With all this talk of immigrants assimilating (or not assimilating) into “our culture,” it’s often implied that said culture is white and Christian. But if you consider that America is, in fact, a highly-diverse nation of immigrants — E pluribus unum, anyone? — the true outliers seem to be those who view the nation as a monolithic body resembling themselves. If anything, it is these folks who have not fully integrated, and who reject American values.
In the second panel, I originally drew “Sweet Home Alabama” blasting out of the pickup truck, but that particular lyric complicated the message I was trying to convey with the Confederate flag, since Alabama actually is a part of the United States thanks to the outcome of the Civil War. So I opted for some fitting lyrics from “Free Bird” instead.
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Plutocratic putz Howard Schultz is often referred to as a “centrist” who is outraged at the “leftward” shift of the Democratic party, with special animus towards those Democrats calling for higher taxes on the super-wealthy. I am troubled by the rightward shift of our conception of the political “center” — the product of the right growing ever more extreme while the Dems have, over the years, tended to compromise in the name of bipartisanship. Defining the center as the halfway point between two parties without regard to policy specifics is both meaningless and insane. Even calling Schultz “socially liberal and economically conservative” makes no sense. The two are interrelated, with the latter undermining the former.
I suspect many of my fellow lefties will recoil at the thought of being “centrist” in any way. But we need to buck the both-sidesism that creates false equivalence between progressive Democrats and the lunatics of the Trump administration.
Just as the Dems have been putting forward some popular and economically-sound ideas about helping working people, along comes ex-Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz to dump on everything. Among Schultz’s many inane statements: “We haven’t had a balanced budget since President [Bill] Clinton. Think about that.”
Yeah, because the George W. Bush, Obama, and Trump administrations have all been equally fiscally irresponsible, right? And it’s not like one of those presidents inherited a devastating recession and grossly-mismanaged budget himself, and did a pretty good job of fixing things. Republicans can blow up the budget until the cows come home, but Dems will always get the finger wag no matter how many times they clean up a mess.
I wrote the penthouse joke in the third panel before I checked to see whether Howard Schultz actually had one, and sure enough, he bought a $40 million penthouse in the West Village of NYC in 2017. So no worries there!
I’ve watched the much-talked about Gillette ad a couple times now, and I have to say, it’s hardly controversial. In fact, I’d argue any news outlet describing it as controversial is misrepresenting what’s actually in the ad. The campaign does a pretty good job of suggesting how men can be positive role models, tying the concept of “manhood” to stopping bullies and intervening to prevent sexual harassment from other men. As this Huffpo piece argues, it’s actually fairly conservative, in the sense that it puts forward a virtuous, heroic ideal of masculinity. Men as a whole aren’t insulted at all. Not that you’d get that impression listening to the right-wing rage machine, which has twisted the ad into “man-hating.” I mean, there’s a clip of Terry Crews (aka Camacho from Idiocracy — not exactly an emasculated wimp!) in there discussing the need for men to hold other men accountable for sexual assault. The fact that so many people are infuriated by these mild suggestions is just plain weird — and speaks volumes about the extremist vision of traditional patriarchy that underlies Trumpism.
While the shutdown is ostensibly about a border wall, I think it’s useful to remember that infamous statement from Steve Bannon during his brief tenure as White House strategist, in which he called for “the deconstruction of the administrative state.” Yesterday, an anonymous Trump administration official wrote an op-ed in Tucker Carlson’s journalistically-challenged tabloid site The Daily Caller, suggesting that the shutdown “is an opportunity to strip wasteful government agencies for good.” From TPM:
The op-ed’s author wrote that “many federal agencies are now operating more effectively from the top down on a fraction of their workforce” and that “we do not want most employees to return, because we are working better without them.”
Ha, right! That’s 800,000 people! Meanwhile, unpaid TSA screeners are calling in sick, aircraft safety inspections are stalled, FDA food inspections have stopped. The list goes on.
In case you missed the news about Joshua Tree National Park, some idiots took advantage of the shutdown to chop down threatened Joshua trees to make illegal trails for off-road vehicles.
There was a debate last week over the suggestion that Elizabeth Warren may face the same “likability” issues as Hillary Clinton. I would argue that the idea of “likability” for a female candidate is problematic, as it fails to address the very real social context in which female authority figures are seen as less likable than their male peers. This piece on NBC does a pretty good job of explaining the issue.
Regarding Warren, I’d suggest that the fair question to ask is not “Is she likable?” but rather, “Can America overcome its sexism and anti-intellectualism enough to vote for her?” I wish I could confidently say yes, but I’m not so sure, despite the success of female candidates in the midterms. The authoritarian wave sweeping the world is very much a reassertion of traditional ideas about masculinity. I say all of this as a big fan of Elizabeth Warren, who has always felt like an alter ego if I’d gone to law school. I even dressed up as her for Halloween once.
This week’s comic is one final holiday classic before I head back into the trenches, although it has been updated to reflect 2018 data about the CEO-to-average worker pay ratio. The original strip from 2011 cited a statistic of 343 to 1. According to this Forbes article citing an AFL-CIO report, the pay gap has widened to 361 to 1. In the 1950s, the ratio was more like 20:1. Thank goodness no economic policies have been enacted to exacerbate this trend!
Continuing with our “classics for the holidays,” here’s a personal fave from 2012. As I wrote at the time:
I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of hearing smug Republicans toot their success horns while nagging the rest of us to work harder.
It takes a lot of chutzpah to oppose anything that might help American workers get ahead — unions, a robust safety net, minimum wage hikes — and then blame those workers for not earning enough money to pay federal income taxes (never mind all the other taxes they do pay). You can’t have it both ways! You can’t upend people’s lives through corporate takeovers and then call the downsized “irresponsible.” You can’t sow market chaos through deregulation and scoff at the small business owner who can’t survive the downturn. The disconnect is astounding. But such is the power of ideology.
Unfortunately, Big Plutocracy has only gotten bigger since then.
A couple of housekeeping notes: A few people have mentioned that the Facebook share button isn’t working anymore. I clearly need to do some site maintenance, which has become less of a priority since Google ads started paying crap and I decided to direct traffic to paying clients instead. Hopefully I will get a chance to make some updates over the holidays.
Secondly, sincere thanks to those of you who have joined my subscriber service. As time goes on, reader subscriptions will play an increasingly important role in sustaining the cartoon. So if the thought of getting each cartoon hot off the press, delivered to your inbox along with a smattering of commentary each Tuesday morning appeals to you, please consider joining.
A classic for the holidays, as is my wont. This installment of Mr. and Mrs. P’s shopping adventures was written after a trip to an upscale kitchenware store. As I wrote in 2011, “Even though I’m not a 1% chef, I do enjoy ogling things like 15-pound cast-iron skillets and knives bearing vaguely-Teutonic insignias.”
The presents I would like to send to people this year are, unfortunately, not available in stores. I would like to send an assurance that the Affordable Care Act will still be around in a few years, or a Medicare for All coupon. I would like to wrap up democracy itself with a nice red white and blue ribbon, to give to everyone who has had their voting rights compromised. Alas, the best I can do is fancy soaps.
Okay, I suppose things got a little dark this week. I’ve been wanting to comment on the weirdness of experiencing all the usual holiday frivolity during these very abnormal times. Just the other day, there was news of greenhouse gas emissions accelerating like a “speeding freight train” on the same day Trump announced a plan to open up nine million acres of land reserved for sage grouse protection to oil exploration. And in a chilling display of authoritarianism, the Republican legislature in Wisconsin voted in the dead of night to strip away power from the newly-elected Democratic governor. While these stories made newspaper headlines, I don’t entirely get the sense that Americans, as a whole, are deeply rattled. Bells continue to jingle and car antlers continue to sprout. Not that I begrudge people their reindeer fun. Indeed, it is possible to affix a plush red Rudolph nose to the grill of one’s automobile and be concerned about the demise of democracy at the same time.
To be clear, my intention here is not to say that refugees necessarily lead to fascism. Rather, it’s hyperbolic, inflammatory rhetoric about migrants that leads there. Without irresponsible right-wing media demonizing entire groups of people round the clock, I suspect the national conversation would look a bit different.
U.S. foreign policy has unfortunately played into the creation of some of these very refugees. With the Iraq War, we destabilized a whole region and opened up a power vacuum filled by terrorist movements. Then there’s been decades of US involvement in Central America, also not unrelated to current migrants fleeing violence.