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.
As I noted a few weeks ago, Fox Propaganda accused CNN of advancing a “leftist agenda” for bringing up a possible connection between climate change and the freakish storm that hit Texas. Around that time I was also gobsmacked by a quote from the CEO of the Weather Channel:
“I believe in climate change, and I believe it’s man-made,” said Dave Shull, the company’s chief executive and a Republican, who spent much of Friday in the newsroom. “But I’m not a big fan of the term. It’s been politicized.”
Emphasis mine. The article explains how the Weather Channel is afraid of alienating its core audience by bringing up the subject. Hell, why bring up the weather at all, if you’re going to be that squeamish about science?
Republicans use the same tactic for shutting down discussion about gun control after mass shootings, claiming that would be “politicizing” a tragedy. Crying politicization in these contexts is not a valid argument; it’s simply a ploy to silence ideas that conflict with their agenda, and news outlets shouldn’t kowtow to it.
Women are damned in workplace harassment situations no matter what they do. Of course, rape and sexual assault victims (as many of Harvey Weinstein’s accusers claim to be) don’t have a choice.
I have to say, drawing a cartoon about a dangerously incompetent president’s imbecilic comments about the destruction of Puerto Rico while watching one of the worst mass shootings in American history unfold, is not exactly fun.
I know America of yesteryear (and by yesteryear, I mean before Trump, Nazis, Russian hackers, and the threat of nuclear war with North Korea became part of our nauseating daily news diet) had plenty of problems, and to some extent the country has never been “normal.” There’s a clear continuum, of course, between the KKK and the modern alt-right. But generally speaking, we’ve entered whole new levels of weirdness, such that the awful times that inspired me to become a political cartoonist in the first place now seem almost comforting to think about.
Fifteen years ago, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott remarked at Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday party, “When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn’t have had all these problems over all these years, either.” Thurmond ran as a Dixiecrat opposed to “social intermingling of the races.” The comment cost Lott his leadership role.
To state the obvious, I am not saying that we shouldn’t care about white poverty or that poor whites haven’t had to endure their share of shaming from a punitive culture that uses wealth to determine the value of a human being (a source of condescension, it’s important to note, that originates from the right and its cult of market fundamentalism).
That said, there’s been a spate of sympathetic talk lately about the plight of working-class whites, expressing concern about the loss of economic opportunity in rural America and the rise of the opioid epidemic. A mythology has formed around the forgotten white man, and outrage has been manufactured — mostly by Fox and other conservative outlets — to blame the left for his struggles. This narrative has been so powerful that conventional wisdom spewers tend to forget that Trump’s voter base was relatively affluent and did not in fact represent the working class. (Valorization of white, blue collar men as the epitome of American authenticity is nothing new, of course. See: countless advertising campaigns from the past several decades.)
Again, I have no intention of diminishing the problems of anyone in the throes of poverty; yet I can’t help wonder where all this sympathy has been for black neighborhoods suffering from a lack of economic opportunity, or for the problems of addiction faced by communities of color. The condescending (and inaccurate) language used to describe black poverty is widespread among mainstream commentators on the right.
In response to this cartoon, a commenter on Daily Kos shared a link to this thought experiment by Anil Dash, imagining “if Asian Americans saw white Americans the way white Americans see black Americans.” I hadn’t seen it, but it’s making a similar point.
There were other economic factors I could have mentioned in this cartoon, such as tax policy that promotes extreme inequality, or companies offshoring, or the entire perverse system of Wall Street incentives that benefits the investor class at the expense of workers. And there’s also the much-ignored fact that economic-minded voters tended to go for Clinton. Alas, I couldn’t fit all of these complexities into one comic. But I wanted address the problem that many anti-immigrant types tend to unfairly blame immigrants for economic woes while overlooking (or even enabling) policies that hurt ordinary Americans.
While I tend to avoid self-checkout lines myself, I understand that it’s impossible to go through life avoiding technologies that displace workers. Mobile check depositing, for example, is a blessing for freelancers. I try to look at the big picture and do what I reasonably can.