Presidential elections have historically been a prime target for political cartoonists. In discussing the 2012 Presidential elections, for example, Joan Conners discusses “the relevance of examining political cartoons as part of the national media narrative on elections” (Conners 1145). With national opinion violently divided about the recent 2016 Presidential elections, President Elect Donald Trump has found himself the butt of many political cartoons. In The New York Times, Patrick Chappatte uses childish imagery, expressive imagery, and the imagery of greed to question President Elect Trump’s political competence.
Childish imagery is used throughout Chappatte’s cartoon to suggest greed and selfishness. For example, Donald Trump is caricatured as a baby, surrounded by broken toys. Both the chipped alphabet blocked spelling “ME” and the doll with its head broken off are intended to suggest that the baby is displeased with his toys and has broken them in a fit of narcissistic rage (Chappatte n.p.). More worrying, however, is the beautifully wrapped globe labelled “fragile” being handed to him (Chappatte n.p.); decidedly more grown-up, this “toy” is likely to be broken with the same disregard. Chappatte’s use of childish imagery, therefore, suggests that rather than the experience and judgement required of the man who will have power over the world, Trump is instead likely to treat his position as a game, and destroy it as he plays.
Expressive imagery is similarly used to suggest Trump lacks the necessary temperament of a President. The caricature shows him scowling with displeasure, and the position of this petulant expression in the centre of the viewer’s frame of focus indicates its centrality to the message of the cartoon (Chappatte n.p.). Like the broken toys described above, this imagery suggests that Trump lacks a temperament of steady judgement and calm reflection, instead insinuating he is prone to childish tantrums and hasty reactions. A clear connection is implied between his expression and the broken state of the toys, implying that unless the new gift being presented to him keeps him happy for longer, it too will be petulantly smashed. Expression, therefore, is being used to suggest not only that Trump might cause damage through incompetence, but also to suggest that his poor temperament might lead to him to cause damage on purpose and for personal reasons.
Finally, the imagery of greed suggests that Trump’s childish temperament does not put the interests of the American people first. In the cartoon, the imagery of Christmas focuses on gifts: Trump sits in front of a tree under which are piled numerous large presents, whilst around him are the broken toys which suggest further presents have already been opened (Chappatte n.p.). The globe representing the world is furthermore being offered not as a responsibility, but instead as a gift which will become one more possession. Bal et al describe the humour of political cartoons as being “used to question political authority and decision making” (Bal et al 230); in this case there is a clear suggestion that President Elect Trump sees the Presidency not as a duty and privilege, but as a possession and an entitlement which is his to play with as he pleases. Chappatte suggests that Trump’s real motivation for seeking the Presidency is not pride in American power and influence, but a selfish and childish greed for personal power and possessions.
There is no doubt that political cartoons are important not only in shaping, but in reflecting national opinion. According to Bigi et al, “Every country possesses a national brand, which encompasses the political, cultural, historical, geographical, metrological, and financial aspects of that nation’s people and land” (Bigi et al 148). If the national brand of the United States is shaped by pride in American political power and financial independence, then it is clear that Chappatte’s cartoon reflects national uncertainty about the direction in which President Elect Trump will take that national brand.