloss over Republicans’ breathtaking attacks on democratic norms. Here we are, gathering the candidates to discuss the nuances of their policy proposals so Americans can make a rational, informed decision about whom to vote for. Never mind the GOP’s scorched-earth obstructionism, Kavanaugh and Gorsuch on the Supreme Court, Trump’s packed judiciary, absurd gerrymandering that favors Republicans, the Electoral College, and massive voter suppression efforts (more than 1,000 polling places have closed since the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act). I realize this can sound a little cynical and defeatist, which isn’t my point. Hearing good ideas and having a vision for the Democratic party is important. But there’s a big authoritarian elephant in the room.

As I was finishing up this comic, I saw that Paul Krugman had some similar thoughts in his latest column.

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Yoga Pants, Destroyers of Western Civilization

Yoga pants may seem like a trivial subject matter, but I’d argue this cultural stuff is way more important than most people realize. It’s about so much more than the pants, which of course I wore as I drew this cartoon. These ideas form our symbolic vocabulary and frame our entire way of seeing the world.

NYT columnist David Brooks is the latest in a long line of yoga pants bashers, from incels who think women wear them to torment men (one of whom committed a mass shooting at a yoga studio, you’ll recall), to a Montana politician who wanted to make them illegal, to random guys in New Zealand. Brooks adds a new angle in a recent column written from the perspective of an online extremist:

Did you really think you could raise me on gourmet coffee and yoga pants and I wouldn’t find a way to rebel against your relativism and materialism? Didn’t you observe the eternal pattern — that if you try to flatten a man to the bourgeois he will rebel by becoming a fanatic?

Ostensibly Brooks is opposing both the alt-right and the “alt-left” (whatever that is — people on Twitter upset about racism, I guess?) in this strange piece, but it reads like his usual shtick of painting liberals as decadent, effeminate aristocrats. Never mind the opulent tastes of the right-wing donor class, or the bourgeois materialism of the Republican suburbs, or the moral travesty of polluters hastening the death of the planet. It is the gourmet coffee and yoga pants leading us to our doom. Which makes me wonder: Does David Brooks only drink Folgers Crystals out of solidarity with the working class? I’m guessing not.

Back to the yoga pants for a sec. It’s ironic that a form of exercise that increases strength and flexibility could be spun as some kind of cultural weakness, but women are used to having our interests diminished as “chick flicks” or “chick lit.” Anything that could be perceived as emasculating is mocked as silly and inferior. The alt-right has its origins in reactionary opposition to women’s empowerment, and equates the liberalization of America with feminization. David Brooks is actually very much in line with this school of thought, though with a more polite pseudo-intellectual veneer.

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Eco-snide

Recently I saw an older gentleman in a Trump cap trying to pay for something when it wasn’t his turn at the grocery store, and being told by the cashier that he had to go around and get in line. In fairness to the guy, I don’t know the full context of the situation (maybe he had already been through the line and forgot something?), but he seemed to be resisting the cashier’s request in a way that suggested a sense of entitlement. I found myself thinking about how this phrase is typically lobbed at younger generations as a blanket insult, and how ridiculous this is given the entitled and thoughtless behavior of so many of their elders. My point is not to engage in generational warfare — no demographic is monolithic — but when you compare someone like Greta Thunberg to the oligarchs currently destroying the planet, the platitudes about “kids today” ring hollow.

I anticipate someone will quibble with the first panel of this cartoon, arguing that elephant hunting is actually beneficial because the hefty fees paid by trophy-seeking rich dudes are used for conservation efforts. As Vox notes, the deets on that are murky:

And there’s not great evidence that this conservation tactic works. For its October issue, National Geographic investigated the claim that hunting helps conserve threatened animals. Tanzania lost two-thirds of its lions from 1993 to 2014, despite a trophy hunting program. Overall, reporter Michael Paterniti found, “what happens to the hunters’ fees … is notoriously hard to pin down — and impossible in kleptocracies.”

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Plastic Straw Man

I realize that straws are merely the tip of the plastic-berg, and that banning them is a small gesture in the grand scheme of things. However, if you’ve been reading The Guardian’s series on the United States of Plastic, you probably aren’t going to be a straw-hugger. (Straw huggers! I wish I’d worked that into the strip.) I am also aware of the fact that some people with disabilities need straws to drink, and I fully support efforts to consider their needs as we take steps to reduce single-use plastics.

Straws are just the latest example of the right seizing on a grave environmental issue to demonize “the liberals” through wild hyperbole. When scientists point out that industrial cattle farming is contributing to climate change, that becomes “the libs want to take away your hamburgers.” In fact, governments, businesses, and individuals are trying to follow the recommendations of science that we drastically reduce plastic and meat use — and relabeling this attempt at responsibility as “liberal” just creates a conspiracy theory out of the only possible ways to respond to these crises. Saying that anyone “wants” to take away your straws is a false, alternate explanation of what is going on. I wish we could go on using straws without consequence!

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America Responds to Mass Shootings

I half-wrote this one last week, but thought I’d wait to make sure nobody in a position of power responded in a meaningful way to the recent shootings. Yes, a few Republicans have mumbled things about red flag laws, much to the consternation of other Republicans. But I think we can safely assume nothing much will change.

To be fair, some advertisers have apparently disappeared from Tucker Carlson’s show in the wake of his outrageous claim that white supremacy is a “hoax” perpetrated by Democrats, though as of this August 8 report from Daily Beast, neither Fox nor its sponsors were commenting on Carlson’s statements. Look, this isn’t complicated. No responsible company should be supporting the vile hate-for-profit racket that is Fox. The entire network should be radioactive, not just Tucker Carlson. The same goes for Breitbart and other white nationalist media outlets. Somehow these scandalous remarks — that once upon a time may have been career-ending — just fade into the ether, and then it’s back to business as usual. Nothing is going to change until hate media is thoroughly delegitimized.
 

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Shooter Stupidity

After years and years of drawing cartoons about mass shootings, I’m finding it increasingly challenging to say anything new. How many times can you say that our gun laws are insane and the Republicans are awash in NRA blood money? Or that Trump’s racist rhetoric is inciting violence? What I tried to do here was put this rhetoric in the mouth of a mass shooter to show the self-evident absurdity of his worldview but also the overlap between the right’s now-mainstream white supremacist discourse and violent neo-Nazi ideology. It’s not even a stretch, as the El Paso shooter referred to a “Hispanic invasion” and wanting to “send them back.” And it’s not just Trump. Media Matters has a roundup of the fear-mongering language increasingly used by right-wing fundraising efforts and media personalities.

I also wanted to demonstrate the ridiculousness of the argument that these ideas are somehow not racist, as many Republicans seem to think. They’ve completely redefined the meaning of racism.

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Warning Signs

Getting somewhat lost in the shuffle of Trump’s racist tweets (which obviously require a response) is the breathtaking assault on fair elections that has even graver implications for civil rights. Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick has a good rundown on the recent Supreme Court decision that the federal courts cannot address grossly distorted electoral maps. As she notes:

To be sure both sides gerrymander for their own ends as these cases show, but Republicans have been able to do it better and more in recent years. In 2010, the Republicans took control of most swing states and took power in ways that they have been able to maintain through much of this decade. The decision to sit this one out so that the court can appear magisterial is a decision to help one party, just as eviscerating the Voting Rights Act and blessing voter ID laws have been.

Then we have the underreported detail of the Russians penetrating our voting systems in apparently all 50 states with the capacity to change votes. I mean, how much coverage did Hillary’s emails get compared to this? And now Mitch McConnell won’t fund a bipartisan election security bill. Don’t forget that the Trump administration has eliminated the position of Obama’s cybersecurity coordinator, who first noted that the Russians had targeted all 50 states. Good thing we have a conspiracy-spewing wackadoo nominated to take over national intelligence.




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Jen Sorensen is a nationally-published political cartoonist. She is a 2017 Pulitzer finalist and recipient of the 2014 Herblock Prize and a 2013 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award.

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