Sketches from the 2020 Democratic National Convention
Wednesday January 20, 2021 – By Graeme MacKay
Four years ago I reflected on a day in democracy that we just saw pass today, when the transfer of power from one U.S. President to another sets a new tone in the most powerful nation on the planet.
Joe Biden became the 46th President of the United States yesterday.
While things were bad enough leading up to November 3, since the election day two and a half months ago, the nation has been led by a petulant toddler, feeding a myth that the vote tally was fraudulent and stolen from Republicans. The lies and vitriol that Donald Trump drummed up on an constant basis through Twitter and his other social media platforms worked up his most brainwashed cult members to storm the U.S. Capitol on January 6.
The United States, long a beacon and promoter of democracy, endured an insurrection by domestic terrorists hell-bent on imposing one party rule. Even now, with the dust still settling in the aftermath of that humiliating day in U.S. history, some Republicans, blind to the wretched legacy left by its leader, justify the act while continuing to spew the falsehood that Joe Biden’s Presidency is illegitimate.
Just to compound matters is a deadly global pandemic, with a virus that has killed more than 400,000 Americans, more deaths than any other country on the planet. Many of those deaths can be linked to a lack of a centralized federal effort to contain the infection.
The result is a patchwork of differing guidelines and range of safety restrictions throughout the States. Whereas, here in Canada, where for 10 months we’ve accepted wearing masks, working from home, not vacationing abroad, and avoiding holiday gatherings, Americans have clearly prioritized individual freedom over science, or, livelihoods over lives. The most significant marker contrasting the differing approaches to COVID-19 is the fact that the U.S.-Canada land border has remained closed to non-essential travel since March, 2020.
So much of the spread could have been avoided if Trump hadn’t equated the simple act of wearing a face mask to limit the potential inhalation and exhalation of virus as weakness.
President Biden, on his first day signed a series of executive orders reversing several of the Trump administration’s most contentious policies.
POTUS placemat (2021)
The monumental tasks ahead includes tackling a number of crises that the former President ignored or neglected to deal with during his 2 month long temper tantrum. The pandemic, unemployment and the economy, race divisions, and a cultural divide of identity politics that’s been growing increasing violent.
The final task will be the trickiest, in uniting his country in what he called in his address yesterday as an “uncivil war.” He’ll have to fend off earnest progressives in his own party while tackling the MAGA hat wearing zealots on the right. To do this while bringing the disgraceful former President to justice for his lies and undemocratic antics will rile up his most rabid base, however fractured it may be, and ensure the Senate rubber stamps Trump’s second impeachment. To ensure Trumpism and its ilk never occupy the Oval Office again, may be the most challenging Biden may face.
Time will tell, but I do look forward to drawing more domestic content instead of the distraction to the south, and I think the Biden tenure will put America on the right track.
A review of the past 4 years with a look through 200 Trump cartoons and commentary by Graeme MacKay.
It’s the eve of another U.S. Presidential election and again the usual refrain of this being the most important vote in a generation is being loudly trumpeted. The Republican party is fighting for a second term for the White House whose champion opponents are decrying as a dangerous, lying, narcissistic clown, a man who sullies the prestige of the office he holds, whose re-election will further doom the USA. The Democrats are battling to regain the White House with a leader Republicans warn is senile, with an unremarkable 47-year-old political record that’ll hand the reins of power over to younger forces of socialism. Read this as my sequel to what I wrote on Inauguration day 2017.
Back then I asked a few questions of the coming Trump presidency. Reading what I wrote is like entering a time capsule of forgotten problems. ISIS? That’s all but vanished. Syria? It simmers but it’s no where the top concern it was in 2017. Cuba? Most of the Obama pursuits to warm relations have been erased, but nobody really cares in the USA of 2020 because there are so many other gargantuan domestic U.S. problems. Does Trump have a plan to replace Obamacare? Answer, no, and no also to reversing affordable health care, but more about that later. Has he lived up to his promise of a rejuvenated American rust belt that he campaigned on in 2016? We’ll have a good idea once we find out how Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania votes in the next few hours. Is he as chummy with Vladimir Putin as we’ve been led to believe? That was the easiest question I don’t need to answer in 2020, since we all know. Has he bridged the racial divide as he said he’d do at the start of his Presidency? Well, is he, the greatest President since Abraham Lincoln for racial relations in the USA, as he boastfully declares himself?
Ronald Reagan’s recycled “Make America Great Again”, meets Ronald Reagan’s “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” in the Trump era. The first one we see and hear all the time rather exhaustingly, the latter phase, never.
Another argument against extending the Trump presidency is his abandonment of compassion and the American virtue of offering amnesty to refugees and migrants fleeing tyranny for a life of liberty in the U.S.A. Reducing entry to refugees to 18,000 per year from 95,000. Trump’s attempt to overturn DACA which protects hundreds of thousands of undocumented youths (dreamers) from deportation. A brutal policy to empower ICE to deport all undocumented migrants with a practice of family separation incarcerating parents and sending children to shelters, shelters that some of which have been identified as cages. Just two weeks before election day court documents reported parents of 545 of the migrant children still have not been reunited with detained children. Further to this, the US knowingly deported migrants infected with COVID-19.
August 15, 2017
Then there is the President’s misogyny, dog whistles, racism and support of white supremacy. “Very fine people on both sides”, he was quoted as saying following the white supremacy clashes in Charlottesville. He condemned football players for taking a knee in their protest against white supremacy. Trump discriminated against Mexicans in declaring them racists, and bad hombres, as he ran for President and continued an assault against Mexicans and Latin Americans in general for promising and pursuing to build a wall along the U.S-Mexican border. A travel ban on Muslims. Prejudice against Chinese by attempting to rename COVID-19 “Kung Flu” and “Chinese virus”. Trump has defended Confederate symbols and has casted protesters marching in the name of Black Lives Matters as traitors. In the first Presidential debate he even went so far as to issue coded messages to the Proud Boys sowing fear over notions that Democrats are rigging election polling stations.
Donald Trump has polarized an already badly polarized United States. While political divisions have intensified over the last three decades, Trump has fuelled it by using his office to ingratiate his base and to denigrate his opponents and counterparts. He has not used the presidency to unite American citizens but has instead used it as a blow horn to belittle democratic states, mayors, and even federal officials like the respected long serving director of Infectious Diseases Institue, Dr. Anthony (FIRE) Fauci, have been misquoted and attacked for not cow towing to Trump’s livelihoods over lives policies. He has publicly insulted those from his own side of the bench, including Republican Senators, and a revolving door of cabinet secretaries who dared to challenge the boss’s wisdom. Then there’s a personal obsession of undoing the accomplishments of his predecessor, President Barack Obama, earnestly embarked upon for the past 4 years. This comes as little surprise given Trump’s years in his own pursuit of office pushing conspiracy theories asserting Obama’s foreign birth. Despite his efforts to drag down and bury the record of America’s first black President, Trump has been unable to strike down Obama’s landmark act expanding affordable care. Yet, even amidst a pandemic that has forced millions out of work and off private health insurance Trump, has led the Republican charge to repeal Obamacare and replace it with something unknown yet promised since 2016. Though his ardent supporters will privately loathe and then turn deaf ears on his bad behaviour, he has lived up to delivering on a key promise, like some useful idiot, to transform the highest court to conservative favour. Trump’s luck of appointing three Supreme Court justices, most recently Amy Coney Barrett, may be his most enduring legacy dialing back progressive laws for years to come, the soonest being health care for all.
July 22, 2016
“Drain the Swamp”, was and still is election mantra that only applies to corruption among those appointees and office holders predating the Trump era. With the blatant cronyism, enriching wealthy Trump donors with agency directorships, ambassadorships, and cabinet positions; with rampant nepotism, handing power over to a younger generation of dislikable Trumps; With the bending of rules, clogging up the courts with cases against him, keeping Trump’s Tax Returns secret, his private holdings and properties entangled as venues for government services the dirty dealings in D.C. are just as bad if not worse than ever.
October 15, 2016
On the eve of the 2020 election, the stakes have been planted sealing a Trump legacy for years to come whether he loses or not. The national polls give Biden a 10-point lead over Trump and have for weeks. Half the lead gap went to Hillary Clinton in 2016, which gave her a larger popular vote than Trump. Democrats who didn’t vote then are likely to show up for Biden, especially among African Americans, suburban women, and older and younger voters. Add to that the so-called ‘Never Trumper” Republicans, and those displaced in the economy due to the pandemic, as well as those friends and family whose loved ones died from an infectious disease the President failed to take seriously. With this, one could, one should, easily predict these are the final days for Trump, Tweeter-in-Chief. The calculus matters the most in the electoral college, and observers are challenged knowing how numbers will turn out in the battleground states with huge advance poll voting and an unknown election day turnout for the most infectious country in the pandemic. Will we see Biden landslide? Will America side with Trump? Will right wing militias take to the streets in a Biden win? Will progressive protesters take to the streets in a Trump win? These are uneasy and worrisome hours, but a definitive Biden victory would be the best outcome, and permanently close down the Trump News Buffet.
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday March 11, 2020
Economic Prescription for Coronavirus: ‘You’ve Got to Go Fast’
The government can’t prevent the coronavirus from damaging the U.S. Economy.
February 28, 2020
The usual tools that economic policymakers rely on, like tax cuts and stimulus spending, won’t restore canceled conferences, unclog supply chains or persuade wary consumers to go out to bars and restaurants. Even if such policies would help, they conflict with the advice of health officials who are urging “social distancing” to slow the spread of the virus.
But that doesn’t mean policymakers are powerless. Economists say well-designed programs could limit the damage and help ensure a quick rebound.
President Trump said Monday that he would meet with congressional leaders to discuss a “very substantial” payroll tax cut and other measures. Many economists are skeptical of that approach, arguing that a payroll tax cut would be too small and too poorly targeted to be of much help.
June 28, 2018
Instead, they recommended a variety of other steps, some narrowly aimed at addressing the outbreak and some intended to bolster the broader economy. One lesson from the last recession is that the government has to move quickly.
“You’ve got to go big, and you’ve got to go fast,” said Claudia Sahm, a former Federal Reserve staff member who is now director of macroeconomic policy at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, a left-leaning research organization. “If you don’t go fast, you’re not going to short-circuit it.”
Here are some forms that such intervention could take: 1) Fight the disease. 2) Cushion the blow. 3) Stimulate the broader economy. 4) What about payroll taxes? (Continued: NYTimes)
CHRONOLOGY OF A CARTOON GONE VIRAL
This particular editorial cartoon has gone through several modifications than the original one published above on March 11, 2020, the day the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. The original double wave cartoon received attention around the world and was modified, rather crudely, with adaptations made to my Canada flag, and translations squeezed in to replace my English “be sure to wash your hands and all will be well.” Some of the changes were done fairly well. Some of the people behind the alterations took the time to ask for permission to do so, and preserved my moniker, while others did not.
Nettuno 1958 – 5 aprile 2020
Here’s a version drawn with credit for audiences in Mexico. Found on Twitter on account @adn40 and shared March 25, 2020:
Another adaptation done for audiences in France. Website called, Acheter en Espagne: Le meilleur site sur l’immobilier en Espagne pour la clientиle francophone.
If only I got a penny for everywhere this cartoon landed I’d be rich!
Possibly my most shared, cropped, and altered cartoon ever.
A crude repurposed image showing a third wave, with my moniker cropped out, appeared in wide circulation on various social media platforms in May, 2020. It appears someone with some knowledge of image editing software duplicated the recession wave, added a third wave by colouring it rather fluorescent green and replacing the wording to climate change. In doing so unfortunately, my signature, or moniker as cartoonists call it, was deleted out. It was on its way to being meme-ified – unsourced and unsigned, the bane of editorial cartooning. I believe the flag in the above example is Argentina’s.
Meanwhile, a hemisphere over in the UK, someone revised the Argentinian version, and replaced the label recession with “Brexit”. Look closely and one will note the Union Jack flies atop the Palace of Westminster! Credit goes to Twitter account RRI Tools for pointing this out in June, 2020 with this tweet.
I thought these ideas behind modification were pretty good ones, but the crop jobs weren’t so great, and the flag of Argentina only caused confusion on an idea that could work for anyone around the world. So it was then that I decided to remove the flag and create an authorized version bearing my signature. Here it is:
Originally drawn for March 11, 2020. Revised May 23, 2020.
But it seems someone else in another corner of the planet, Ricardo Hurtubia, a teacher from Santiago, Chile, had added a third wave as early as April 4! Good on him for keeping my moniker in there. News to me by the time July rolled around:
con mis fantásticas habilidades para Power Point, he logrado esta obra de arte luego de un día entero de trabajo
(broma ?, pero el mensaje de fondo va en serio?) pic.twitter.com/qPrmSaneRy
In September, 2020, this beautiful hand drawn rendering was flagged by someone in Venezuela on Twitter. This is an example of the old saying, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” Thank you Alejandro!
Not long after the above tweet was posted, an anonymous twitter account holder going by the name of Cilantrófago, posted a re-adapted image in Spanish that cleaned up Mr. Hurtubia’s, somewhat, adding a 4th wave. His major failing, however, is chopping out my moniker, and unfortunately, for Cilantrófago, he or she qualifies as a Social Media Jackass.
In mid June, I was included in a tweet sent out by David Obura, a director of Cordio, East Africa, a marine ecosystem consultancy based in Mombasa, Kenya. He’s also a scientist with the Earth Commission. A 4th wave had been added as a further warning regarding the effects of climate change on the world’s ecology. He isn’t actually the person who added the “biodiversity collapse”, but liked what he saw and sent it out. The re-adapted version is quite a good one, with a thought provoking message, the lettering is close enough to my own, and the image retains my moniker. Thumbs up, but I would like to know who the person is behind the re-adaptation.
The readapted readapted version of the cartoon became the centre piece of a demonstration with a Samba Band on Paignton Promenade (in Torbay, Devon, England) Sunday afternoon, August 30, 2020 with the “Four Waves Banner” shown below and paraded by the Green Spirits group:
In April 2023, the banner lead a parade and was carried to Parliament Square in front of Westminster Palace in London during a weekend of massive protests called “the Big One” on the climate crisis.
Organizers of another protest march in the UK wished to use the same image in public. An artist acquaintance of the environmental organization leader kindly asked if it was okay for him to design his own commissioned rendering of the image on wood measuring 8 by 4 feet. Happy to help a fellow artist on the other side of the planet the nod was given (though, as always, the artist deserved more compensation.)
Tweet from Nov 10. 2021
Then it ended up along the banks of the River Clyde during the gathering of the U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland. This tweet informed me of it’s location on Nov. 10, 2021.
Enchanted by the passion of the Green Spirits, and after receiving more licensing permission to use the 4 waves, I decided to update the cartoon to include the biodiversity collapse wave. The caption bubble was also enlarged, and my moniker was placed in the top corner.
Dr. Madhu Pai, MD and McGill University Professor and Canada Research Chair of Epidemiology & Global Health convinced me to tweak the illustration a bit to advance his concerns of conditions such as TB, HIV, malaria, maternal health, etc. that have become worse due to COVID-19 and lockdowns.
As of Autumn 2020, according to google image search, there are more than 1680 posts of these variations across the Internet on various social media platforms and websites.
Finally and noteworthy is an overriding subject going beyond the pandemic, Healthcare distress, the economy, Brexit, Climate Change, war …the end of the world, it’s the chronology of this cartoon as a meme.
“There’s a difference between using a familiar symbol and copying someone else’s cartoon, and, while some asked for permission and credited him, others did not. It’s a common experience for cartoonists in this Ctl-C, Ctl-V world, and MacKay’s analysis is excellent.”
Who knows how much, from Finland, Svante Suominen’s effort using the illustration to promote #SavePondHockey helped his cause which he asked in a Twitter exchange, our group fights “climate change by organizing outdoor hockey tournaments and donating the profits to climate campaigns / action. We’d love to use a quickly hacked image that is based on your idea and design work as a featured image in our blog. Would that be OK for you?” He was given clearance to do so, merely for having the decency to ask.
Like so many images cartoonists offered up to the Internet, dark forces are at the ready armed with design software to butcher artists work and memes-ify them to serve their appetites for likes and retweets. Just as egregious to discover signed cartoons reworded to suit partisan stances effectively turning satire into propaganda, is the removal of monikers and the extraction of intellectual property. We learn as children not to do this when we hand in assignments for school and that we should always source words borrowed from others. Why is it when theft of imagery that’s turned into memes is taken so passively?
On April 27 2021, a supportive follower made me aware of a new adaptation with the logo of Extinction Rebellion attached to it. The new image shows a different rendering of the waves with a couple of labels changed. Extinction Rebellion is a global environmental movement that has its roots in the UK and has captured the attention in recent months for huge non-violent rallies and civil disobedience against governments not doing enough to fight climate change and prevent the inevitable ecological extinction. It has been very successful in raising awareness and is influencing similar movements around the world. It is, however, not without criticism, with charges of being extremist, classist, and short-sighted with regards to diversity. In 2019, eight ER protesters made fools of themselves when they took their demonstration to the London Underground and disrupted an evening commute for thousands of transit users by unfurling a banner on the roof of a subway car. Respect for the work of artists seems to be another one of Extinction Rebellion’s shortcomings. It is ironic indeed that an organization called Extinction Rebellion has made my connection to my own design extinct with this:
Over a number of years, responding to people responsible for repurposing creative content has revealed interesting personality characteristics. Most people will realize they’ve done wrong, remove the vandalized content, and apologize.
Junked up nonsense found on Twitter. Zero likes, zero retweets, zero idea.
Some won’t respond at all. Others will reply, and dig in their heels with claims that it’s some kind of human right to screen grab someone’s work online, alter it, and repost it as they deem fit. What compels people to modify visual work may be a genuine expression of support adding ones own thought to a message. Well meaning perhaps, as in the case of the DIY art restorer who, in 2012, decided to fix Ecce Homo, a fresco painted by Elías García Martínez in a church in Borja, Spain, but who was roundly condemned and mocked for the results. Or, it may just be a narcissist’s lack of thoughtfulness by co-opting imagery to communicate a message unrelated to the intent of the creator of the image. Several of the worst cases have been called out as the Social Media Jackasses for their bad behaviour.
Along comes a post on Instagram where an account run under the banner of a big international bubble tea chain called Tiger Sugar used the image below to promote franchise expansion. A glance through the account shows an endless scroll of not so witty memes mixed with photos of their swirly brown syrup concoctions aimed at a younger smart phone addicted set. A message was left under the post requesting removal of the altered image. As of the time of this writing the post remains and thereby grants Tiger Sugar bestowal of recognition into the pantheon of intellectual property thieves.
Tiger Sugar was not given permission readapt the messaging
Noted is this eerily similar looking version found on this page on a site called EcoMatcher. They aren’t based in any particular country but whether the renderer knew it or not, that’s pretty much exactly what I drew in the very first version (posted at the top of this page) to represent Canada, from the rockies in the west to the Toronto skyline in the east. Seems the readapters of the image had a pretty good idea of the original cartoon’s chronology. It bears a striking resemblance to Svante’s rendering above.
Finally, From GreenMoveID, an environmental organization in Indonesia that shared this modification in November, 2020. For non-English speaking countries it’s important to get the message out, and frankly this rendering is beautifully done, and good for them for the credit:
If we all let our guard down, it could be that the Covid-19 Pandemic is actually the opening before a bigger disaster comes. The government must think further ahead in making policies to tackle this pandemic. GreenMoveID (Indonesia) posted this on Nov. 9, 2020, @greenmoveid acknowledging mackaycartoons illustration for inspiration
Another unique perspective by a Warsaw based organization called Social Simulations.
Waves, boulders, impending doom, stock photo.
The authorized version of the 4 Waves cartoon is available on a wide range of ethically sourced apparel and products through the MacKaycartoons Online Boutique.
Authorized for sale by Graeme MacKay through this link.
I’ve always been fascinated by maps. When I was a kid I declared to anyone who would listen that when I grew up I was going to work as a “mapmaker”. To train myself I would copy maps out of atlases and try to squeeze as many place names and geographic features as possible. Then I later found out that the correct name for “map making” was “cartography” and that in order to become a cartographer you had to be a whiz in mathematics. Knowing myself to be one of world’s worst math students on record I knew my dream of drawings maps for a living would never pan out.
Nevertheless, as my career evolved over the years into editorial cartooning I’ve been able to put my passion for maps to good use in satire. Here’s a gallery of map cartoons going back a few decades:
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday August 24, 2018
Ontario government says it has an interim sex-ed curriculum elementary teachers must follow
February 14, 2018
The Ontario government has released an interim sex-ed curriculum for elementary school teachers to use this September, and Premier Doug Ford is suggesting there will be consequences if they don’t adhere to it.
The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) was quick to blast the plan, accusing the Ford government of creating chaos instead of addressing the real issues facing the public school system just weeks before classes resume.
The Progressive Conservative government issued a news release about the changes on Wednesday afternoon, while also announcing plans for what it called an “unprecedented” provincewide consultation process on education reform and a future parents’ bill of rights.
September 10, 2015
The Ford government has faced sharp criticism from a number of groups — including teachers’ unions, many parents and the Official Opposition — over its decision to scrap the modernized sex-ed curriculum brought in by the former Liberal government in 2015, which included information about online bullying, sexting and gender identity.
A group of human rights lawyers are also challenging the government’s decision in court on behalf of six families.
Neither Ford nor Education Minister Lisa Thompson took questions from reporters on Wednesday. (Source: CBC News)
We are in the business of publishing content, not suppressing it, writes Paul Berton
Graeme MacKay’s editorial cartoon last weekend caused a predictable fuss.
When it was brought to my attention before publication, I laughed out loud, and immediately recognized it would be problematic.
Indeed, some readers called it vulgar, another was disgusted and saddened, and said the paper “has sunk to the level of a tabloid.” One writer didn’t like the fact that it seemed to mock Ontario Premier Doug Ford, and added that he didn’t like it either when MacKay made fun of “our president.”
Why did we print it?
I could talk about the freedom of the press, the unique ability of satire to get to essence of an issue, or the importance of reflecting different points of view, and I could remind you that a cartoonist’s views are not necessarily those of the newspaper,
although sometimes they are. In the case of The Spectator, MacKay’s views are his own.
Or we could have just killed the cartoon, arguing that any reference to a penis in connection with Ontario’s premier is inappropriate, even if it is in the context of a heated debate over the future of sex education in the province.
We could have decided our readers don’t need that kind of thing at breakfast, let alone lunch or dinner. But that too, is the heart of the matter — and the point of the cartoon.
Ultimately, we are in the business of publishing content, not suppressing it. There have been times in the past when I thought I should have prevented something from publication, but in retrospect, I regret far more often the things we didn’t print than those we did.
Besides, if we had spiked that cartoon, we would have denied many other readers the laugh that I and others experienced from it, and laughs these days are all too rare.
For not only did we receive complaints about the cartoon, we also received kudos in their wake. You can turn to today’s letters-to-the-editor for some evidence of that. It is human nature to complain, but compliments are much less common.
Such supporters realize a good cartoonist never takes the issue as seriously as those in the midst of it — politicians usually, but often anyone in authority. True, cartoons often say in pictures what some of us are too polite to say in words, but they also make us look in the mirror, point out obvious or sometimes hidden inanities, and poke fun at people who take themselves too earnestly.
Any newspaper editor who says an editorial cartoonist doesn’t cause her or him grief is probably lying. It has always an uncomfortable relationship, and indeed, some cartoonists have been fired for their views. It would be easier for newspaper editors if nobody ever called to complain, but then we’d be approaching irrelevance.
Fortunately, Spec readers care deeply about this news organization, many of you think of us as part of the family, and feel a personal connection. We appreciate that, and we encourage all complaints, considered arguments and feedback of any sort. (Source)
Paul Berton is editor-in-chief of The Hamilton Spectator and thespec.com. You can reach him at 905-526-3482 or firstname.lastname@example.org