Remember back in 2008, when it became clear Barack Obama would defeat Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination; and her hatchet men, along with the crazy cat ladies who still supported her, began grasping at increasingly ludicrous straws about his religious background and citizenship in a desperate bid to prevent the inevitable?
The Democratic Party, including Obama himself, would probably prefer you didn’t! That’d explain why they spent years trying to convince everyone that Birtherism originated with the Republican Party, and the theory’s loudest pitch-man, Donald Trump!
While it’s true that it probably would’ve faded back into obscurity without Republicans latching onto it, and Trump yelling about it like a greasy doomsday prophet wearing a tinfoil hat and holding a cardboard sign on a busy city street-corner, the fact is that it was Hillary’s supporters who first dredged it from the InfoWars pit, and brought it to mainstream attention. Her official campaign staff might even have been involved, as internal correspondence suggests they at least discussed the idea, but the record there is quite a bit murkier, as it often is with organized crime outfits.
Even if the Democrats and their Party-approved mouthpieces managed to successfully flush all that from your memory, you surely at least remember when some of the rumors were brought up during the 2008 General Election. The most infamous example of this, which provided the basis for my favorite Mr. Fish cartoon, involved an elderly woman at a townhall referring to Obama as an “Arab,” which prompted from John McCain a correction, that the future President was a “decent family man,” instead.
Y’know. Because apparently Arabs can’t be decent family men, too.
In any case, the incident illustrated how Birtherism and its related nonsense had already metastasized well before Senior Mutant Mitch McConnell declared his top priority to make Obama a “one-term President,” to say nothing of Trump’s racist hate rallies, where participants continued to scream it like an agitated tribe of howler monkeys.
Whether Hillary-supporting Democrats, or befuddled Republicans, Obama’s vanquished opponents initially sought refuge in these lunatic conspiracy theories as an explanation for how they could possibly have lost an election to a black guy; but for many, denial soon gave way to anger, and between those two stages of grief they remained trapped in a Purgatory of hatred.
Some PUMAs turned fully to the Dark Side, becoming Trump supporters by the time 2016 rolled around, though most Democrats quickly moved on, scoffing at Birthers for the next eight years, treating them with the same scorn and mockery usually reserved for those who believe the moon landing was faked, 9/11 was an inside job, or Greedo shot first.
All it took for Democrats to abandon this position of relative sanity was fed-up Republican voters dousing them with a faceful of Trump™ brand sulfuric acid. Suddenly, threatening, swarthy Russians were hiding around every dark corner, inside every closet, and under every bed! Anyone who thinks extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, or the burden of proof belongs to the accuser, no matter how loathsome the accused, became a suspected agent of the Kremlin!!
The FBI was bad! Then it was good! Then it was bad again! Now it’s good, except for Director James Comey! He’s still bad, even though he was good before!
People swallowing the “Russian election hacking” hook without it being attached to a thread of known evidence more than the elaborate yarn Colin Powell spun for the UN about Iraqi WMDs in 2003 don’t even know what, precisely, they’re arguing.
Some think Russia was responsible for the DNC email leaks, which exposed (certainly unethical, possibly illegal) collusion between the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee to rig the Democratic primary—The Only Moral Election Fraud Is My Election Fraud—though it’s far simpler and more sensible to assume that the leaks came from some combination of one or more disgruntled/concerned Democratic insiders, and Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, being as much of a dumbass as King Roland and President Skroob from the movie Spaceballs. Wikileaks and other reliable witnesses have confirmed as much.
Others—as many as 50% of Clinton voters, even—believe Russia tampered directly with the vote totals themselves. I’m gonna go out on a very short limb, here, and guess that belief will never be vindicated by any more proof than Birtherism was, not that proof ever mattered to anyone trafficking in either form of hooey.
This is the same thing that happened with Hillary’s reckless, PUMA-inspiring campaign in 2008, except on a grander, more destabilizing, more intractable scale.
I’ve gotten into a habit, lately, of only talking about the subject matter and themes of these cartoons, here, and not talking much about the art and craft of the cartoons themselves. This one of course draws on the image of the classic Batman villain Two-Face, and the contradictory nature of his personality versus the personality of his original identity, Gotham District Attorney Harvey Dent.
When you’re drawing a character from popular culture with a long and varied history, especially one who appeared fairly recently in a well-known, genre-defining feature film, one of the challenges is: do you draw an existing version of the character, or make up your own? Normally, I’d probably take the easy route, and model the drawing on Aaron Eckhart’s excellent portrayal in The Dark Knight—in fact, I already did, once before.
But this time, I wanted him to be more broadly symbolic, not quite as tied up in the themes specific to Christopher Nolan’s movie. For similar reasons, I decided to avoid modeling him on a real-world figure relevant to the topic. There were already some memes during the election that cast Clinton as Two-Face, and Trump as the Joker (though in my opinion, the Trump phenomenon was more accurately predicted by the treatment of Bane in The Dark Knight Rises), so I didn’t want to just add to that.
Besides, much like my cartoon from around this time last year commenting on the Trump/Hitler comparisons, I felt it’d be better to go after all the people who enable a terrible candidate, instead of any specific individuals, themselves, as well as anyone else mindlessly bleating the election hacking hysteria.
My Harvey Dent ended up being drawn from a blend of different artists’ treatments over the years, probably owing the most to Tim Sale’s (much better) design in The Long Halloween. One thing I tried to do that I didn’t see in any of the references was give him an ambiguous facial expression, so it would read as more concerned or worried on the “rational” side, and angier on the “conspiracy theory” side, while still being symmetrical, but for the disfigurement. That, I think, came out pretty well—try covering one side of his face, to see if changes how the expression reads.
I’m not too happy with the color palette. I used to lean too heavily on blues and reds, now I often use too much purple and orange. I have a feeling what’s missing from this is some green, with which I’ve always been pretty weak, but I’m not sure how much is needed, or where it would go.