Democrats and Republicans Agree: Better to Lose Than to Shut Up

 “When you surround an army,” Sun Tzu counseled in The Art of War, “leave an outlet free. Do not press a desperate foe too hard.” Partisans on both sides of America’s everything-looks-like-a-hammer politics have forgotten this basic tenet of strategy—and are likely to pay for it.

            Donald Trump announced that he expects to be arrested in New York and indicted in connection with charges that media reports say are about to be filed by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. Democrats greeted the news with characteristic gloating.

            “[Trump] cannot hide from his violations of the law, disrespect for our elections and incitements to violence,” tweeted former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The New York charges concern the allegation that he misappropriated campaign funds in order to pay hush money to Stormy Daniels, who says she had sex with the former president. They have nothing to do with denying the result of the 2000 election or the January 6th Capitol riot.


            “I’ll throw a watch party when it happens,” Alyssa Farah Griffin said on ABC’s The View. “Lock him up! Lock him up!” Joy Behar responded, echoing the anti-Hillary chant at Trump’s rallies.

            Schadenfreude is wicked fun, but gleeful Trump-bashers might want to consider the consequences: Grievance-mongering is one of Trump’s main political schticks. Revel in the T-shirt of the presidential mugshot but remember, MAGA nation will use it to rile up the GOP base—and bring back some 2016 Trump voters who became Never Trumpers as well. In a Trump perp walk (I’d advise him to demand one), conservatives will see maddening injustice where liberals see just desserts.

            Indeed, even Trump’s primary challengers are coming to his defense. What doesn’t kill Trump makes him stronger; an arrest coupled with liberal gloating thereabout plays into his narrative that he receives unfair and disproportionate opprobrium while swampy mainstream pols get away with murder, hardens his supporters’ resolve, and increases his chances of being restored to power. “If this happens, Trump will be re-elected in a landslide victory,” Elon Musk predicted.

            Meanwhile, Republicans are overplaying their hand on abortion.

            Pro-lifers have launched a novel legal challenge to FDA authorization of the abortion drug mifepristone in a federal court in Texas, a case that will probably be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. Wyoming recently banned medication abortion. A South Carolina bill would define abortion as murder punishable by life in prison or capital punishment. Considering that 85% of voters favor legal abortion in all or some circumstances—a record high since 1976—they might ask themselves whether they’ve blown up a bridge too far.

            One-third of American women now live in a state where abortion is illegal due to the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Most abortion-ban states have exceptions for rape, incest and the life of mother on their books, but in practice very few exceptions are ever granted. A lawsuit filed by five women in Texas who nearly died because they were denied abortions to which state law said they were entitled highlights that reality.

            When widespread demand encounters legal prohibition, people generally resort to a workaround—legally if possible, underground if not. There are roughly a million abortions annually. Medication abortions using mifepristone to block hormones that support pregnancy and misoprostol to empty the uterus accounted for 53% of U.S. pregnancy terminations in 2020, a portion that has almost certainly increased with the spread of telemedicine during the pandemic and the Dobbs decision.

            The mifepristone option has served as a socio-political pressure-release valve since Dobbs. Red-state women get still obtain abortions without traveling hundreds of miles. Red-state politicians can pander to pro-life voters, pointing out that abortion is far more difficult to obtain without looking like full-fledged Handmaid’s-Tale despots. The loser has been the pro-choice movement, which lacks the galvanizing effect of a 100% abortion ban.

            If SCOTUS overrules the FDA and kills mifepristone, the pressure-release valve gets closed—and not just in the 28 states that currently ban abortion. Medication abortion, the easiest and therefore most common type of abortion, vanishes in all 50 states. In an election year, the mere effort to ban mifepristone may be sufficient to enrage liberal voters. If it succeeds, watch out. Abortion rights aren’t currently a top issue for left-leaning voters, but an actual ban could spur even disgruntled progressives to turn out for Democrats about whom they otherwise might not have felt enthused.

            What should the two parties have done instead?

In an ideal world, Democratic prosecutors and investigators would have coordinated their efforts, bypassing novel legal theories like AG Bragg’s that are politically flimsy and unlikely to lead to conviction in favor of rock-solid charges like business fraud and instigating a riot. Now that an indictment appears to be forthcoming, Democrats could have assumed a sober mien, pointing out the sad necessity of having to book a former president like a common criminal. They shouldn’t be jumping up and down like overstimulated infants.

            Republicans, on the other hand, should have taken a breather on their fight against abortion. Had they waited a few years to let the new bifurcated legal normal to take hold, the pro-choice movement would have lost momentum as dispirited partisans drifted away having accepted defeat. Eventually, with Americans accustomed to abortion as less legal and rarer, they could have moved forward to ban all forms of abortion nationwide. Slow and steady, the same way economic conservatism was built up from the grass roots over decades following Goldwater’s 1964 rout, might have won this race.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, co-hosts the left-vs-right DMZ America podcast with fellow cartoonist Scott Stantis. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

DMZ America Podcast #93: Trump Says He’s About to Be Arrested

Former President Donald Trump announced that he expects to be arrested this Tuesday by the Manhattan district attorney in connection with charges related to misappropriation of campaign funds to pay hush money to porn star stormy Daniels, who alleges that she had an affair with him. In this special edition of the DMZ America podcast in which left-leaning editorial cartoonist Ted Rall debates politics with right-leaning editorial cartoonist Scott Stantis, they go over the social, legal and political implications of what appears to be an imminent indictment, the first of its kind against a former President of the United States. Is political violence inevitable? Will there be an uprising near the New York courthouse similar to January 6? Will Trump-weary republicans close ranks behind the former president? Does this hurt him or help him in his election campaign for 2024? Spoiler alert: Democrats should be careful what they have long wished for.



You can also watch the Video Version by clicking=> here

War for Taiwan? It Would Be Our Craziest War Ever

            America and the West have begun promoting the idea of a war against China over Taiwan. If China invades Taiwan, President Biden has said, the U.S. would go further than it has in Ukraine, sending American ground troops as well as weapons. 37% of American voters agree with Biden. But how do you go to war to defend a country from invading itself?

            According to the U.S., the U.N. and most of the world—including Taiwan itself—Taiwan is part of China.

Can the U.S. invade Ohio?

            Like many other nations places, Taiwan is in a tough spot caused by decisions made by U.S. policymakers many years ago.

            Until 1945 Taiwan was a Japanese colony. The birth certificate of my former father-in-law, an ethnic Taiwanese, read “Taipei, Japan.” The end of World War II brought a breather. Occupation forces withdrew. The Taiwanese expected independence as part of postwar decolonization. But America had other plans.

Across the Taiwan Strait, the Chinese civil war was drawing to a close. Mao Tse-Tung’s Communists were beating the far-right Nationalists (KMT) led by Chiang Kai-shek. The Nationalists, looting everything they could carry including China’s gold reserves, jumped aboard U.S. ships helpfully provided by President Harry Truman and fled to Taiwan. The exiled KMT took over, purged and murdered Taiwanese intellectuals and independence advocates and established a vicious authoritarian dictatorship of the type propped up by the U.S. around the globe during the Cold War. There was a remarkably calm transition to democracy following Chiang’s death.

            “When,” my father-in-law would ask me during one of our long political discussions, “will the United States give independence to Taiwan?”

            “Whether it’s the U.S. splitting from Britain, or East Timor,” I replied, “independence is taken, not given. You declare independence.” 1,400 Timorese died after declaring independence from Indonesia.

“We can’t do that,” he’d say. “China will invade. Many people will be killed.”

“Maybe they’d invade,” I’d replied. “Maybe not. But there’s no other way.”

            The Taiwanese people are unwilling to die. So Taiwan has never declared independence. Since the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949, the island of Taiwan­—whose legal name is the Republic of China—and mainland China have agreed on the legal fiction that Taiwan and China are part of the same country. Beijing calls Taiwan “a renegade province” it wants back in its fold; Taipei’s government, heir to the defeated Nationalist troops who fled to exile across the Taiwan Strait when the Communists seized power in 1949, officially maintains the ridiculous position that someday it will reconquer the mainland.

Mouse eats cat.

Like Kurdistan, Palestine and Pakistani Kashmir, Taiwan lingers in diplomatic purgatory, its people semi-stateless. It enjoys robust economic growth and de facto independence. But it’s not really a country. It has no seat at the U.N. Only 13 nations, most of the tiny—Belize, Haiti, Vatican City, Honduras, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Paraguay, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Tuvalu and Guatemala—recognize Taiwan as a country. Even its primary benefactor, the U.S., does not recognize it.

Yet Taiwan is different. Always on the periphery, the Chinese empire’s control of the island waxed and waned in proportion to its political stability and military strength, allowing the Taiwanese as well as the ethnic Han Chinese who migrated there from the mainland, to develop their own arts, food, and political and economic cultures. Seventy years of diplomatic limbo and de facto independence—their own coins, stamps, military—have accelerated those trends and made them feel permanent. They don’t want to be absorbed into the Borg, like Hong Kong.

            It isn’t hard to see why Taiwan’s people embrace the strategic ambiguity of diplomatic limbo. Life is good and getting better, money is rolling in, and—bluster aside—China seems unwilling to risk the chaos and economic cost of reclaiming an island it hasn’t had under direct control since the 19th century. Why fix the unbroken?

            Except—it is a broken situation. You can’t have national pride until you’re a nation. You can’t demand respect unless your people demonstrate courage. Most of all, there’s the question of what the future holds: President Xi Jinping seems smart enough not to try to put the band back together again, at least not via hard (military) power. What about his successor or his successor’s successor?

            Every now and then some Taiwanese political theorist gins up a farfetched workaround that promises to deliver independence without the risk of Chinese tanks rolling through Taipei. The 51 Club, founded in 1994 with 51 members, is a Taiwanese organization dedicated to the goal of turning the island into the 51st state of the United States. Presto! War with Taiwan is war against the United States—something the Chinese would never want.

The idea hasn’t exactly caught fire. “All the PLA [People’s Liberation Army] has to do is lob a few missiles over, and people will be swarming to us,” founder David Choi predicted in 1994. No missiles yet.

            Annette Lu, former vice president of Taiwan under the KMT, promotes One Zhonghua, a scheme under which Taiwan and China would form an economic commonwealth like the European Union, with economic integration and political independence. Neither the Chinese nor the Taiwanese are on board.

            There’s also a theory that the U.S. is, under international law, has been—and still is—the administrator of Taiwan since World War II. In 1945, the U.S. appointed Chiang’s Republic of China (KMT) to administer Taiwan—think of it like a sublet. The San Francisco Peace Treaty didn’t go into effect until seven years later, in 1952. “The treaty never mentioned who would receive Taiwan. Japan surrendered its former colony, but it never said to whom,” writes The Taipei Times. So who gets it? “Regarding Taiwan, the official U.S. position was, is and continues to be that it is ‘undecided.’” Biden may be hanging his hat on this bit of unfinished business.

            From a domestic U.S. political perspective, however, whatever enthusiasm Americans have for defending Taiwan would vanish as soon as they learn that we would be risking World War III over a “country” that isn’t even a country—and doesn’t claim to be. The United States has gotten itself into a lot of stupid wars, but this would be the craziest one ever.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, co-hosts the left-vs-right DMZ America podcast with fellow cartoonist Scott Stantis. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)


DMZ America Podcast #92 (plus Video Version): Are SVB and Signature Bank Just the Beginning? When Did the GOP Become the Peace Party? Things Seem Unreal Since Reality is Now Subjective

Internationally-syndicated cartoonists Ted Rall (from the Left) and Scott Stantis (from the Right) discuss the week’s pressing issues. In Segment One they break down the banking crisis, weighing the causes of the Silicon Valley Bank and Signature failures and what the repercussions may be. (Ted also congratulates Scott on his warnings that the Federal Reserve Board was pushing its anti-inflation rate increases far too hard, with the bank failures being the early results of those policies.) Next, Scott and Ted get you up-to-date on the most recent events in Ukraine. Which raises the question: will Ted join the Republican Party because of its ever growing antiwar stance on the Russia-Ukrainian conflict? Lastly, the boys discuss the growing notion that reality is subjective since we all seem to subscribe to our own version of what is real. A far-reaching and incredibly interesting DMZ America Podcast.   



If you liked the Audio version above, you may also enjoy the Video version of the DMZ America Podcast:

DMZ America Podcast Ep 92 Sec 1: Are SVB and Signature Bank Just the Beginning?

DMZ America Podcast Ep 92 Sec 2: When Did the GOP Become the Peace Party?

DMZ America Podcast Ep92 Sec 3: Things Seem Unreal Since Reality is Now Subjective

DMZ America Podcast #91 (Now with Video!): Abortion Bans Kill Women, France’s Fight for Retirement, “Liberal” Media Companies Line Up Behind Fox News

American political cartoonists Ted Rall (from the Left) and Scott Stantis (from the Right) discuss the hottest issues of the week. Abortion is at the top of the news again in the week of a landmark lawsuit filed by five Texas women who almost lost their lives because Texas Republicans have banned abortion in the state. As the 2024 presidential campaign heats up, pro-choice sentiment hits a record high in the polls—what does this mean for Republicans? French President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to increase the national retirement age from 62 to 64 has united the French people against him. Biden and the Democrats think they have a winning issue here with Social Security and Medicare, given Republicans’ previous messaging on the entitlement programs. Corporate media lawyers fret that defamation defendants could be vulnerable to accountability for their newsroom decisions should Dominion Voting Systems prevail in their $1.6 billion libel claim against Fox News. Would that be so terrible?

Watch the Video Version of the DMZ America Podcast:
Ep 91 Sec 1 – Texas Abortion Lawsuit
Ep 91 Sec 2 – France’s Retirement Fight
Ep 91 Sec 3 – Dominion vs. Fox News Defamation Lawsuit



Death to the Greedheads of Premiumization!

           The Five Boro Bike Tour is a glorious treat for big Apple bicyclists accustomed to dodging car doors, taxis and potholes in search of skimpy unprotected bike lanes blocked by double-parked delivery trucks. Once a year, the humble urban biker is elevated to king of the road.

You set out early one morning from the Financial District for an all-day exploration of some of the city’s most fascinating nooks and crannies. You navigate wide avenues l free of motor vehicles and make your way around Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn. You and your fellow cyclists enjoy free reign of some of the biggest bridges and highways, culminating with the final, challenging climb across the Verrazano bridge over New York Harbor to Staten Island. I did it more than 20 years ago and still remember shouting with joy as we coasted under the giant green reflector signs over the FDR Drive, nary a car in sight.

            I was planning to do it again this May. Then I found out about the fee.

            “Standard registration for adults and youths costs $129, plus processing fees, $27 of which is a tax-deductible charitable donation to Bike New York to fund our free bike education programs,” according to the Tour’s website. (Not that free.) When I did the tour two decades ago the cost was nominal, about $30. Now they’re charging $256 for two people—for a paper tag with a number on it and bottled water along the way? That’s the same as two nights in a decent hotel room, two Amtrak tickets from New York to Washington, two very nice restaurant meals, eight really good books.

$256? That ought to cover a bicycle rickshaw and someone else doing the pedaling.

            What really sent me into a blind rage, however, was the tour’s Dickensian caste system: For $400 plus $84 in “processing fees,” or $968 for two people—President Biden’s “junk fees” bill comes to mind–New York’s toniest cyclists can buy “VIP” tickets. VIP status buys you “guaranteed placement in the first start wave,” a “timed climb” across the Verrazano, breakfast and lunch, and some swag. The famished peasants who can only afford $156 cool their heels as they watch the VIPers chow down and speed off in front of them.

            There will be a Revolution. It will be violent. As always, the rich will go to their deaths wearing that idiotic wide-eyed “I’m totally surprised” expression. Us? Why are you so angry? What did we do?

            May these overprivileged bastards tumble over their handlebars, smash their designer helmets and empty brains on the pavement, and tote their custom, limited-edition Tour-branded Manhattan Portage bags on their tumbrels to the fires of Hell.

The bike tour’s sponsors and organizers appear to have succumbed to what The New York Times reports is a new trend of “premiumization” in the corporate world. “Businesses have long segmented customers, trying to push richer ones into pricier and more profitable purchases: Think of the spacious premium seats on a plane versus the cramped economy-class alternatives. But the trend picked up during the pandemic, and the lurch toward luxury is now spanning a wider array of products and services,” according to the Times.

Consumers may fall for it, but most of us despise premiumization. A 2016 study of “air rage” found that economy passengers were 3.84 times more likely to have an air-rage outburst on planes with first-class sections, and even more likely if they had to board through first class on their way to coach.

One of the best things about biking is that it’s a proletarian pursuit. You can buy an excellent bike new for $300—even less used on eBay. Bikes are inexpensive to maintain. You can wear shorts and a T-shirt. And it’s free transportation! The tour’s gentrification of something as liberating as bicycling is a galling corruption of a small-d democratic space.

Nowadays no product or service is so humble as to be immune from attempts to subject it to hateful first-class/coach class stratification. The Times notes that Krispy Kreme plans to sell “premium specialty doughnuts” during the holidays. What are you going to ask your child to eat, our new expensive doughnuts or our old regular crappy ones? After building consumer loyalty with generic weed, legalized cannabis companies’ next step is to upsell by offering higher CBD and THC content. “WD-40, the firm that makes the lubricant of the same name, has found that customers will pay more for products with enhancements, like a can with a ‘smart straw’ to spray the lubricant in two different ways—in either a precision stream or more of a mist.”

            Let the peasants lubricate imprecisely.

            Premiumization has failed in amusement parks. After annoyed visitors stopped attending, Disney was forced to roll back obnoxious fees for parking at its parks and reduced the number of “premium days”—i.e., high-demand days to visit, because people find those days convenient—for which it charged extra. “In the nine months through September, attendance at [Six Flags] parks fell by 25% from the year before, spending per guest rose 22% and, in the end, profits fell by nearly 10%.”

AMC Theaters has taken heat for its plan to shunt poorer moviegoers into slum seats with poor sightlines. “The movie theater is and always has been a sacred democratic space for all and this new initiative by @AMCTheatres would essentially penalize people for lower income and reward for higher income,” tweeted the actor Elijah Wood.

In a capitalist economy, of course, democracy is an illusion. Prior to AMC’s move the best seat in the house went to whoever lined up first. Many people can’t afford to go to the movies at all. As for the bourgeois who all paid the same price to get in, some could get popcorn and Skittles while others went without. They drove different cars to get there. They went home to residences ranging from penthouses to housing projects. But Americans still value the fiction that everyone is middle class.

            Money talks, fairness walks. Premiumization will vanish if and when Americans decide to Just Say No to price-gouging, upselling and stratified consumer castes. As for me, I’ll save a few hundred bucks and conduct my own personal bike tour around NYC for free, at my own convenience—with no up-charge for dodging car doors and potholes.

            Until the Revolution, anyway.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, co-hosts the left-vs-right DMZ America podcast with fellow cartoonist Scott Stantis. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)


Ron DeSantis Has a Secret Weapon. He’s a Master of Wedge Issues.

           Donald Trump remains the favorite for the GOP nomination. In theoretical 2024 matchups against Joe Biden, however, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has begun to outperform the president where Trump would be projected to lose. But DeSantis might falter once Democratic voters start to pay serious attention to him.

            DeSantis knows that. He plans to undermine liberal opposition with his secret weapon: his consistent ability to identify populist themes tailormade for partisan Republican primary voters, yet are crafted to tear away enough Democrats to become wedge issues in a general election campaign.

DeSantis has staked out a hardline position as the heir apparent to lead the MAGA movement—thank you, Donald, time to pass the torch—whose conservative positions and aggressive tone could turn off moderates and spook liberals into turning out in higher numbers. DeSantis can mitigate that challenge by creating some common ground with his natural enemies.  His current slate of wedge-issues-to-be, which prima facie look like red meat for the growling dogs of the right base, also have potential to pull in centrists and even some progressives who silently concur.

Of the various national and regional responses to the pandemic, Florida initially joined the national lockdown but then landed solidly into the rapid-reopening camp. “People know that Florida is a free state,” DeSantis summarized his position a year ago. “They’re not gonna have you shut down. They’re not gonna have restrictions.” After late 2020 if you wanted to eat indoors or you wanted your kid to attend physical school with flesh-and-blood teachers without a mask, Florida became your beacon—so much so that it triggered a mini-migration to the state.

Critics say DeSantis played fast and loose with Covid death and infection data in order to disguise the failure of a policy in which Floridians had a higher case rate than the national average and Florida seniors had “a higher death rate than any other state” as of late 2022, according to the CDC.

In politics, perception is reality. DeSantis’ “Covid gamble paid off,” as Helen Lewis observed in The Atlantic. “When liberals look at DeSantis, they see a culture warrior with authoritarian tendencies,” Lewis wrote. “But as Americans have tired of pandemic precautions, and as regrets about long school closures have surfaced even among Democrats, DeSantis has been able to attract swing voters [in his gubernatorial reelection campaign] by positioning himself as a champion of both cultural and economic freedom.”

            DeSantis’ nativist stance on the migrant crisis plays a similar tune. Flying clueless asylum applicants to Martha’s Vineyard was counterproductive—it would have  been cheaper to house them indefinitely than to blow a cool $12 million of Floridians’ tax dollars on a stunt—and cruel. But closed-border hardliners loved it.

And some Democrats silently cheered. At least DeSantis did something to draw attention to immigration—which Biden and the Democrats would rather not discuss. The border crisis became a major topic of debate during the 2022 midterms, during which frustrated Democrats in vulnerable districts lashed out at the White House for their failure to grasp immigration as a potential wedge. A Spectrum News/Siena College Poll released a month before the midterms found that DeSantis was onto something: 50% of independents supported Florida deporting migrants, especially to Massachusetts and New York. He retained strong support among his state’s Latinos.

Nationally, Democratic voters remain pro-immigration. But things are beginning to shift in a direction that creates an opportunity for a disciplined Republican message to create inroads among swing voters. “The percentage of Democrats dissatisfied and desiring less immigration was nearly nonexistent in 2021, at 2%, before rising to 11% last year and 19% now,” Gallup reported on February 13th. “Independents’ dissatisfaction and preference for less immigration has about doubled since 2021, rising from 19% at that time to 36% today.”

DeSantis’ attacks on “woke” education and AP Black Studies presents as a classic racist dog whistle to Biden Democrats. “He’s gone full-blown white supremacist,” columnist Jennifer Rubin cried in The Washington Post.

But many left-leaning voters also wonder whether public schools really ought to offer AP courses outside core subjects like history, math, English and foreign languages, as well as whether queer studies or intersectionality are appropriate topics for discussion in high school. Overall, most voters do not oppose DeSantis’ proposed ban on AP Black Studies. A surprisingly high 19% of Democrats, more than enough to make a difference in a tight race, side with DeSantis.

DeSantis’ judicious deployment of well-timed wedge issues—now that trust in the news media is so low people actually think the press misleads them intentionally, he says it should be easier to sue reporters for libel—has already endeared DeSantis to Republicans looking for a Trump-like candidate without the baggage. If he beats his former mentor and goes on to fight a Democrat, he’ll look somewhat reasonable in some respects to some liberals and some moderates. That’s a tricky slalom ride, one he’s navigating well so far.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, co-hosts the left-vs-right DMZ America podcast with fellow cartoonist Scott Stantis. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

DMZ America Podcast #90: Two In-the-Know Cartoonists Analyze “Dilbert” Creator Scott Adams and His Racist Rant

Professional cartoonists Ted Rall (Left) and Scott Stantis (Right) dig deep into the dumpster fire started by “Dilbert” cartoonist Scott Adams, who used his YouTube channel and Twitter account to espouse apparently racist views that got his once-huge comic strip decimated by cancellations across the nation over the course of a few days. Ted and Scott dive into the fraught waters of this cartoon-world controversy, first analyzing whether the context of what Adams was saying differed from the news coverage. Ted shares his personal and professional interactions with Adams. Scott contextualizes the effect on syndication and the newspaper business from his vantage point as a long-time comic strip artist himself. Could Adams be suffering from a cognitive disorder or early onset Alzheimer’s? Is he evil or just weird? Does the punishment (in this case, being dropped by most of his client newspapers), fit the crime? Finally, Ted, a former newspaper syndicate executive at the company that distributed “Dilbert,” reveals how he and his colleagues would have handled the imbroglio and what Adams’ current syndicate will likely do going forward.


DMZ America Podcast 89: Jimmy Carter Death Watch, Over/Underrated Presidents, China Backs Russia in Ukraine

Political cartoonists Ted Rall (Left) and Scott Stantis (Right) join an about-to-grieve nation considering the presidency and legacy of Jimmy Carter, 98, who recently entered hospice. Not discussed elsewhere yet important is Carter’s policies, which began the current trend of the conservative Democrat. Yesterday was Presidents’ Day so it’s time to take a walk down historical-memory lane and consider which of our leaders enjoy an undeservedly positive reputation, and which presidents have been unfairly overlooked for their accomplishments. It’s the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine: what happens next? Quagmire and escalation. Most notably, the president of China is meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin this spring in Moscow in order to discuss material ways China can help the Russian war effort in Ukraine.



Jimmy Carter Was a Right-Winger

            Jimmy Carter will almost certainly be remembered as a liberal lion. That reputation, however, stems from his post-presidential work with Habitat for Humanity and his role attempting to mediate peace in the Middle East and elsewhere. His affable manner and trademark smile contributed to that impression.

            But Carter’s leading role was as President. Personal rebranding and the haze of history have obscured the fact that the peanut farmer from Plains, Georgia was conservative. As a right-wing “New Democrat,” he ushered in a radical shift of his party from champions of the working class and skeptics of foreign interventionism to the bellicose defenders of big business currently occupying the White House.

            Domestically, Carter was notable primarily for what he did not do. His inactions invariably leaned left.

Carter became the first Democratic president not to propose an anti-poverty bill since the realignment that brought FDR to power in 1932. A deficit hawk more concerned about inflation than unemployment, he broke his 1976 campaign pledge to push for a national healthcare plan. He considered, but rejected, proposals from fellow Democrats for a universal basic income and increasing welfare benefits. Though he personally favored and campaigned for decriminalizing cannabis, he backtracked and allowed the brutal War on Drugs to continue.

Empathetic statements bemoaning the ills and injustices of late-stage capitalism in the post-Vietnam era of deindustrialization, coupled with executive dithering, set the template for Clintonism: liberal rhetoric on the stump, conservative laissez faire in reality.

“Fundamentally, Jimmy Carter ended the New Deal and started America on the path of pushing wealth and power upward, a path dramatically accelerated by his successors,” Matt Stoller, author of “Goliath: The 100-Year War Between Monopoly Power and Democracy,” told The Washington Post.
“As just one simple example, one reason Americans today can’t sue airlines for consumer protection or safety violations is airline deregulation, passed in 1978 and signed by Jimmy Carter. Carter cut capital gains taxes in 1978, and under the term ‘deregulation,’ removed public rules from the banking, telecommunications, railroad, trucking, natural gas and airline industries.”

Carter was a man of peace—technically. He didn’t start any wars. He talked about human rights in international affairs, criticizing America’s coddling of dictators. He distanced the U.S. from apartheid-era South Africa and Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio “Tachito” Somoza. And he negotiated a peace deal between Israel and Egypt.

But his foreign policy hawkishness made the world more dangerous. The president’s highflying rhetoric was full of “built-in hypocrisy,” Foreign Policy magazine’s Jonathan Alter observed in 2020. “The president’s new policy was selective and inconsistent from the start, especially as applied to strategically important allies. Vital interests took priority over moral ones, most fatefully in the case of Iran, where Carter toasted the shah and raised the abuses of his secret police only in their private meetings. When the shah was driven from power in 1979 by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Carter’s support for the monarch led to the seizure of U.S. hostages in Tehran.”

Carter’s anti-communist national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski encouraged him to arm the radical Islamist mujahedin in Afghanistan, drawing the Soviet Union into a proxy war that helped set the stage for 9/11. He used the Soviet invasion as an excuse to politicize the 1980 Olympics by boycotting the Moscow games. In a transparently ridiculous attempt to look tough he restored draft registration, which remains in force despite the all-volunteer military.

And it was Carter who started the giant defense spending spree of the 1980s credited to Ronald Reagan. There may not have been any cash for infrastructure or healthcare or poverty, but when it came to nuclear saber-rattling against the Soviets, money was no object. “I am committed as a matter of fundamental policy to continued real increases in defense,” Carter told Congress in his 1980 State of the Union address. Reagan later acknowledged Carter’s massive defense spending. “My predecessor had proposed a five-year expansion of the defense budget,” Reagan said in 1986.

By 1979 the liberal voting base of the Democratic Party had had enough of Carter’s rightward shift. And then they had their champion: Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy challenged Carter from the left in the 1980 primaries, “trying to run on sort of FDR-type policies, the old-style liberalism, you know, trying to be a populist,” said journalist Jon Ward, author of a book about that race.

Kennedy’s defeat was fateful. 1980 marked the rise of the centrist-right Third Way/Democratic Leadership Council control over the Democratic Party apparatus, which went unchallenged until Bernie Sanders in 2016. Clinton continued Carter’s aggressive foreign policy and embraced right-wing domestic projects: NAFTA, the crime bill, welfare reform. Obama perfected Carter’s style, controlled and measured and calm in an effort to deliver a vaguely liberal impression rarely reflected by his policy decisions.

Carter is considered to be a great ex-president, mainly because his post-1981 life of humanitarian service contrasts with his presidential reputation as an incompetent, vision-free micromanager. But Carter did have a vision, one that was consequential if ignored. He sucked the liberalism out of the Democratic Party, rendering the American Left homeless, marginalized and alienated within electoral politics as the country spiraled into a half-century of rightward decline with no end in sight.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, co-hosts the left-vs-right DMZ America podcast with fellow cartoonist Scott Stantis. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)