My drawing here was done in early 1974 as the Watergate scandal was really heating up. This was, in fact, my very first political drawing. Having come of age during the Nixon era (error) I, like many of my contemporaries received a crash course in political lying and manipulating, thanks to Richard Milhous Nixon. It sure seemed as if we had hit bottom ... at least, until now.
In The Emperor's New Clothes, the Emperor's ignorance, naiveté and egotism prevent him from realizing that his ˜New Clothes" were a hoax and that he was actually parading nude in front of the world. Only a 'Little Boy' has the honesty to speak out and state the obvious truth, the Emperor has NO clothes ...
Nixon was a serious liar - though a selective one - and, in the end, a criminal. His crimes are well known, but he was also a serious politician. In fact, one could make the argument, based on contemporary politics, that Nixon was a progressive. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Clean Air Act and National Environmental Policy Act were all created by him. In 1971, he embraced ˜Big Government" by instituting wage and price controls to fight inflation. In international relations, his administration opened the diplomatic door to China, a visionary move and major political victory. And, added to that, he initiated detente with the Soviet Union, which lead directly to SALT I and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, both important arms control agreements.
These positive efforts expose what used to be true about our government. Bipartisanship was possible, even during a time when the country was literally at war with itself. Regardless of philosophical disagreement, Democrats and Republicans found ways to work together for the good of the country. Comity was the rule. But, instead of comity we now have comedy. We have gone completely through the Looking Glass. Up is down, left is right and a Lie is just an 'Alternate Truth'. How in the hell did we get here?
Meet the New Boss, Not the Same as the Old Boss
The fact that millions of decent people voted for Trump despite his continual lying, bullying and womanizing was a depressing and stunning development. What we have in Donald Trump is a President who is either incapable of knowing the difference between what is demonstrably true and what is demonstrably false, or is someone who simply doesn't care. This makes him either delusional or an arrogant deliberate manipulator who believes he can say whatever he wants, truth be damned. Either way, the danger he poses to society is extreme.
Unlike Nixon, Trump is not a politician. He has no real vision and therefore no agenda, outside of "winning", whatever that means. While it's understandable to be focused intently on Trump and his blundering administration. However, he only represents part of what has gone terribly wrong in the United States.
Fear of the Dark
Ever since Ronald Reagan's "Big Tent" folded, the GOP has been in a mad race against the changing demographics of the United States. While the Republican Party has the predictable support of around 55% of the white voters, all the other races typically vote Democratic by a larger margin (56% - 88%, depending on race). In 2016, minorities voted for Clinton 65% of the time. Assuming these numbers hold in the elections to come, they point to a dark future for the party of the right. The United States will have a majority minority population within the next 30 years, and already the majority of the children in the U.S. are either non-white or of mixed race. How will the party of white people survive?
The Naked Truth
It should be considered that the underlying democratic structure of our country may be becoming unstable. The election of Donald Trump is an obvious low point in our history, but might it be a tipping point? Perhaps not by itself, but certainly with the phalanx of powerful, extreme right-wing organizations arrayed behind him. The one that is the greatest threat to our democracy is the Grand Old Party itself. The GOP chose to not resist the authoritarian when he took over their party, but instead embraced and defended him.
The Republican Party seemingly has had no second thoughts about its actively anti-democratic efforts to guarantee their permanent access to power. Consider the Republicans' abuse of U.S. voting rights by deliberate voter suppression and gerrymandering, its refusal to allow the normal functioning of the Congress (obstructionism and monstrous overuse of the filibuster) that includes their denying the constitutionally required hearings for a potential Supreme Court nominee, its embrace of demonstrably false information and literal dis-information campaigns, its resistance to the investigation into Russian interference in the election of 2016, its refusal to demand income tax statements so as to determine if Trump has economic ties that could constrain or determine his actions as President. These are but a few of the questionable efforts the GOP has been engaged with in order to control our government. Considering the record they have amassed, it isn't hard to imagine that the Party's intentions will be to hold power by any means necessary.
Trump and the GOP are frantically attempting to cover their clearly naked ambition with patriotism and the flag while actively working to undermine the most formational concepts in our democracy. It needs to be said that in Nixon's case, his actions were illegal and the Republican Party did ultimately respond correctly. But now, the situation we have is not just an illegality, but quite possibly a treasonous act (or acts). This is a fundamentally more serious situation and pits the GOP not just against our legal system or even against the concept of the Constitutional Balance of Powers, but against the very essence of the United States.
It is potential corruption of the highest order.
A Re-Balancing Act
The United States is, arguably, the oldest continual democracy in the world. But it's only been since the Civil War and the creation of the 14th Amendment with, eventually, the Equal Protection clause, that the United States has embraced the concept that we are a Democracy in the truest sense, where all citizens are accorded the same rights and privileges. There is no guarantee that it will stay that way.
Democracy is a delicate balance. An ideal that the large majority of the population must believe in for it to function. If this belief doesn't hold, then people will use whatever means are at hand to determine their future. If not democracy, then often it will be force. The biggest challenges to democracy aren't necessarily external. If one of the two political parties actively works against the democratic system, if it uses its awesome resources to twist the system to its own benefit, disenfranchising and suppressing their opposition, then the system will become unsteady and likely fail.
One of the hallmarks of a functional democracy is support for alternative points of view and free speech. These rights must be accorded to anyone, but what to do if that 'anyone' is a large and powerful well-functioning and well funded anti-democratic group that 'wins' elections? It's a difficult and confounding question, and is the essential contradiction embedded in every democratic society. Can 51% of the voters do away with the rights of the other 49%? (Ask Turkey.) Or, even more to the point can 46%deny the rights accorded to the other 54%. What we have here is a fundamentally more ominous situation. At what point does the society act against such an internal threat and defend itself? Free speech is a bedrock belief in our democracy, but if anti-democratic elements become so powerful as to be a serious threat to the democracy itself, then it's possible that their speech cannot be tolerated.
The Little Boy is screaming now ...
Dan Hubig © 2017
Artwork Dan Hubig © 1974
Dan Hubig is an illustrator and street photographer who lives in San Francisco, California.