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But Why Are These My Only Two Choices?

But Why Are These My Only Two Choices?

Sometimes an editorial cartoon is simply about expressing a feeling. And in this case, it’s exasperation.

There is, of course, lots to be exasperated about these days, so there’s a good chance yours is for a whole different topic. But for me, it’s continually having my political options as a voter framed as a binary choice between a cratering economy and the end of democracy. That’s it. That’s all. One of them has to happen. Or so we’re told (and many believe).

Why? We’re Americans, for crying out loud! If anything, we are conditioned to having too many choices. Go into any sizable grocery store, walk down the cracker aisle, and you will be faced with approximately 287 varieties of Triscuits. Did anybody ask for these? No. Do we really need that many? Probably not. But there they are. We would never limit ourselves with our snacks — why do we do it with our politics?

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I Agree with Betsy DeVos

I Agree with Betsy DeVos

Living as I do in Michigan (especially West Michigan), I’ve drawn a number of cartoons over the years with and about Betsy DeVos. I don’t remember any of them being particularly complementary. It’s not personal. (I’ve never met her.) But as a political financier/string-puller — and a public official as the Secretary of Education for the Trump Administration — she has given me plenty of opportunities to disagree with her.

She has a book coming out this month, and if you are familiar with DeVos, the title will not surprise you: “Hostages No More: The Fight for Education Freedom and the Future of the American Child”

This can be read a few different ways. If you believe that the free-market is and always will be the best way to solve any issue, it may feel like a glorious call to arms. If you are dubious about the prospects of letting pure capitalism drive education, it may feel a bit overwrought. And if you are devoted believer in public education, it may feel like the overture to the end of times.

A lot of opportunity for divisiveness there. But apparently the book is not just about education. In it, DeVos reflects on how she was the second member of the Trump Cabinet to resign the day after the Capitol insurrection. She writes:

“To me, there was a line in the sand. It wasn’t about the election results. It was about the values and image of the United States. It was about public service rising above self. The president had lost sight of that.”

Nicely put, Ms. DeVos.

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A Contest Nobody Wants to Win

A Contest Nobody Wants to Win

Working in professions like nursing and teaching have become particularly difficult these past few years. (They were not easy gigs before that.) The recent high-profile mass shootings have only taken them to the next level of difficulty. Which is an innocuous way of saying that the way nurses and teachers are currently treated in this country is a national disgrace.

But the big question is (as always): What are we going to do about it?

Well, taking more personal responsibility would certainly help. Nurses and teachers are partners, not miracle workers — we need to do our part, meet them halfway. We can also be better citizens by considering what might benefit the community before defaulting to the most self-serving choice.

And, yes, a component of improving lives (and saving them) is to make changes to existing laws and even establish new ones. Our government was designed to adjust the rules to accommodate a changing world — don’t let the “it’s only constitutional if I agree with it” crowd tell you otherwise.

But it can feel overwhelming. And it’s so easy to become distracted by the Ted Cruzes of the world. Perhaps asking the nurses and teachers what they think would be a good place to start.

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Irony Is Dead

Irony Is Dead

It’s important to note that editorial cartoonists are responsible for pointing out political hypocrisies that we see, and not for fully documenting all that exist. This is because, one, there are obviously way too many to document. And two, not all political hypocrisies resonate the same way.

For me this week, the one that resonated involved the troubles that several Republican candidates for governor found themselves in after submitting fraudulent signatures on forms required for inclusion on the August primary ballot. They didn’t seem to have nefarious intentions in submitting those petitions — it was more about their campaigns not doing their due diligence in verifying how they were collected.

That didn’t get me. What did get me was Michigan GOP Chairman Ron Weiser declaring war, “This is far from over!” and immediately deflecting by accusing Democrats of trying to take away choice from voters. The double-down is, of course, to be expected these days. But it’s doubling-down on the opposite of what you, mere moments before, were arguing against that makes it stand out. (Wait, are you for or against the integrity of our election laws? Because you’re making it really hard to tell.)

Now, it between the time I drew the cartoon and before it will be published, the Michigan Board of State Canvassers have decided to officially disqualify five GOP candidates for governor. It will be interesting to see how the party and the individual campaigns might play the victim card moving forward.

Anyway, yes, there were lots of other maddening political hypocrisies this week. (I could have certainly addressed the gun violence epidemic again.) But you gotta go with the one that hits you.

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Oxford School Shooting

Oxford School Shooting

There are lots of things to be sad about regarding the mass shooting at Oxford High School last November — first and foremost, the deaths, the injuries, and the ongoing trauma.

But I also find it incredibly sad how an incident like this has become more or less normalized. Almost six months afterward, it’s more of a legal push/pull and less of a tragedy. Just like all those other school shootings.

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You’re Ruining the Only Safe Talking Point

You're Ruining the Only Safe Talking Point

“The decision to protect unborn life should be left up to each state.” That’s a direct quote from US Rep. Tim Walberg. The Detroit Free Press got reactions from various Michigan politicians to the Roe vs. Wade leaked draft opinion from the Supreme Court, and that was his.

Of course he prefaced it with a fair amount of righteous indignation about the manner in which the news was leaked.

“The SCOTUS leak is a brazen and wholly unacceptable attempt at intimidation. Getting to the bottom of this should be the top priority of the DOJ today to preserve the integrity of the court.”

That, of course, is also a safe talking point. But I would argue it’s not about abortion. It’s about avoiding talking about abortion.

Look, it’s cards on the table time. If you’re a politician who wants to make abortion illegal, own it. Say it directly. Tell everybody what your end game is. Stop trying to hedge with “I think the states should…” and all the other “well, constitutionally…” dodges. Let voters know so they know exactly who they are voting for (or against).

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Sen. Mallory McMarrow. That’s it. That’s the cartoon.

Sen. Mallory McMarrow. That's it. That's the cartoon.

I was a bit later than most in seeing State Senator Mallory McMorrow’s remarkable speech that went viral last week, which is a lifetime ago in the modern news-cycle. So forgive me if this somehow feels “over,” but I think it’s important.

Quick background: Fellow State Senator Lana Theis recently sent a campaign fundraising email that mentioned McMorrow by name, claiming that McMorrow had an agenda to “groom and sexualize kindergarteners,” among other unseemly and unsubstantiated allegations. McMorrow responded to Theis on the floor of the Michigan Senate — publicly and directly in person (you know, like something a person with integrity would do). If you haven’t already seen the video, definitely take a few minutes.

What Sen. McMorrow does is exactly what a good editorial cartoon aims to do — confronts wrongs, shines a light on the truth, punches up (never down). She is forceful but never needlessly aggressive. She both defends her positions and advances her cause. And her summarizing message is indelibly clear, “We will not let hate win.” Truly, what more needs to be said?

Well, maybe this: If you’re looking at McMorrow’s speech as one side attacking another, as a victory or defeat in a political battle, you’re missing the larger point. McMorrow is calling out lies, standing up to false accusations, and demanding that we all take note and hold to a higher standard. This is how Senate floors are supposed to work. 

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We Have the Best Experts — We Just Don’t Listen to Them

We Have the Best Experts — We Just Don't Listen to Them

I was listening to the Smartless podcast episode with author Michael Lewis as the guest. Lewis wrote MoneyballThe Big Short, and many other books that have been made into movies. He is known for his thorough research and ability to uncover compelling, important stories that others just don’t see.

Lewis was talking about doing research on a more recent project about the COVID-19 pandemic and noted just how poor the response was by the United States, despite the fact that seven or eight years ago we were widely regarded as being the country best prepared for one (the best plan, the best resources). What happened? We didn’t follow our plan, and we didn’t use our resources effectively. Why? That’s what Americans do. As Lewis put it, “We have the best experts — we just don’t listen to them.”

If ever there was a statement that reveals who we’ve become, it’s that. We invest time and money into education, into programs, into research and development. And then… I don’t know what. We just drop the ball.

The rippling effects are equally as bad. Bridge Michigan had a story last week about a program in West Michigan to create 500 new nurses. A legitimate question is, what’s the point? Is anybody going to listen to them anyway? Because one of the reasons we need so many new ones is that many of the existing nurses have become disillusioned and quit.

One more recent input that may help explain all this: The Atlantic has an article titled, “Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid.” It’s worth a read for yourself but their short answer is:

“Social scientists have identified at least three major forces that collectively bind together successful democracies: social capital (extensive social networks with high levels of trust), strong institutions, and shared stories. Social media has weakened all three.”

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Explaining Away the Brutality

Explaining Away the Brutality

There are no pointed accusations or suggested solutions (and certainly no laughs) in this week’s cartoon. It’s a simple lament. We human beings have been doing terrible things to each other for 2,000 years. (Longer actually, but the last 2,000 have been particularly well documented.) The general consensus, of course, is that it’s wrong, but that doesn’t seem to stop it.

It’s difficult to reconcile. So we often try to explain it away as something sometimes necessary. But whether capital punishment is carried out by design or by unintended consequence, the result is the same — a brutal death.

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Fred Upton Comes to a Decision

Fred Upton Comes to a Decision

Earlier this week, longtime U.S. representative Fred Upton announced that he would not be seeking re-election this fall. Upton is currently the representative for Michigan’s 6th District, which covers most of southwest, lower Michigan. In a newly redrawn district, Upton would have run in the Republican primary against fellow representative, Bill Huizenga.

Upton has plenty of reasons not to run — both the ones he stated in his speech on the House floor and the ones he didn’t. My guess is that it had mostly to do with having to deal with McConnellism — the putting of political party above all else (including country). Granted, Mitch McConnell is neither the first nor the only politician to do this. He simply has perfected it. (Former President Trump, it must be acknowledged, has militarized it. But he already has too many isms named after him.)

So it makes sense that Upton — a West Michigan Republican in the tradition of Gerald Ford and Vern Ehlers — would not be inclined to take on both his own party and the opposition party to get elected. But it sure doesn’t make me very optimistic about future representatives representing the people (all of the people) of their district.

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