Elections are situations in which national emotions run high, and in which the personalities of candidates come under extremely close scrutiny; as a result they are traditionally popular subjects for political cartoons, allowing artists to engage with popular debates and political commentary. My political cartoon draws on this tradition by exploring many of the issues which have made the election of Donald Trump such a contentious issue, including his status as a private individual, his brash personality, and his radical policy statements.
The election of Donald Trump to the White House has been one of the most hotly debated elections in US history, and has caused unprecedented levels of division in the country. The “wall” Donald Trump has proposed to build around Mexico was one of his most popular policy ideas, drawing in thousands of voters; at the same time, however, the blatant implications of xenophobia, racism, and reductivism implied by this policy have alienated and offended huge numbers of voters and remain contentious issues as Trump prepares for inauguration. My cartoon addresses these issues while at the same time presenting a critique of the personality that lies behind the radical policies. Through the techniques and images I have chosen, I address the issue of whether or not being rich and popular is enough to create a responsible and capable leader.
My first reason for choosing to address these issues was that there is no political issue in the United States currently more important than the personality and policies of the man who will soon sit in the Oval Office. Political cartoons are designed to serve a dual purpose: they not only alleviate tensions through humour, but also invite critical scrutiny of their subjects. These two functions are desperately needed when it comes to the issues concerning Trump’s election, as not only is it important to be critical of his radical policies, but it is also fundamental important to try and retain perspective and proportion when it comes to his ideas.
My second reason for choosing to address these issues is that underlying the controversies surrounding President Elect Trump is a fundamental crisis in the values of the American nation, and a frightening uncertainty about what it will mean to be American in the coming years. By critically examining these issues, I hope that my cartoon will help to expose this sense of uncertainty and crisis so that it is not overlooked, repressed, or ignored. I feel this is extremely important for the vast majority of voters who did not support Trump, as it serves to remind them that there are others who share their point of view, and that fundamental American ideals such as freedom, equality, and tolerance have not been abandoned. Addressing these issues within a political cartoon reveals the ridiculous nature of many of Trump’s ideas, robbing them of some of the authority his election has seemed to grant them.
The message I am trying to convey in this cartoon is two-fold. In the first place, I am trying to convey the message that in terms of personality, Trump is a megalomaniac who is consumed with love of power, position, and wealth. In particular, I have focused on two of the key criticisms commonly levelled against President Elect Trump: his status as a private individual, and his use of social media as a means of fostering support and promoting policy. The focus on these two issues is intended to call into question Trump’s professionalism as well as his sense of responsibility towards his future office and the American people. In the second place, I am seeking to convey through this cartoon the idea that divisiveness, separation, elitism, and segregation are fundamental to Trump’s world view. The cartoon seeks to demonstrate the idea that Trump’s policies, like his election tactics, focus not on the issues that bring people together, but instead build on and exploit fear, prejudice, and hatred.
The first technique my cartoon incorporated was Symbols: in particular, the brick wall in Trump’s mouth symbolises the “hard line” policies he is known for. Just as Trump’s policy actually calls for a literal wall to be built between the US and Mexico, the brick wall in the cartoon symbolises the inflexibility and bluntness of Trump’s words. There is also irony in the use of this symbol, as Trump is known for and sometimes criticised for the fact that his experience lies not in politics but in real estate: in this sense the brick wall when juxtaposed to the imagery of Trump Towers reminds viewers of Trump’s lack of political experience, and of the selfish ruthlessness and personal greed that have characterised his previous career. The second technique my cartoon incorporated was Caricature: in particular, the caricature of Trump exaggerates the size of head and mouth, drawing attention to them as focal points of his personality.
In doing so, they further emphasise the idea that Trump is egotistical. In a similar manner, the perspective in the cartoon is exaggerated resulting in both Trump’s size and the size of the building being out of true proportion. The effect of this exaggerated perspective is to create the impression of Trump as separated from ordinary people, and looking down on them. Finally, the analogy of Trump’s policies to that of a talk-show is used in the cartoon to suggest that Trump disguises his divisiveness and elitism by using social media to create a superficial connection to the American people. Taken together, these techniques provide an overall critique of Trump’s personality and policies, suggesting that he is unfit to lead the American people as president.