Tag Archives: GOP

Vacancy Cycle

An elephant representing the Grand Old Party (GOP) refuses to confirm Supreme Court vacancies until a Republican president is elected.

 

The conflict of “separation of powers” is one that exists epically in American history. Generations of Americans have witnessed the battle of the Supreme Court to maintain its position as a non-partisan institution: fighting off threats from other branches of government to influence it with politics. One example occurred in 1937, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt unsuccessfully proposed the Judicial Procedures Reform Act of 1937 to implant support for his legislation into the courts. The Supreme Court maintained its position, and the resulting conflict was documented by the press, such as in a cartoon by John Knott and in an editorial appearing in the Dallas Morning News. Another confrontation in more recent memory was between a Republican controlled United States Senate and President Barack Ob ama over the nomination of a Supreme Court Justice to fill the vacancy left by Justice’s Antonin Scalia’s sudden death in February of 2016. The refusal of the Senate to hold even a hearing for Merrick Garland, a nominee who had broad bi-partisan support, resulted in a similar anticipation of disaster and destruction of convention by the press. Particularly, the threat of a problematic cycle which would undermine the political institution in which the average Supreme Court Justice confirmation took 25 days (“How Scalia Compared With Other Justices”) was satirized in the same way be the respective medias of each time, as explored through a Mike Luckovich cartoon and a Politco article describing the tension in attempting to secure the Supreme Court vacancy.

In the final months of Barack Obama’s second term as president, he tried to secure a Supreme Court nomination to fill the seat left behind by Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in February 2016. However, due to a political interest in nominating a Supreme Court Justice who would represent the values of the GOP rather than Obama’s Democratic party, the Senate refused to approve the nominations proposed by Obama. Historically, the Supreme Court has had a reputation of high esteem in the public view, as it has the final say of the law and the Justice holds their position until they either retire or die. The conflict of failing to secure a nomination to fill the vacancy created anxiety amongst the American public and press, as this sort of political pandering over something as pure as the Supreme Court was seemingly unprecedented.

This anxiety is illustrated in a March 11, 2016 cartoon by Mike Luckovich called “The Court”. The two-panel cartoon depicts the strategy led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel and the Republican controlled Senate at the time. In the first panel, an elephant wearing a suit, which represents the GOP, states “I’ll ignore the Constitution and block filling the Supreme Court vacancies until there’s a GOP President…” The second panel of the cartoon shows the same elephant standing in a court room, and the bench labeled “Supreme Court”, is completely vacant with spider webs between the vacant seats. The calendar on the wall has the year “2036”, on it, and the elephant has his finger’s crossed and eyes closed, saying “…C’mon 2040…”. The cobwebs also suggest that this stubbornness will inhibit the nomination of not only the vacancy that existed in 2016, but all other vacancies which would eventually present themselves over the course of 20 years. The cartoon therefore suggests that the refusal of the Senate to confirm a nomination in 2016 would continue into 2036 and onwards until a GOP president is elected to nominate a viable judge.

This viewpoint is also articulated in a Politco article from March 29, 2016 called “The Supreme Court: The Nightmare Scenario”. In it, Richard Primus describes the threat of a devolution of political convention with the stagnancy of filling the Supreme Court vacancy. He states:

“That bigger threat is this: The stalemate isn’t time-limited and it isn’t stable. It could last a lot longer than the present election cycle, and if it does, the conflict over Justice Scalia’s successor could escalate far beyond its current dimensions. This is because the Supreme Court’s role in American government rests on a set of conventions for avoiding all-out political conflict—and once those conventions start to crumble, there’s no way to tell how it will end,” (Primus).

Specifically, a nightmare scenario would in theory be possible, though not necessarily probable, where the Republican Senate would continue to refuse to confirm a Democratic nomination from Hillary Clinton if she ario does not occur exactly, the threat of the destruction of political conventions by escalating a conflict in attempting to control the courts is made visible both by the article and the cartoon.

There are some interesting parallels between FDR’s attempt to expand the number of nominations possible to be made and the Republican Senate’s attempt to wait for a Republican nomination in that both were efforts to control the political leanings of the Supreme Court. Specifically, both the Luckovich and Knott cartoons satirized a very immediate and visible result of the respective breaches in power. While the Knott cartoon emphasized that the expansion of FDR’s power would manifest itself through unprecedented third term ambitions, the Luckovich cartoon suggests an eternal vacancy in the Supreme Court due to the stubbornness of a GOP Senate. The most important difference between the two cartoons, however, is the accuracy of their respective predictions. FDR did end up running for and winning a third term, but the GOP did not have to wait until past 2036 for a Republican president: Donald Trump was elected in 2016.

The difference between the Dallas Morning News editorial and the Politico article is the opposite of what occurred between the two cartoons. The 2016 article was a better descriptor of long term implications of the Senate refusal to confirm a Supreme Court vacancy than the editorial was in articulating the long-term implications of “The Judicial Procedures Reforms Bill of 1937”. The editorial suggested that the bill represented a descent into totalitarianism, and today it is known that FDR’s passage of the New Deal did not totally undermine American democracy. However, the observation that the GOP Senate’s behavior represented an escalation which would manifest into the issues of checks and balances beyond 2016 was more accurate. The failure to confirm a Supreme Court Justice nomination did leave only 8 Justices, allowing for 4-4 deadlock votes to occur. For example, the deadlocked vote for United States v. Texas, No. 15-674 allowed for Obama’s executive order to retain over 5 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. to stand without official support from the Supreme Court (“Supreme Court Justice”).

The fact that it took about four months to confirm President Donald Trump’s nomination of Justice Neil Gorsuch galvanized the infamy of the Senate’s actions in 2016 to hold the Supreme Court seat open for record breaking amount of time (Berenson 2017). The disruption caused by the actions by the Senate alluded to the abilities for political branches to manipulate the processes of the Supreme Court. Unlike the historians who observe FDR’s actions in 1937, contemporaries can only wait to understand the full contribution to political procedures the Supreme Court vacancy of 2016 had to the American separation of powers.

Works Cited

Berenson, Tessa. “Neil Gorsuch Confirmed: How His Nomination Changed Politics.” Time, Time, 7 Apr. 2017, time.com/4730746/neil-gorsuch-confirmed-supreme-court-year/.

“How Scalia Compared With Other Justices.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 13 Feb. 2016, www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/02/13/us/how-long-does-it-take-to-confirm-a-supreme-court-nominee.html.

Primus, Richard. “The Supreme Court: The Nightmare Scenario.” POLITICO Magazine, 29 Mar. 2016, www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/03/the-supreme-court-the-nightmare-scenario-213776.

“Supreme Court Justice.” American Law Yearbook 2016A Guide to the Year’s Major Legal Cases and Developments, Gale, 2017, pp. 208-212. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CCX3633800087&it=r&asid=2c6733a6ed017fe3cf7720b2457fb9fc. Accessed 15 Nov. 2017.

Unions

Messages Image(3132875950)

The political cartoon Unions by David Fitzsimmons uses well recognized connotations to depict civil tension that still remains today much like it did during the Great Depression. This cartoon captures how the GOP continues to take more and more from public servants, claiming everyone must sacrifice, yet the rich seem to get richer.  As is reflected with the theme of the John Knott cartoon Nice Kitty, Nice Doggie, this cartoon conveys the same message as the one portrayed almost 80 years ago: socioeconomic tension leads to civil unrest.

 

Though the United States emerged from the Great Depression into an economic upswing (Steindyl 1). The feeling of unease seems to be a cyclical trend that political cartoonists can expound upon no matter the decade. In our current economy, public servants, such as teachers seem to be having more and more of their rights restricted. In 2015 the GOP proposed a cut of 5 billion dollars to America’s educational system (Brown 10). Yet after the GOP decided that educational funding would be cut, they also seemed to find a way to help themselves. For example, recently President Trump released a tax plan that one journalist described as a plan that “would be ridiculously good for rich people” (Carter). This new plan cuts top tier business taxes from 39 to 15%. Furthermore, it proposes an elimination of the alternative minimum tax. This would cut our own presidents federal income tax from 37 to 5 million. (Sahadi 4). The outrage of this disparity is what cartoon illustrator David Fitzsimmons conveys with his witty cartoon.

 

As Knott depicted the right to unionize in Nice Kitty, Nice Doggie published in 1938, Fitzsimmons depiction reflects our countries’ current economic struggles.  While there are many differences between the two, there are also similarities to be found. Though much has changed in our country in the past 80 years, economic uncertainty continues to effect unions and their influence upon government (Kebbi 4). While the labor unions in Knott’s cartoon were fighting for the right to unionize, teachers unions today have used their right to unionize to influence policy and form political action comities.  (Teacher Unions). It appears as though Knots cartoon highlighted the struggles of earning the right to unionize, while Fitzsimons depicts that, even though the right to unionize has been won, unions are still a threat to big government.

 

Comparing Knott’s and Fitzsimmons’ political cartoon demonstrates that the humor has not really changed, however the imagery used to tell the cartoonists’ story has evolved. In today’s society, poking fun at political figures as just as humorous today as it was in the 1930’s. In Knott’s cartoon the image of a housewife used to portray Secretary Perkins is central to the cartoons theme. However, if used today, the depiction of a housewife with an apron would no longer be relevant, verging on offensive. Conversely, using well known imagery to provide connation is just as prevalent today as it was in the 1930’s. Knott uses a cat and dog fight to depict the rising tension, while Fitzsimmons uses a bulbous elephant to depict the GOP. Rather than towering above the public servant the elephant is at eye level, diminishing his power. This growing disdain for republican controlled congress could be a reflection on the proposed voucher system which will gravely effect public school funding (Lauter 2.)

In both cartoons the artists seem to both have to portray an antagonist. In John Knott’s cartoon, he portrays the aggressor “Industry” as the antagonist. However, in Fitz’s cartoon he portrays the antagonist to be the rich man standing in the back. One thing to be noticed is how Fitzsimmons’s draws the clothing of both of these figures. The public servant is in baggy clothes and just a white t shirt, on the opposite end we see the rich man in a very nice tailored tux. This portrayal highlights how these cuts effect both parties even down to the way the dress. This can even be known when looking at an article by Lam that states in a very recent study done that the top 1 percent of Americans still hold 20 percent of the nation’s wealth.

 

 

Fitzsimmon’s political cartoon Unions demonstrates that unrest between the public servants of the middle class and the elites in government are still prevalent in modern society. As John Knott once portrayed with his political cartoons, we can assume that civil unrest will not cease until socioeconomic tension is dispelled.

 

 

References

Dallas Morning News. Nice Kitty, Nice Doggie. 1938. Print.

Fitzsimmons, David. Unions. 2017. Print.

Kebbi, Yann. “The Decline Of Unions And The Rise Of Trump”. NY Times 2016. Web. 26 Apr. 2017.

Kirkpatrick, David. “Teachers Unions”. Encyclopedia of Education 2002: 2475-2482. Print.

Lam, Bourree. “How Much Wealth and Income Does America’s 1 Percent Really Have?” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 12 Mar. 2016. Web. 14 May 2017.

Lauter, David. “Education: Trump Wants More Money For Vouchers, Cuts Elsewhere”. LA Times 2017. Web. 22 Apr. 2017.

Steindl, Frank. “Economic Recovery In The Great Depression”. : 1. Print.

 

 

 

Lets cut back on spending by a ‘sprinkle’ percent!

Obama, as an ice cream server, "cutting back" on government spending by withholding the sprinkles.
Obama, as an ice cream server, “cutting back” on government spending by withholding the sprinkles.

In late January, President Barack Obama presents a federal budget proposal that would exceed restricted spending caps mandated by congress four years ago. This proposal includes new capital gains, bank taxes, and a new tax on american companies competing in world markets. The political cartoon was posted on January 2nd, 2015, prior to the announcement on Obama’s budget proposal, titled Bloated Government. It is shown and predicted by the cartoon artist, Steve Breen, that Obama voices his want to cut back on government spending but those are not his actions. Barack’s new proposal could cause the government to become further bloated, untiqued, and unresponsive to taxpayers, and that is exactly what the GOP would like to avoid. The cartoon strongly and correctly predicted that Obama would spend more rather than cut back on government spending, just as was seen previously through FDR’s term in office.

President Barack was never actually known for cutting back on costs. In his plans to cut taxes, extend unemployment benefits, fund job-creating public works projects, and increase defense spending, he added $6.167 trillion to the national debt, which is a fifty-three percent increase, in only six years. So far the national debt is building up like an enormous snowball. Today’s taxpayers and future generations face massive indebtedness, while congressional democrats and current administration(Obama) block every attempt to turn things around.

In Steve Breen’s cartoon, Bloated Government, there is a rather large, and heavy set man sitting on the left side of the counter, concluded to be the customer. This obese man is labeled “gov’t” to symbolize the nation’s government currently and how bloated it is. On the counter there is a large bowl, uncommonly huge for the size for a regular bowl of ice cream. The bowl is filled with more than eight bananas, dozens of ice cream scoops of assorted flavors, all drizzled in chocolate, foamed over with tons of whipped cream, and a cherry to top it off. Not your average cup of tea, or rather, bowl of ice cream. This bowl happens to be labeled “spending” to symbolize how great the national government’s spending is and common it has become for it to be that much. On the right side of the counter there are two thin men dressed as the ice cream servers. One man symbolizes Barack Obama, having the same characteristics. “You need to cut back so we withheld the sprinkles,” Obama says in the cartoon. All, put Steve Breen is depicting in his illustration that Obama says he wants the government to cut back on spending but in his actions he does not show that. All that government spending might anger, or already is angering taxpayers, republicans, and congress.

Although Barack’s proposal was likely to get prevented from making progress in congressional opposition, he did not give up. The budget is down to pre-financial crisis levels, and the president will seek approval to break through spending caps. This will play out to be more spending and more debt. After hearing the proposal Senate Orrin G. Hatch says, “He is the most liberal, fiscally irresponsible president we’ve had in history. I don’t know why he doesn’t see it. You’re facing a debt crisis not because Americans are taxed too little but because the government spends too much.” Obama’s plans represent roughly seven percent increase in 2016 government spending. To his credibility, Obama basically inherited a terrible financial crisis that was the worst that our economy has sustained since The Great Depression. Looking in the past, because of his policies the economy has come roaring back.

The resemblance is existent between President Obama term and FDR’s, just as the likeness of Steve Breen’s political cartoon and John Knott’s. Knott’s cartoon, Nice Work!, portrays the Director of the Bureau of Budgetary, Lewis Douglas, as a hard working man trying to cut down the national budget. In Breen’s cartoon, Bloated Government, Obama is seen “trying” to cut back on government spending. During FDR’s term in office, Lewis Douglas worked hard to cut down the national budget so that the government would not spend as much and taxpayers would remain contempt. FDR went along with Douglas’ plans until he showed his true colors and downplayed efforts to cut costs and balance the budget causing Douglas’ role to diminish. Likewise with Obama, he himself voiced that he needed to cut back on government spending. Not only did he go over the projected budget, but his proposal requests to spend even more. Unlike FDR, Obama worked with congress in order to help the economy. Congress on October 21st, 2015, moved a step closer to clearing a bipartisan budget deal that would boost spending for domestic and defense programs over two years while suspending the debt limit into 2017. The agreement would essentially end the ongoing budget battles between congressional republicans and President Obama by pushing the next round of fiscal decision making past the 2016 election when there will be a new congress and White House occupant. Obama and FDR have both set up the national budget situation for the president to come and take over. The next president will then also have political cartoons to be depicted in during their term.

 

Works Cited

Snell, Kelsey. “House Passes Budget Deal; Senate Expected to Act Soon.”The Washington Post. N.p., 29 Oct. 2015. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.

Mufson, Steven, and Juliet Eilperin. “Obama Budget Proposal Would Boost Spending beyond ‘Sequestration’ Caps.” The Washington Post 29 Jan. 2015, Business sec. Fred Ryan. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.

Mervis, Jeffrey. “Budget for 2016 Accentuates the Practical.” Science Mag 6 Feb. 2015: 599-601. Print.

Amadeo, Kimberly. “Which President Added Most to the U.S. Debt?”About.com News & Issues. Neil Vogel, 14 July 2014. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.

Amadeo, Kimberly. “Which President Added Most to the U.S. Debt?”About.com News & Issues. Neil Vogel, 14 July 2014. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.

Crew, Clyde. “Obama’s 2016 Federal Budget And Middle Class Economics.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 2 Feb. 2015. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.

Breen, Steve. San Diego Union-Tribune 2 Jan. 2015: n. pag. Print.

Knott, John. “Nice Job!” Cartoon. Dallas Morning News 25 Nov. 1933, 2nd ed. Print.