I avoided doing a Donald Trump cartoon for a long time because, as funny as his crazy narcissism laying bare the insanity and racism of Conservative voters is, I kind of hoped he would flame out before getting very far, like most low-substance, flash-in-the-pan candidates from the last few Republican primaries.
But now, it looks like he’s in it for the long-haul. Sigh.
Comparing people to Hitler is probably the #1 most overdone pejorative amongst internet users and terrible cartoonists, but a lot of Trump’s language sounds so proto-fascist – and the centerpiece of his campaign is only one or two steps removed from ethnic cleansing – that the comparison is tough to avoid while maintaining complete intellectual honesty.
It’s unsettling enough to at least somewhat blunt the hilarity, in any case.
Enthusiasts of modern musical theater will immediately recognize this cartoon’s reference to Little Shop of Horrors, the low-budget, 1960 Roger Corman black comedy turned smash stage hit and classic ’80s film about a down-on-his luck flower shop-hand whose discovery of a talking, flesh-eating, extraterrestrial plant leads to overnight fame and fortune… but the plant has a sinister agenda!
The play and the film based on it are rich in symbolism, clearly enunciated with incredibly catchy music. The plant can be interpreted as representing a number of things, from the hazards of “get rich quick” schemes to broader themes of greed, envy, and lust for stardom – basically, any selfish impulse that, when over-indulged, grows out of control until it consumes a person.
That’s what I read in its use of the word “green”, anyway.
All of this applies pretty well to Trump and his current role in the Republican primary. People are seduced by his brashness, his apparent lack of a filter, and his beguiling promises to “Make America Great Again,” but these are little more than a golden façade, barely masking a vainglorious, petty hothead, prone to wild exaggerations of his net worth and self-importance, who’s repeatedly bankrupted hotels and casinos; a modern Ozymandius whose monuments are certain to collapse into the sands of time and mostly disappear from memory, because there’s nothing at their core but his own, massive ego.
In contrast to his reputation as a builder, devouring the entire slate of Republican candidates this election cycle and rendering the Republican brand as radioactive as Chernobyl would be Trump’s greatest, most lasting achievement, having a far longer-term, more meaningful, and positive impact on history and the world than any number of golf courses with ridiculously-oversized American flags or skyscrapers with his name plastered on them in giant letters.
This cartoon also references a pseudo running-gag by one of the deans of American editorial cartooning, the recently-retired Pat Oliphant. His most famous (and I think first, though I’m not certain) use of the gag was probably this cartoon about the brutal Democratic primary of 1992, which saw Bill Clinton as its ultimate victor. He reused the imagery for a cartoon referring to a narrowly-unsuccessful attempt by Tax Evasion Allies to oust John Boehner and Mitch McConnell from their leadership positions in 2013, then used the words (replacing “Democratic” with “Republican”) to preface a different cartoon about the primary that eventually lead to Mitt Romney’s nomination in 2012. My cartoon takes its cue from that last one.
This took an excessively long amount of time to complete, especially the coloring. I also got frustrated after finishing the inks and scanning it in, because I felt it possibly made Trump’s threat look too puny, and started to draw a different version of the main joke before deciding that one didn’t work at all. Consequently, the inclusion of Fox News “reporter” and debate moderator Megyn Kelly in the Audrey role may be a bit dated – it’s difficult to say, because Trump’s schtick with insulting people seems to involve caging his insults in faux or backhanded compliments whenever the person in question isn’t actively on his case, and he’s already oscillated back and forth with regard to Kelly since their initial debate spat, so he might very well return to saying horrible things about her by the time I finish writing this post.
All the other candidates noted on the “field” are those from the first non-“kids’ table” debate. I couldn’t possibly fit all 17 in the drawing, anyway – it was hard enough to keep even just ten signs legible!
The only thing I might potentially change would be to switch out one of those included for Carly Fiorina, who’s polling well with Republicans despite her vague resemblance to Cruella de Vil, and her performance as former CEO of Hewlett-Packard being valued at approximately -$3,000,000,000, though I’m not sure whom she would replace.
Everyone else, except maybe for John Kasich and Ben Carson, was better-known prior to the debate, and both of them are also doing surprisingly well following their performances: Kasich, presumably because he was the only one who said anything suggesting he might have any conscience at all, and Carson because he remained mostly silent, except to accidentally paraphrase Stephen Colbert’s “I don’t see color” bit.