Archive for August, 2017

Why Are We Honoring General Gerrymander?

Why Are We Honoring General Gerrymander?

I struggled with how exactly to draw a gerrymander statue. My initial instinct was to draw it as an abstract monster because that’s where the term came from. In 1812 a Governor Gerry in Massachusetts signed a bill to redistrict his state to benefit his political party. One of the oddly shaped districts resembled a salamander. A famous editorial cartoon exaggerated the district shape as a monster, and thus Gerry plus salamander became gerrymander.

But then I figured most readers would be more visually familiar with a civil war statue than an editorial cartoon from 1812 (however famous), so I settled on General Gerrymander. (Of course it would have been much better to have the General on horseback, but I’m terrible at drawing horses.)

This also allowed me to more directly address the ongoing issue of venerating those who fought on the wrong side of the American Civil War. My thoughts: Cemeteries are good places to memorialize the dead. Museums are great places to remember leaders of the past. And books are fantastic places to document and add context to both.

But let’s reserve public places of honor (town squares, monument rows, etc.) for the honorable. Tradition and heritage are good — until they start to choke us. We live in a dynamic country, and we are blessed to have a system designed to accommodate change. Let’s take advantage of that.

As for gerrymandering, I know it’s against our human nature, but we would be better off not thinking in terms of sides and avoid attempts to unfairly leverage advantages. The goal should be to create the most equitable districts possible and let the best ideas win. (Then again, I would ideally take the time to learn how to draw horses, but I doubt that’s ever going to happen.)


The Scariest Thing of All

The Scariest Thing of All

I am on vacation this week. (I drew this cartoon last week, Friday.) I tried to anticipate how I would feel at this point. It was easy to predict (and poke fun at) my selfish self — that despite whatever terrible events were going on around the world, nation, and state, the thing I’d likely find most frightening was the end of summer.

But it is also a testament to the beauty and wonder of our Michigan summer. I am among the blessed who can share a week with their Michigan family on a Michigan lake by working Michigan jobs at Michigan companies and schools, eating Michigan produce and possibly imbibing a few Michigan beers.

That was my intention. And then the events in Charlottesville, followed by the “many sides” defense of our elected leader, his painfully scripted and insincere attempt at clarity, and then the inevitable doubling-down again on his “many sides” disgrace.

Vacation time remains precious, so let me be direct and clear. If I were to draw the cartoon right now, it would be to deliver a singular message: Resign, Mr. President. Resign.


Governor Snyder Is Turning Into…

Governor Snyder Is Turning Into...

I’ve been observing this game of Michigan politics long enough now that I can definitely detect patterns. This is quite useful for editorial cartooning, but makes me insufferable at cocktail parties:

“…and so those are just a few of my many observations regarding governmental paradigm shifts in post-industrial Midwestern states. Wait, where are you going? I have more keen insights to share! You shouldn’t gulp your drink like that!! Why are you running?!!!”

Fortunately for other people, I don’t go to cocktail parties.

One pattern is that governors from Blanchard to Engler to Granholm and now Snyder end up trying to land the big fish. Despite whatever good intentions they might have had at first for growing the economy (investment in education and infrastructure for Democrats, reducing barriers and fostering small-business growth for Republicans), they all fall for the seduction of the mega-deals that promise thousands and thousands of jobs. I’m guessing it feels like an opportunity for a legacy.

Often, however, the legacy is not a good legacy — especially for the mega-deals because they take a lot of tax money (credits, abatements, packages) to make them happen. It’s really difficult to tell whether they are worthwhile. In Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker is trying to pull off a deal with Foxconn to build an LCD screen factory by offering $3 billion in incentives. The payback (assuming all goes well) would be in (wait for it) 25 years!

Okay, maybe the deals Governor Snyder wants to cut will turn out fine. But the language he’s using is very similar to the language Governor Granholm was using a decade ago. And didn’t Snyder originally run on a platform to get state government out of “picking winners and losers”? I guess it’s hard to remember that stuff when you’re concentrating on landing that big fish.


Former Army Medic and Vietnam War Hero James McCloughan

Former Army Medic and Vietnam War Hero James McCloughan

On Monday, July 31 former Army medic and Vietnam War vet, Jim McCloughan, was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by the President at a White House ceremony.

His story is breathtaking. In 1969 during the Battle of Nui Yon Hill, McCloughan’s company came under heavy fire and was in full retreat. As his fellow soldiers ran for cover, McCloughan was consistently moving the opposite direction and into harm’s way to collect the wounded and bring them to safety. Even when he himself was wounded, McCloughan refused to quit. In the end, he is credited with saving 10 soldiers over three days of fighting. Reflecting back on this, McCloughan said:

“I’d rather die on the battlefield than have heard later on that one of my men didn’t make it because their medic was not there.”

A more detailed (and better told) account of this can be found on

Editorial cartoonists often get accused of “politicizing” things that some people feel should not be politicized. I can see how some may feel this way about today’s cartoon. But for me, it’s not at all about politics; it’s about character and the stark, stark difference between the two men at the ceremony.

Mr. McCloughan is the quintessential American hero. After Vietnam, Mr. McCloughan returned to Michigan and spent 40 years teaching geography, sociology, and psychology at South Haven High School. In addition, he coached football, wrestling, and baseball. Humble. Brave. Selfless. A thoroughly decent human being.

I’ll leave it at that.