This comic was initially inspired by Sheriff David Clarke’s over-the-top tweetstorm last week. He railed against “fake news” and promised to “bitch slap these scum bags.” “Punch them in the nose & MAKE THEM TASTE THEIR OWN BLOOD. Nothing gets a bully like LYING LIB MEDIA’S attention better than to give them a taste of their own blood” he added. In earlier times, a prominent supporter of the president making unhinged violent threats against journalists like this might have been perceived as scandalous and embarrassing, but it’s just another day in the Trump era, where this kind of authoritarian rhetoric has been normalized.
Just this last Sunday, hotheaded Trump adviser Stephen Miller had an interview cut off by Jake Tapper on CNN, providing some extra backdrop for the cartoon.
The Republican tax bill — and the way it was passed, in gross violation of democratic norms — resembles the hyper-corruption we typically see in authoritarian kleptocracies. As the cartoon lays out, there are many ways in which the US is moving towards the kind of dystopian state we used to satirize.
It’s not a stretch at all to note these similarities between the authoritarian tactics of the present-day GOP and Russian oligarchs. Yet I’ve noticed a knee-jerk reaction among some readers whenever Russia comes up. Some object because they see concerns about Russian interference in the 2016 elections as somehow overshadowing the fact that America had plenty of problems with its own political system before Russia got involved. To which I respond, duh. This does not obviate the fact that Russia’s efforts were highly effective. If you follow international news, it’s clear that these influence campaigns are a global problem. Of course, this cartoon isn’t even about election interference, except for the panel about Fox spreading BS about the Mueller investigation.
Another hot take that makes me groan is that criticism of Russia in 2017 amounts to “red-baiting” or McCarthyism. These people have their heads stuck up a 20th-century butt. (Don’t think about that too hard.) You see, in 1950s America, the McCarthyites were the people in power. They persecuted essentially powerless actors and writers for having political sympathies largely imagined. Today’s America is a completely different context. The people in power — virtually unchecked power, mind you — are the ones colluding with a repressive, right-wing traditionalist, crony capitalist Russia. If anything, they are the neo-McCarthyites, quashing dissent by charging peaceful protesters with felony rioting, infiltrating leftist activist groups, and implying entire demographic groups are criminals or terrorists.
I neglected to post on Tuesday, as I used a “classic” cartoon this week. But better late than never, and this one is as timely as ever given the looting of the country that just occurred with the sociopathic Republican tax bill.
As I wrote in 2010, when this was first published: “One almost gets the impression from the GOP that something is wrong with you if you’re still doing actual, useful work.”
Regular readers will note that I do one of these every couple years or so. This year, Mr. and Mrs. Perkins find themselves in a strip mall evoking a fascist dystopia. When I was first starting out as a political cartoonist, I did not anticipate having to actually satirize Nazism in America, but here we are.
Since someone is bound to mention it, I am aware of the Cats That Look Like Hitler website, which I discovered in the earlier, somewhat more innocent days of the internet.
I hate to be a downer here, but the attack on our justice system is a five-alarm fire, and I think some people need reminding that not everything can be fixed with the next swing of the political pendulum.
Relevant reading: This Mother Jones article, “How Donald Trump is Remaking the Courts in His Own Image” (which I actually discovered after I had written most of this cartoon, but it makes a perfect companion piece).
Also: this piece on the the court-packing scheme currently being floated by the founder and board chair of the Federalist Society, which guides Trump’s radical judicial picks. They aren’t shy about stating their objective: “undoing the judicial legacy of President Barack Obama.”
What can we do? I don’t think we give up hope, but we need a better understanding of presidential elections. We get so bogged down in the petty details of individual personalities, when we’re really voting for a vast sea of public servants, with massive consequences that extend far into the future. (For the record, I’ve been making this point since before 2016.)
Also, the judiciary exists as a vague abstraction for most people — even the word “judiciary” is dry — so the theft of the courts doesn’t exactly burn up social media as much as, say, a story about a powerful media figure whipping out his johnson in professional settings. Not that that’s not important! But like taxes, the law lacks interesting visuals, so we tend to dismiss it as “boring.” I tried to bring it down to earth here a bit with the Trump heads.
The mass arrests at the Trump inauguration protests (and at other protests around the country) are a breathtaking abuse of power that should leave every American appalled, no matter what their political leanings.
For more on the latest efforts to criminalize protest, read this op-ed column by a woman who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time and has spent the last year fighting felony charges. This is also chilling. Did I mention the police were doing body cavity searches that left a photojournalist feeling as though he’d been raped?
I still remember being horrified by the indiscriminate roundups at the 2004 Republican National Convention in NYC, when hundreds of people were trapped and unlawfully detained by the NYPD. A decade later, the city settled a lawsuit for $18 million.
The “us vs. them” clash-of-civilizations worldview of Steve Bannon and other nationalist types has more in common with the ISIS worldview than with American pluralism. It’s remarkable how extremists mirror each other.
If you missed this op-ed piece written by NFL player Eric Reid, it’s worth checking out. The kneel was chosen as a respectful gesture, like a flag at half mast. Our government has literally been taken over by Nazi sympathizers, yet many people are furious at football players protesting racism.
Just in case you missed the news about journalist Mark Halperin, this quote will fill you in:
“The first meeting I ever had with him was in his office and he just came up from behind — I was sitting in a chair from across his desk — and he came up behind me and [while he was clothed] he pressed his body on mine, his penis, on my shoulder,” this woman told CNN. “I was obviously completely shocked. I can’t even remember how I got out of there — [but] I got out of there and was freaked out by that whole experience. Given I was so young and new I wasn’t sure if that was the sort of thing that was expected of you if you wanted something from a male figure in news.”
According to the article, three women have come forward to say Halperin pressed erections against them, though he denies the claim.
As Rebecca Traister notes, men like Halperin, Weinstein, and O’Reilly have been influential in shaping our cultural and political narratives. This isn’t just about what happens behind the scenes.