The Sorensen Monologues

Archive for December 26th, 2017

Behind the Red White and Blue Curtain

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.

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.