Cartoon: Democracy is Burning


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This is a very depressing cartoon – but it’s a thought that has been pressing down on me, and I’m sure on many of us.

Between the Supreme Court gutting the Voting Rights Act, extreme gerrymandering favoring Republicans, the electoral college, voter suppression laws and – perhaps most frightening – new laws allowing Republican legislatures to take charge of election administration – it seems plausible that we’re about to be stuck with a permanent Republican government that will have no need to win a majority of the vote to stay in power.

The proposed For The People Act would mend a lot of that. But Republicans will filibuster any proposal that puts fair elections above GOP power – and two Democratic Senators are implacably opposed to removing the filibuster. Due to the current slim margins in the Senate, those two Democrat senators (along with all the Republican senators) are effectively vetoing any attempt to protect voting rights.

I don’t see any way this ends well.

My only comfort – and I know I’ve said this to you before – is that unexpected things can happen. Just because I don’t see any way for this to end well, doesn’t mean it can’t end well. No one saw the fall of the Berlin Wall coming. Lots of people, myself included, were confident Donald Trump would lose the 2016 election. Maybe voting rights will be unexpectedly rescued. It could happen.

But in the meanwhile, I feel like the characters in this cartoon, watching our approaching  and not being able to think of anything to be done about it.

(I’m sorry to be a bummer.)


Despite it being so depressing, I had a wonderful time drawing this comic. I don’t know if this is the first time I’ve done a cartoon featuring anthropomorphic characters, but it certainly won’t be the last – drawing furry characters is too much fun.

I also had a great time coloring. The dramatic palette, almost entirely blues with just a few warm spot colors, was a joy to work with. And I think the results look good.


A special thank you, this week, to long-time Patreon supporter Hannah Bowton, who is also thanked in the sidebar of the cartoon. Hannah, if you’d like a print signed to you of this cartoon (or really any cartoon), get in touch and like Captain Pickard’s crew we will make it so.

Stay well, everyone! I’ll be back soon with a new cartoon.


TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON

This cartoon has six panels. All six panels show the same two women on top of an unrealistically round and even hill. One woman is drawn as an anthropomorphic dog; she’s sitting in a reclined lawn chair, wearing flip-flops, shorts, and a t-shirt with an exclamation point design. The other woman is drawn as an anthropomorphic cat. She’s wearing a vest over a polka-dotted shirt, a dark calf-length skirt, and black socks or stockings.

The comic is colored mostly in dim shades of blue, indicating dusk or nighttime.

PANEL 1

Cat and Dog are looking out at the horizon. There’s an orange-yellow glow all along the horizon.

CAT: What’s that glow on the horizon?

DOG: It’s voting rights burning.

PANEL 2

They both continue staring at the distant horizon. The cat crosses her arms and looks angry.

DOG: The fire will rush over us and burn everything down pretty soon.

CAT: That’s horrible! Can’t the Democrats stop it?

PANEL 3

A more distant shot shows us a landscape of unrealistically steep, round hills. Cat puts a hand on her face, flabbergasted. The dog seems emotionally withdrawn or numb (as she’s looked all along).

DOG: They could… Except Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema decided we’re not going to.

CAT: But… How can they do that?

DOG: The rules say they can.

PANEL 4

The cat yells, looking panicked. The dog, still calm, looks at the cat out of the corner of her eye.

CAT: We can’t just stand here while democracy burns! We have to DO SOMETHING!

DOG: Yes, but– What can we do, specifically?

PANEL 5

A closer shot of the cat as she concentrates, a hand on her chin.

CAT: Well, we can… I mean, could we… Maybe if we…

CAT: Um…

PANEL 6

A distant shot from behind the two of them, so we are seeing them, and beyond them, the orange glowing horizon. The cat slumps a bit, looking at the ground.

CAT: Well… Fuck.

DOG: That sums it up.


This cartoon on Patreon.

This entry posted in Cartooning & comics, Elections and politics. Bookmark the permalink. 

31 Responses to Cartoon: Democracy is Burning

  1. 1
    Schroeder4213 says:

    I like this approach, because it’s honest and doesn’t make the problem worse. I’ve seen some people respond to Democratic inaction by saying, “Vote ’em all out!” or “Primary Manchin and Sinema!” But the truth is, that’s exactly what I’d want if I were a Republican.

    For some people it’s like, we’re in a bank during a holdup and their immediate reaction is, “fire the security guards and replace them with bank robbers,” when the reaction should be, “well, let’s do whatever we can to stop this and then beef up our security for next time.”

    (Manchin is in a state where Donald Trump beat Joe Biden by 39%. We can’t fire him and replace him with a better Democrat.)

  2. 2
    Dianne says:

    We could just let them filibuster. There hasn’t been a “talking filibuster” in the 21st century: the threat has been enough to make the Democrats back down. Let them do it. There is nothing more important right now in the US than protecting voters’ rights. At least make the Republicans work for it. At least make them stand up and document for history that they opposed democracy.

  3. 3
    joel hanes says:

    Best cartoon I’ve ever seen from you. Kudos.

  4. 4
    Eva says:

    Great story line, sad as it is. And I love the illustration. It’s multilayered which makes me want to look at it again and again to see what I missed in previous viewings. And I enjoy the anthropomorphism. Well done and thank you.

  5. 5
    Ampersand says:

    Wow! Thank you very much, Joel and Eva.

    Dianne, they’d have to change the Senate rules in order to impose a talking filibuster – getting rid of the 1975 change that allowed other Senate business to proceed during a filibuster. (I think, I’m no expert). And I’m not sure that just adding a talking filibuster would be enough (but I wouldn’t oppose trying).

    There have been at least two talking filibusters this century, by the way; Bernie Sanders in 2010 and Rand Paul in 2013. But you’re right, it’s very very rare.

  6. 6
    Eytan Zweig says:

    Amp – it’s technically possible to force a talking filibuster using today’s rules, because proceeding with Senate business happens at the discresion of the senate majority leader. The problem the democrats have isn’t that, but that it’s almost certainly going to backfire. First of all, the business being held will be their own legislative/appointment agenda. Secondly, that’ll literally be handing the Republicans a platform to say whatever they want.

  7. 7
    Kohai says:

    Good cartoon! I like the choice of using anthro characters (the cat and dog). I think this is the first time I’ve seen you do that in your work. What made you decide to go that way for the characters? As opposed to drawing cartoon humans, I mean.

  8. 8
    Corso says:

    I was going to mention Paul’s filibuster in 2013, but Amp beat me to it. What was it…. 13 hours before it ended? And then Brennan was confirmed anyway?

    Those last 6 words are really material. The problem isn’t the filibuster, or at least it’s not just the filibuster… Fact is that the Democrats don’t have the votes to actually pass what they want.

    At 50+1, they need pure solidarity, and I don’t think they have it. In fact, I think that they’re acting as if they don’t, because if they did, it might be a winning strategy to bring the issues to the floor and let their counterparts talk until they collectively ran out of gas before the vote.

  9. 9
    Eytan Zweig says:

    Corso – Brennan was confirmed because the senate voted to remove the filibuster for confirmations. Unless the senate votes to remove the filibuster from non-confirmation debates, it doesn’t matter if they have the votes to pass the law.

    That said, I think there’s a good chance that the reason Manchin is opposed to remove the filibuster is because he’d vote against the For The People Act, and that will cause an even bigger public rift with the rest of the democrats.

  10. 10
    Ampersand says:

    Good cartoon! I like the choice of using anthro characters (the cat and dog). I think this is the first time I’ve seen you do that in your work. What made you decide to go that way for the characters? As opposed to drawing cartoon humans, I mean.

    Thanks! I’m glad you liked it.

    To tell the truth, I went with animal characters because I wanted to avoid giving the characters specific races – I felt that every way I thought of drawing the characters (both white, both black, one white and one black, both latinx, etc etc) could imply a reading that I didn’t like.

    But also, it turned out to be a lot of fun to draw them this way.

  11. 11
    Douglas Scheinberg says:

    Unfortunately the most obvious and straightforward way for a random individual with no connections to make a difference in politics very quickly is as an assassin. And even when assassins succeed at assassination they rarely change things for the better. :/

  12. 12
    Ampersand says:

    And it didn’t mean a nickel,
    You just shed a little blood,
    And a lot of people shed a lot of tears.
    Yes, you made a little moment
    And you stirred a little mud-
    But it didn’t fix the stomach
    And you’ve drunk your final Bud,
    And it didn’t help the workers
    And it didn’t heal the country
    And it didn’t make them listen
    And they never said, “We’re Sorry”

    –From Assassins, by Stephen Sondheim

  13. 13
    Corso says:

    Eytan @ 9

    “That said, I think there’s a good chance that the reason Manchin is opposed to remove the filibuster is because he’d vote against the For The People Act, and that will cause an even bigger public rift with the rest of the democrats.”

    I actually think it’s worse than you think. My impression is that Manchin is taking the heat off maybe 6 or 7 other Democrats who have no intention of doing away with the filibuster, or passing a 3.5 trillion dollar spending bill, but don’t have to let themselves be known so long as Manchin is standing in the breach.

    If Manchin did suddenly die and Republican Governor Jim Justice appointed AOC as West Virginia’s new senator (Or for a more realistic scenario: Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin died suddenly and was replaced by a Democrat by Democratic Governor Tony Evers) I have the distinct impression that a lot of Biden’s pet projects are still dead on the vine.

  14. 14
    Ampersand says:

    Amp – it’s technically possible to force a talking filibuster using today’s rules, because proceeding with Senate business happens at the discresion of the senate majority leader. The problem the democrats have isn’t that, but that it’s almost certainly going to backfire. First of all, the business being held will be their own legislative/appointment agenda. Secondly, that’ll literally be handing the Republicans a platform to say whatever they want.

    Oh, that’s interesting, and makes sense. Thank you for the info.

  15. 15
    Joe in Australia says:

    I really like the art except mmmaybe the seated dog’s knees in the third panel. I don’t think they should bend the same way a human’s would. That being said, I don’t know what an anthropomorphised canine would use for a chair and how they’d sit, so.

  16. 16
    Ampersand says:

    Thanks, Joe!

    There’s a long tradition of anthropomorphic characters done as basically human bodies with an animal head; look at how Stan Sakai draws his character Stray Dog, for example.

    Walt Kelly drew Beauregard Hound Dog with knees that bent forward, like a human’s, but at the same time he morphed the human leg anatomy to be more doglike. I might try to do that if I do a dog character again.

    Snoopy sometimes had dog-like legs and sometimes had human-like legs, depending on what Schulz needed Snoopy to do in whatever strip he was drawing.

    I honestly can’t think of an anthropomorphic, walks on hind legs dog character whose knees bent in the direction a dog’s does. But I’m sure it’s been done, I’m just not thinking of it at the moment. (Wait, there was Hyperdog in Top Ten – he had a fully dog body, but wore an exoskeleton that made him human-shaped.)

    (I realize that’s probably more of an answer than you really wanted! But I had fun writing it.)

  17. 17
    Eytan Zweig says:

    Dog knees bend forwards, just like human knees; it’s just that they’re located closer to the body, and the joint in the middle of their leg is their ankle.

    If we were to complain of anatomical inaccuracies, I think the fact that the sitting dog seems to have human-shaped breasts (and only two of them) is a much more notable one than the fact her legs are human proportioned.

    Anyway, none of that actually bothered me, because I am quite used to anthropomorphic animals having entirely human bodies except for their head and possible tail.

  18. 18
    RonF says:

    Corso @ 13:

    I have the distinct impression that a lot of Biden’s pet projects are still dead on the vine.

    Biden was elected President on the premise that he was more moderate than the other Democratic candidates. But his conduct in office leads me to believe that the actual direction of his administration’s policies and legislative agenda is not really his. It’s the agenda of the most leftist wing of his party. I think he’s just their foil. I really don’t think he’s got control of what’s going on.

  19. 19
    RonF says:

    The talk about anthropomorphic characters, and cats in particular, leads me to ask what you think of Lackadaisy Cats. Not only does Tracey Butler have a large number of anthropomorphic cat characters (heads and tails), but he also puts a great deal of effort to match body types, head types, facial expressions and modes of dress to the characters. He also has many pages dedicated to how he draws the characters and how he creates facial and body expression.

  20. 20
    Kate says:

    Biden was elected President on the premise that he was more moderate than the other Democratic candidates. But his conduct in office leads me to believe that the actual direction of his administration’s policies and legislative agenda is not really his. It’s the agenda of the most leftist wing of his party. I think he’s just their foil. I really don’t think he’s got control of what’s going on.

    No, Biden was elected president on the premise that Donald Trump is a profoundly unstable anti-democratic authoritarian who drove a healthy U.S. economy into the ditch with his botched response to the pandemic.
    The press spun Biden becoming the Democratic nominee as Democrats embracing the more moderate alternative, and white progressives who supported Bernie or Warren tended to lap that up. But, I don’t think that’s actually what happened.
    Biden won the Democratic nomination because he is trusted by African American leaders and, by extension, the African American base of the party. They knew from experience that they could trust him to look out for their interests. His performance indicates that they were right about him, and both the press core and white progressives were wrong.
    There is no reason whatsoever to believe that Biden is not in control of what’s going on. For example, his withdrawal from Afghanistan is in line with the advice he gave as Vice President, which was sadly rejected by President Obama. His focus on infrastructure is also totally in keeping with his long record in public service. He’s doing exactly what he said he’d do, right down to spending too much time trying to get at least some Republicans politicians on board.

  21. 21
    Jacqueline Onassis Squid says:

    There is no reason whatsoever to believe that Biden is not in control of what’s going on. For example, his withdrawal from Afghanistan is in line with the advice he gave as Vice President, which was sadly rejected by President Obama.

    That’s just silly. It goes entirely against the narrative of the far right propaganda machine and therefore must be a lie, factual history be damned!

    For a man who proclaims himself an independent thinker, RonF sure does parrot a lot of far right propaganda and has done so for many, many years.

  22. 22
    RonF says:

    We have a dispute of semantics Kate. He couldn’t get elected unless he was first the Democratic nominee, which is what I was thinking of. But in the end you are correct to distinguish between how he became the nominee and how we was elected President.

    He’s looking out for the interests of blacks? The push for requiring vaccination to work in larger businesses or the Federal government or Medicare funded health care facilities and encouraging entertainment venues and airlines to require people using them to be vaccinated disproportionately affects blacks and Hispanics, who have a much higher rate of non-vaccination. Rising gas and food prices are doing them no favors either. Note that I ran out and got vaccinated as quickly as I could, so I’m not talking from a personal viewpoint of being anti-vaccination.

    His focus on infrastructure? I would love for the proposed spending bills to be cut down to the point that all they actually dealt with was infrastructure. Biden could get the GOP to vote for them tomorrow if he did. But they are filled with social program funding, changes to immigration law, etc. that have nothing to do with infrastructure. That in fact is one of the primary things that makes me believe that he’s being manipulated. Attempting to redefine the meaning of the word “infrastructure” doesn’t change that.

    If you read through conservative blogs you’ll see that the fact that he withdrew our troops from Afghanistan actually met with wide approbation! Nobody particularly connected that with right wing vs. left wing political principles. It was the botched fashion in which he did it that was condemned. The guy who campaigned in part on the concept that he would restore international respect for America so far has been formally condemned by the U.K. parliament, critiqued by just about every other country with troops in Afghanistan and (in a matter unrelated to Afghanistan) has seen France withdraw it’s ambassador, which is unprecedented since I believe the fall of the ancien régime.

    I’m curious. Given the way that the novel coronavirus has spread through the various nations of the world, what do you think Pres. Trump could have done differently that would have made a difference? When this first started I predicted that there would be nothing anyone could do about the spread of the virus, and outside a very few island nations with controllable borders (which the U.S. could never hope to emulate) nothing really has.

  23. 23
    Kate says:

    We have a dispute of semantics Kate.

    It’s not semantics. There was no moving of goal posts. Biden is performing exactly as advertised.
    And then Ron goes gish galloping off…
    The point of your string of regurgitated Fox talking points appears to be that in the past eight months, Biden has made the U.S. a worse place to live. I disagree. I’ll do a separate post for each wretched paragraph.

  24. 24
    Kate says:

    He’s looking out for the interests of blacks? The push for requiring vaccination to work in larger businesses or the Federal government or Medicare funded health care facilities and encouraging entertainment venues and airlines to require people using them to be vaccinated disproportionately affects blacks and Hispanics, who have a much higher rate of non-vaccination. Rising gas and food prices are doing them no favors either. Note that I ran out and got vaccinated as quickly as I could, so I’m not talking from a personal viewpoint of being anti-vaccination.

    First and foremost, it is not for you or me to determine what is in the best interests of the African American community. That is for the African American community to decide. By and large, they are satisfied with Biden and I trust their assessment of their own lives and the state of their own communities.

    Mandating vaccinations for COVID, in line with the way we mandate vaccines for measles, small pox, etc. is good public policy. It will benefit everyone.

    Rising prices are global. They began before Biden came to office for complicated reasons, most prominently, distortions caused by the pandemic:

    There’s also reason to be wary of overinterpreting inflation and wage figures as the U.S. economy rebounds from the Covid-19 pandemic, according to economists.
    That’s due to economic distortions caused by the virus. For example, consumer prices fell early in the pandemic. Comparing prices today to lower prices a year ago will naturally cause inflation readings to seem high. source

    Republicans want to attribute these global rises in prices to the American Rescue Plan, which, as the name suggests, is not global. It was also only implemented after the rise in prices had already begun. If Democrats are right, the increasing prices should correct themselves over the next 6-12 months. If Republicans are right, prices will continue to rise, or even get worse if Democrats manage to pass more spending. We shall see.

  25. 25
    Kate says:

    His focus on infrastructure? I would love for the proposed spending bills to be cut down to the point that all they actually dealt with was infrastructure. Biden could get the GOP to vote for them tomorrow if he did. But they are filled with social program funding, changes to immigration law, etc. that have nothing to do with infrastructure. That in fact is one of the primary things that makes me believe that he’s being manipulated. Attempting to redefine the meaning of the word “infrastructure” doesn’t change that.

    The policies you object to in the infrastructure bill are all policies that Biden has long supported. Incorporating them into the infrastructure bill was a stroke of political genius. I get why that bothers you, but it doesn’t make Biden senile. If Biden were not in control there would be leaks all over the place about various factions jockeying for position. There is none of that. The administration is unified behind its leader, Biden.

  26. 26
    Kate says:

    If you read through conservative blogs you’ll see that the fact that he withdrew our troops from Afghanistan actually met with wide approbation! Nobody particularly connected that with right wing vs. left wing political principles. It was the botched fashion in which he did it that was condemned. The guy who campaigned in part on the concept that he would restore international respect for America so far has been formally condemned by the U.K. parliament, critiqued by just about every other country with troops in Afghanistan and (in a matter unrelated to Afghanistan) has seen France withdraw it’s ambassador, which is unprecedented since I believe the fall of the ancien régime.

    Afghanistan. Ah, yes, the Trump would have done it better and more smoothly argument. I like Paul Campos’ take:

    The claim that a “chaotic” exit was “marred by operational miscues” is evidently based on the working assumption that evacuating more than 100,000 civilians from hostile territory in the middle of raging civil war in the wake of a functional military surrender should pretty much go like a typical weekend at O’Hare or LAX. source

    But, more seriously, this article in USA Today sums up my view of the people criticizing the way the Biden implemented the withdrawal from Afghanistan.
    And, if you think Trump would have done better, I point you to his administration’s slow-walking of special visas and their performance in withdrawing from Syria, leaving our Kurdish allies to be slaughtered by the Turkish invasion.

  27. 27
    Kate says:

    I’m curious. Given the way that the novel coronavirus has spread through the various nations of the world, what do you think Pres. Trump could have done differently that would have made a difference? When this first started I predicted that there would be nothing anyone could do about the spread of the virus, and outside a very few island nations with controllable borders (which the U.S. could never hope to emulate) nothing really has.

    I remember that thread. There was a whole group of people explaining about testing and contact tracing, which the Trump administration resisted because it didn’t want its numbers to look bad.
    Trump downplayed the severity of the virus, and encouraged his followers to go out like usual, including to his super-spreader rallies.
    Once it was clear that masks and social distancing substantially slow transmission rates, instead of encouraging their use, he mocked them and discouraged their use.
    He and his Republican allies turned a non-partisan public health issue into a political wedge issue. Now, the Republican party is still fighting masking, social distancing and vaccines.
    It did not have to be this bad in the U.S..

  28. 28
    Ampersand says:

    Ron – I’m a fan of the art in Lackadaisy. The way he draws expressions is especially fabulous.

  29. 29
    Grace Annam says:

    Joe:

    I really like the art except mmmaybe the seated dog’s knees in the third panel. I don’t think they should bend the same way a human’s would. That being said, I don’t know what an anthropomorphised canine would use for a chair and how they’d sit, so.

    Actually, I’ve seen this done both ways, and debated a bit among furry illustrators. I want to say that Steve Gallaci’s Albedo serious did it digitigrade, as you suspect it should be done, rather than plantigrade, as Amp did it. I think the consensus is that it’s simply up to the individual artist’s aesthetic. But this is WAY outside of any area of expertise I have; I’m merely a lay person who likes comics, and especially Pogo.

    Grace

  30. 30
    Grace Annam says:

    RonF:

    The talk about anthropomorphic characters, and cats in particular, leads me to ask what you think of Lackadaisy Cats.

    I think Lackadaisy Cats is an artistic tour-de-force. As with all such, I wish his output were faster, but I wouldn’t want him to compromise quality so.

    Grace

  31. 31
    Grace Annam says:

    Ron:

    He’s looking out for the interests of blacks? The push for requiring vaccination to work in larger businesses or the Federal government or Medicare funded health care facilities and encouraging entertainment venues and airlines to require people using them to be vaccinated disproportionately affects blacks and Hispanics, who have a much higher rate of non-vaccination.

    Yes. During a deadly pandemic, when you have a stunningly safe and effective vaccine, enacting policies which result in higher rates of vaccination in a population IS looking out for that population.

    Given the way that the novel coronavirus has spread through the various nations of the world, what do you think Pres. Trump could have done differently that would have made a difference?

    He could have encouraged everyone to get vaccinated, and encouraged everyone to mask up, rather than taking the stances he did, which made both of those times into plays in a culture war.

    Grace

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