As usual, 2012 was an excellent year for American editorial cartooning. Indeed, one of the great ironies is that we live in a golden age of political cartooning, a time when the artform has never been as vibrant or interesting at any point in American history and when people have never been more interested in or engaged in the format. There are huge problems, of course, tied to the economics of print media and the failure of online media to step up to the plate and hire political cartoonists. Hopefully that will sort itself out in 2013 and coming years as online producers discovered that the Internet is a visual medium and that political cartoons are incredibly popular.
So I thought I would go through and present some of the cartoons that I consider my favorite for the year.
This cartoon was done early on in the presidential campaign, being distributed for syndication on January 4. It wasn’t even clear that Mitt Romney would be the Republican nominee at this point. Nevertheless, I am putting this one up because it serves as an all-purpose indictment of what went wrong with the Romney candidacy. He was wooden and impossible to relate to. In the final analysis, his personality was impossible to overcome.
(If I were churlish, I would complain about the fact that many other comedians ripped off my depiction of him as the Mitt-Bot, which went back to 2008.)
This one ran January 25. At this point, the OWS movement was still going fairly strong. One of the big debates in the movement was about the pros and cons of violence versus nonviolence. The reformist wing of the movement opposes violence no matter what. The revolutionary wing understands that radical change rarely comes without revolution and that revolutionary change rarely comes without violence. Of all of the cartoons I have done exploring this issue in the past, this one really is one of my favorites. I could see doing it as a video, if only I could find someone willing to pay for my cartoon animated videos.
The economy was the big issue of 2012, even though in the end the electorate decided not to punish Pres. Obama for his inaction. I have long been fascinated by the ability of government to manipulate statistics in order to make harsh cold reality look like something else – even when people are actually living through that harsh cold reality. Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes? Or your lying wallet? The official unemployment rate hovered around 9%, but that didn’t count people whose unemployment benefits had run out. The real unemployment rate was closer to 22 to 24%.
For liberals and progressives, 2012 was a classic case of the two-party trap. Did you vote for Barack Obama despite his consistently right-wing record as president over the previous four years? Or did you vote for Mitt Romney whom you knew would be even worse? Or did you sit at home and on your hands, knowing that your failure to vote for Obama would increase the chances of policies you like even less coming to pass? For me, I had clarity. Quite simply, I absolutely will never vote for a candidate whom I would not be happy to see in office. That man was simply not Barack Obama. This cartoon, which was released on March 30, caused a lot of consternation on the left and probably ensured that I will not be embraced by mainstream liberal publications.
Officially speaking, the United States will withdraw combat troops from Afghanistan in the year 2014. In reality, however, Pres. Obama signed a support agreement for the regime of Pres. Hamid Karzai that will probably keep the United States fighting in Afghanistan until at least 2024.
Liberals who decided to vote for Obama despite his record claimed that he would become more progressive, moving to the left, in a second term. This cartoon notes that, had this happened – and there is no indication that it will – it would have been in complete defiance of the historical record. This cartoon ran on June 4.
In early July, the US Supreme Court ruled that Pres. Obama’s healthcare reform law was constitutional. This deprived Republicans of a major talking point, namely that they would repeal Obamacare. Everyone I knew greeted the news with a shrug, since the health care reform act was so incredibly watered down in favor of insurance company profits.
I have done so many cartoons about the drone wars that people online make fun of me about it. Personally, I think it is an incredibly important issue. The only cartoonists who really care about this are me and Matt Bors. We have talked about it a lot, and we think it’s simply too important to ignore. Of the ones that I did this year, this one was one of my favorites. It’s true, hackers have learned how to bring down and take over American drone planes. That may well be how Iran has started to capture them. When I think hackers… This one ran July 4.
As Civil War heated up in Syria, the United States started to funnel in weapons and money. As usual, the United States is backing radical fundamentalist Islamist militants against a secular socialist dictatorship. I would argue that the best choice would be to not get involved at all, but we are certainly choosing a side that is likely to bite us in the ass in the future. As for the Syrian point of view, you have to wonder why they want us involved. Indeed, months after this cartoon ran on July 30, neoconservatives in Washington started to call for direct US military intervention in order to fight the very same radical Muslims that we are arming and funding. Here we go again…
Massacres carried out by crazed gunman wielding assault rifles dominated the news and made gun control an issue again. I did a number of cartoons about the massacre in a movie theater in Aurora Colorado as well as the one at Sandy Hill alum and true school in Newtown Connecticut. Every time these things happen, you get the same boilerplate expressions of fake grief from politicians and journalists on television who don’t give a damn about it. Really, if they can’t write something new, they should just shut up.
On August 15, when this cartoon ran, the Republican Party had already decided to line up behind Mitt Romney. Of the many problems faced by the GOP this year, the biggest one was there platform. On social issues they were simply so out of touch and in such total disagreement with the broad base of the American public that there was no way to relate. But instead of considering changing their stances as outmoded and racist and homophobic, Republican leaders took the advice of strategists to downplay social issues and focus on the economy instead. The problem with that of course was that Republicans had no more credibility than Democrats.
Finally, after years of ignoring liberal advice to run an aggressive campaign against the Republicans, Pres. Obama came out swinging against Romney. At least in tone. Which was something. Or maybe nothing. Three months later, after winning, Obama would voluntarily roll back his promise to raise taxes on Americans earning more than $250,000 a year, and would appoint a Republican as Secretary of Defense.