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Why comics and cartoonists love, love, love N.L. politics – CBC.ca

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Mary Walsh’s alter-ego, Marg Delahunty, has been a sign of political satire for years, ambushing politicians across Canada. Walsh believes 2021 is a hard time to be a satirist. (Submitted by Mary Walsh)

An election held in the dead of winter — and amidst a global pandemic that has come back locally with a road — isn’t great fodder for comedy. 

We were on the edge to begin with. Small businesses have struggled to keep their doors open, flight routes out of Newfoundland and Labrador keep disappearing, and the looming shadow of the debt that Newfoundlanders owe on Muskrat Falls has nearly blocked out the sun.

When we toss in candidates going door-to-door and contending with icy sidewalks, freezing temperatures and the distressing confirmation that community spread of COVID-19 is here, well, there’s precious little to laugh about this election season.

Or … is there? 

Usually, vote-casting creates a perfect storm for parody and satire. Politicians, desperate for our votes, do more radio shows, stick their photographs on buses and vans, and look for every opportunity to get their name out there — even positioning themselves as the possible butt of jokes.

This election, however, has been relatively satire-free, which is surprising as it’s a tool with two purposes.

The first is to help people feel less stressed, depressed and anxious about the current political reality. Political satire as catharsis, if you like.

The second is the jester speaking truth to the king, or the jester speaking truth to the people. Political satire as a weapon, one as old (at least) as Shakespeare. 

Swing a sword for satire

Mary Walsh believes that it’s a tough time to be a political satirist. Often enough, the news headlines turn out to be beyond imagination. 

“There are folks who believe Democrats run a satanic pizza parlor in Washington, then there is the global pandemic, and finally you have to contend with folks who’ve made an art form out of being offended easily,” she said. “I think satirists have lost heart.”

Walsh was a founding member of the blisteringly hilarious CODCO group, and created and for years starred in the still-running This Hour Has 22 Minutes. She was awarded the Order of Canada (2000), the Governor General’s Performing Arts Lifetime Artistic Achievement Award (2012), and the Canadian Screen Awards Earl Grey Award, one of the academy’s highest honours (2019).

As Marg, Mary Walsh has surprised everyone from Preston Manning to Rob Ford. (Submitted by Mary Walsh)

Her ball-busting, sword-swinging alter-ego Marg Delahunty is famous for ambushing and then skewering politicians on both coasts.

“When I’m Marg, I’m riddled with anxiety because her whole schtick is ambushing politicians and you don’t get a do-over. You’re there with a small crew and you’re trying to surprise someone and if it doesn’t go well, you don’t get to ask, ‘can we try that again?”

‘Who owns the fool?’

As Marg, Mary Walsh has surprised everyone from Preston Manning to Rob Ford. Reactions to these ambushes differ wildly, but there was one politician that could always be counted on to take the joke well. “You never worried with Jean Chretien. He was so at home with himself, so steady. He could roll with punches and match wits.”

Walsh has often felt concerned for the role satire plays in election outcomes.

“Maybe we were naïve, but when we started This Hour Has 22 Minutes, we believed we could make a difference. We thought we could effect change.” She sighs, “We took the Federal Liberals to task for years, and then of course the Harper government came into power.”

 “I couldn’t help but wonder if we had played a role in that. At the start of it all, we’d be ambushing politicians, by the time we left, politicians would call and ask to be ambushed. You start to wonder, ‘who owns the fool?'”

Greatest hits of the fearless Marg Delahunty, Princess Warrior (Mary Walsh) for 22 Minutes. 3:40

‘Elections are usually easy’

Kevin Tobin officially began drawing editorial comics in 1987 for the Telegram newspaper in St. John’s, which means he’s drawn satirical political comics through a dozen provincial election cycles.

Kevin Tobin has been drawing satirical comics in Newfoundland and Labrador since 1987. (Kevin Tobin)

“Elections are usually easy. There are lots of ideas floating around,” said Tobin.

“It’s the summer where you have to reach. Things are closed, politicians are on vacation. If I’m stuck in the summer and the idea isn’t there, I’ll spend more time on the illustration.”

Tobin says he works in the British style of editorial comics. “American editorial artists tend to be more influenced by comic strips, whereas the British style is more about caricature and punchline. I also prefer stark illustrations in black and white and I like to use as few words as I can. I’m inspired by sketch and parody—things like Monty Python.”

Tobin doesn’t explain the joke to readers. “I feel that explaining the premise is a waste of space. I start each comic by assuming that readers are informed enough about the issues to understand the jokes.”

Generally, politicians have been good sports about Tobin’s illustrations. “I have an entire book of Danny Williams editorial comics and he was gracious enough to come to the book signing. You have to remember that Danny was a bit of a rock star, so the line at Chapters that day could only be compared to liquor store  lineups in the days leading up to the start of the pandemic.”

Tobin mentions that Danny seemed put-out by one comic in particular. “He mentioned that he didn’t mind the comic himself, but his staffers had been offended on his behalf regarding a comic I had drawn  with Danny and Muammar Gadafi sat at a table for a meeting of the Little Dictator’s Club.”

Former Premier Danny Williams was a regular in Kevin Tobin’s political cartoons, and was often a good sport about it, said Tobin. (CBC)

Generally, Tobin doesn’t spend too much time worrying about being nice when creating his illustrations. “As I’ve gotten older I do try to think a bit harder about avoiding meanness in my work. That said, if you have a big nose, well, you have a big nose.”

Who is easier to draw?

Currently, Tobin is taking a lot of joy in drawing Ches Crosbie.

“He’s a dream to draw. He has a small chin and sort of sour cat expression. His father was one of my favourites, too, with the big jowls. It’s harder to draw Andrew Furey. Allison Coffin is easy, you go with the big hair and the big smile.”

Tobin creates three cartoons a week for SaltWire and his goal for these cartoons isn’t necessarily to make someone laugh. “A chuckle or a laugh is great, but the goal for me is to make someone pause…just linger a little longer on the page.”

A close look at editorial comics from Newfoundland  yields certain trends. Plenty of comics published in the 1990s could be printed today.

In fact, one of Tobin’s comics from 1996 shows politicians making cuts to everything, but spending franticly when an election was called, an action that mirrors the spending announcements and news releases that the Liberals made just before this current election call.

“There are patterns because while the faces of politics change, the game stays the same. It is a little depressing.”

As for Walsh, there’s one main target she’d still like Marg to meet.

“I think Marg needs to ambush Dame Greene,” said Walsh, referring to Moya Greene, the St. John’s-born retired executive who is chairing the Premier’s Economic Recovery Team for Furey. 

“This is the woman who privatized the Royal Mail and historically, it’s never been good for Newfoundland when the dames and earls start showing up. Lord Amulree showed up in the 30s, and we lost the right to self-governance, so I’d like Marg to meet this dame.”

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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Opinion | Power, Politics and Sexual Misconduct – The New York Times

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Readers discuss their own experiences dealing with inappropriate behavior in the workplace and what the consequences should be for Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

To the Editor:

Re “As Scandals Sap His Political Strength, Cuomo Resists Calls to Resign” (news article, March 3):

Now 79 years old, I experienced my share of minor sexual harassment through the years. When I was young, I had to tolerate it or suffer significant consequences and more “teasing.” But now women do not have to tolerate crude jokes, butt pats, breast grabs, unwelcome kisses, sly sexual remarks. Only in the last few years have women’s complaints been taken seriously.

Women my age took a lot of crap. The sexual bullies won. Gentlemen: Women are now complaining and making it stick. The rules have changed. If your behavior was “playful,” realize it was probably no fun for the woman. It’s time to clean up your act. Now.

Mary Beal
Chicago

To the Editor:

I am certain many women, especially those involved with the #MeToo movement, will disagree with me, but since when did women become helpless victims? I worked for a number of elected officials, as well as other employers, when I was young.

On many occasions I experienced inappropriate gestures and comments that might in today’s world be considered inappropriate. I handled them. I would simply say “Please get your hand off me” or “I am sorry, but I find what you are saying offensive.” In all cases, the offender backed down.

If women want to be treated as equals we need to take some control over these situations, rather than just being passive. Speaking up will empower us. We should be teaching our daughters to speak up about these matters when they happen, rather than waiting and making public accusations.

Angela Reichek
Garden City, N.Y.

To the Editor:

Donald Trump has been accused of sexual misconduct — including assault and rape — by at least 25 women. Andrew Cuomo has been accused of an unwanted kiss and sexually harassing comments.

Granted, any type of harassment is intolerable. But are these accusations equivalent? Might there not be degrees of such misconduct? Should they be treated differently? Will Mr. Cuomo lose his job, while the former president bragged about predatory behavior with impunity?

Edward LaFreniere
Scottsdale, Ariz.

To the Editor:

I am a liberal Democrat and feminist. I have worked for a state legislature, for Congress, for many dozens of elected officials and candidates to elective office. I think the outpouring of condemnation against and demands for the resignation of Gov. Andrew Cuomo are ridiculous and scary.

His misguided flirtatious behavior warrants a sincere apology and promise to cease and desist; that’s all. No one is perfect. To demand that every utterance, every action of public figures, be perfect is absurd. Asking too personal questions is not equivalent to threatening a person’s livelihood. Placing a hand on a person’s back is not equivalent to groping someone’s private parts. Asking to plant a kiss is not equivalent to raping someone.

People, what’s called for here is a sense of perspective.

Carole Lieber Glickfeld
Seattle

To the Editor:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s disgusting behavior toward others is the result of his belief in the false privilege of rank held by so many politicians — that you are exempt from the rules of decent behavior and from punishment for your misbehavior. Thus, not only was it wrong for Mr. Cuomo to reportedly make the “strip poker” remark to another state employee, but wrong as well for him to believe that this did not warrant punishment.

His deeds are abuses of power and inappropriate conduct and are grounds for removal from office.

Stephen V. Gilmore
Charlotte, N.C.

To the Editor:

Re “Why Democrats Aren’t Asking Cuomo to Resign” (column, March 2):

Michelle Goldberg notes that “many Democrats are sick of holding themselves to a set of standards that Republicans feel no need to try to meet.” I completely understand this dynamic but greatly regret the result.

After all, morality that is contingent on your adversary’s expected behavior under similar circumstances is not morality at all. Rather, it is mere political gamesmanship. And that is a real shame.

Paul E. Greenberg
Brookline, Mass.

To the Editor:

I don’t want Gov. Andrew Cuomo to resign in the middle of a pandemic. Too many lives depend on his leadership. Yet I also want him to become aware of what he said and did to these women and understand why his behavior shouldn’t continue. How about he stays in office while working on his behavior?

Mr. Cuomo should hire the best sexual harassment prevention trainer and work with that person one-on-one or in a group setting. He should go through a journey of awareness publicly, but remain in office, leading in a crisis, to keep us from letting another talented leader fade into obscurity.

Carrie Wasser
Gardiner, N.Y.

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Jamie Nye: Athletes and politics do mix, and that's OK – CKOM News Talk Sports

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If Zlatan Ibrahimovic wants to collect his millions in soccer and keep quiet about political issues, he can go right ahead.

But then he should take his own advice and shut up and play.

Instead, the Swedish soccer star has taken it upon himself to criticize big-name athletes who are using their platforms to try and improve communities, lobby politicians and become leaders outside their realm of sport.

LeBron James is Ibrahimovic’s main target. Ibrahimovic believes athletes should be athletes and let the politicians be the politicians.

That’s all well and good but a caller to the Green Zone nailed it when he called the soccer player’s comments trash.

The caller simply stated that maybe more athletes would stick to athletics if the politicians were any good at being politicians.

I really couldn’t have said it any better than that.

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Just how nihilist is American politics right now? – The Washington Post

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What determines a voter’s choice when they cast their ballot? This is a fundamental question in my field. I have taken and taught enough political science classes to know the range of answers. Partisan lean matters a lot. An array of demographic characteristics can also affect voter choice — and might be the underlying cause for partisanship in the first place.

Still, at a gut level, one would assume voters gravitate toward competency: Politicians who govern badly are punished at the ballot box and politicians who govern well are rewarded. Sure, partisan filter helps define what is “good” and “bad,” but at the extremes one would hope voters recognize the truly great and truly awful politicians. Supporters of democracy had better hope there is some rough correlation between doing one’s job well and voters recognizing that fact. Otherwise, charlatans and crooks can get elected and stay popular even while running a country into the ground.

The hard-working staff here at Spoiler Alerts has fretted over the years that this rough rule of thumb is dissolving. Partisanship does not explain all of it. Some issues are so complex that even experts have a hard time comprehending what is going on, much less voters. In this world, electoral politics devolves from policy debates to more basic and understandable questions of identity and political symbolism.

Consider New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D). Last year his coronavirus news conferences garnered a lot of media praise. This happened even though he made numerous policy decisions — such as ordering hospitals to discharge infectious nursing-home residents back to their facilities — that exacerbated the pandemic. Still, according to Variety, what mattered was his news conferences: “Cuomo connected with viewers because he instinctively did what a great talk show host must do — make it personal.”

This year has not been as kind to Cuomo, but his two scandals have had a differential impact on his standing. In late January the New York attorney general reported Cuomo had concealed the number of covid-19 nursing home deaths from legislators. This seems pretty bad, but as Slate’s Ben Mathis-Lilley noted a few weeks ago, Cuomo’s standing among New York Democrats was so high and this issue was so arcane that it did not matter: “His press conference performances notwithstanding, the facts and evidence show that Cuomo is not someone who cares much about facts and evidence. But his liberal supporters don’t care: … At this point, Andrew Cuomo could probably shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and get away with it.”

Cuomo’s other scandal, however — a string of sexual harassment accusations from multiple women several decades his junior — might be another story. Veteran Albany reporter Jon Campbell explained to Slate’s Aymann Ismail why this was a bigger problem for Cuomo than his previous policy scandals: “They were, quite frankly, difficult to explain sometimes in a sound bite, or in a way that could keep people interested. This one’s very different. The conduct is easy to describe. It’s post-Me Too, and people have a better understanding of why the conduct that’s alleged is problematic.” Or, as TNR’s Alex Pareene put it, “What is happening now is that fans of Andrew Cuomo the television character are being introduced to Andrew Cuomo the newspaper character.”

So it would seem as though symbolic politics matter more now than policy missteps. Maybe that is not all bad! Symbolic politics are important, too, as recent debates about statues and flags and the names of military bases make clear. Maybe it is curmudgeonly to judge voters for reacting to easily comprehensible political scandals rather than more complex scandals?

Then we look at Texas, and it turns out even symbolic politics matters less than pure partisanship.

Texas Republicans — who have won every statewide race since 1994 — have had a God-awful month of governing. The winter storms revealed just how badly Texas officials prepared the energy grid for extreme weather. During the worst of it, Gov. Greg Abbott erroneously blamed the power outages exclusively on alternative energy. Former governor and energy secretary Rick Perry blogged that Texans would be willing to go without power for more than three days in return for escaping federal energy regulators. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton took his wife and jetted to Utah for a dubious official meeting. And Sen. Ted Cruz was Ted Cruz.

As symbolic politics go, skedaddling to Cancún or Utah while one’s state is literally freezing seems like a textbook case in which voters will retrospectively punish incumbents. And Cruz has seen his polling numbers drop a bit. FiveThirtyEight’s Alex Samuels, however, looks at Texas polling data and pours ice-cold water on this assumption: “at this point, it’s more likely that Cruz and Abbott — or even embattled Attorney General Ken Paxton — will suffer a minor, but recoverable, blip in the polls than Democrats sweep Texas in 2022.” In essence, Texas is still pretty red and the Democrats lack the candidates to run for statewide office.

So, to sum up: in 2021 elected officials in blue states can govern badly but if they cross a symbolic line they might be at risk of downfall (although see Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam). In red states, elected officials can pretty much do what they want without any retribution except for, you know, acknowledging that Joe Biden won the election in November. And in swing states, GOP-controlled legislatures are focused primarily on turning back the clock.

Am I missing anything? Seriously, am I? Because this seems like American politics at its most nihilistic.

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