The Sorensen Monologues

Archive for July, 2019

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.


The Republican racism quiz

This past week, we’ve seen the amazing redefinition of racism to mean “criticism of Trump by four Congresswomen of color.” On the heels of his infamous rally in which the crowd chanted “SEND HER BACK!” about Ilhan Omar, Trump tweeted “The ‘Squad’ is a very Racist group of troublemakers who are young, inexperienced, and not very smart.”  So now we have two contradictory arguments from Republicans when they commit acts of bigotry. There is no racism and progressives throw around that word too much — and when they do, they are being racist. (Not only that, but “Racist” with a random capital “R” as is Trump’s wont). It’s illogical, but we are post-logic now, so it’s all good.

For a discussion of the difference between Obama’s questionable immigration policies and Trump’s despicable immigration policies, see this Vox article.

Help sustain these comics — join the Sorensen Subscription Service!


First They Came For The Tofu Dogs…

As plant-derived meat products gain in popularity, Big Meat is fighting back with labeling laws such as the one passed in Mississippi. Vox has a good summary:

The state now bans plant-based meat providers from using labels like “veggie burger” or “vegan hot dog” on their products. Such labels are potentially punishable with jail time. Words like “burger” and “hot dog” would be permitted only for products from slaughtered livestock. Proponents claim the law is necessary to avoid confusing consumers — but given that the phrase “veggie burger” hasn’t been especially confusing for consumers this whole time, it certainly seems more like an effort to keep alternatives to meat away from shoppers.

According to this Memphis news station, the state is also banning the terms “meatless meatballs” and “vegan bacon.” I regret that I found this source too late to include any meatball jokes in the cartoon. I especially loved the response from the Mississippi Agriculture and Commerce Commissioner to charges of anti-competitive protectionism of the meat industry:

“That’s hogwash,” said Mississippi Agriculture and Commerce Commissioner Andy Gipson. “What prompted this movement is that consumers of Mississippi have been crying out confused about what’s on the shelf. Is this meat? Or is this not meat?”

Yes, he actually used the word “hogwash.” Also, I think he’s insulting the intelligence of Mississippians more than he intends to here. I have a hard time envisioning many people looking at a package labeled “Meatless Veggie Burgers” and crying out in despair “BUT IS IT MEAT???”

I find the right’s obsession with meat culturally fascinating. When it made the news a few months ago that cattle farming is contributing massively to climate change, Fox and other outlets went bonkers with fear-stoking about “the libs wanting to take away your hamburgers.” The alt-right regularly insults lefty men as “soy boys” (never mind the fact that soy protein is excellent for building muscle mass). Meat is so heavily gendered and semiotically rich, there’s so much to unpack!

Help sustain these comics — join the Sorensen Subscription Service!

Follow me on Twitter at @JenSorensen


Populism vs. Populism

I’ve been wanting to talk about the word “populism” for a while, as it’s been abused so much in political discourse lately that it has become meaningless and, I would argue, misleading. The term has always been a bit nebulous — a positive interpretation is “ordinary people vs. the powers that be” or “the grassroots.” A less charitable usage is “politicians pandering to the masses” or “rabble-rousing,” which is in itself an implicit critique of democracy’s potential excesses — giving the people what they want without regard to the soundness of the policy.

Nowadays, the term is used routinely by journalists to refer to two movements that are pretty much opposites; it has become an empty word that lets journalists off the hook from actually having to describe the content of the political movements to which they are referring. Trump (and Bannon and other right-wing authoritarian leaders around the world) is often referred to as a “populist” because he displays faux concern for the working class and a resentment of science and education, but his policies are in fact grotesquely elitist. If by “populist” we mean whipping up resentment against immigrants and people of color, then we should say that. Otherwise, “populism” is just a lazy euphemism for racism.

Put another way, “populism” has become a tool for false equivalence between corrupt oligarchs and progressive leaders who operate in the traditions of enlightened democracy.


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.

Archives