Cartoon: Centrists


This cartoon is by me and Becky Hawkins.


If you like this cartoon, help us make more by supporting my Patreon! It’s what Uncle Sam, Mother Earth, and three out of four earthworms want you to do.


To be fair, not all centrists are like this. But a whole bunch are.


Becky writes:

I was listening to a Henry James audiobook before writing this, so let me know if it’s too rambly or doesn’t make sense:

Drawing not one but two houses on fire (at night, naturally) was a fun (and at times frustrating) challenge. Yay! Of course, I wanted the houses to be interesting and old-fashioned and grand, since they represented important issues. I googled “wooden house on fire,” and got a few reference images. But I didn’t want to draw a real disaster area that readers might recognize as a famous hotel or something. So I found some interesting houses on Google Street View. But I also didn’t want to possibly jinx a house by drawing it on fire. (I’m an artist, I get to be superstitious, okay?) So I drew some houses inspired by old Portland homes, and then looked at reference photos for how to draw and color the fire.

In designing the characters, I wanted to draw people who would consider themselves nonconformists. You know, they’re “free thinkers” who just happen to agree with the right and/or argue with the left most of the time. I gave the man slightly fluffy hair, a goatee, and a scarf. For the figure on the left, well… There was a screenshot from Fox News that was going around Twitter as I was drawing this. The chyron said “Feminist: I’m the most hated lesbian in Baltimore due to my views on trans debate.” I don’t know if this person identifies as a centrist, but she sure looked annoying, and the phrase “most hated lesbian in Baltimore” made me laugh. So I used her appearance as a jumping-off point.

She was originally wearing a grayish suit, but with her blonde hair and pale skin, she looked too monochromatic compared to the rest of the cartoon. I don’t use a super-limited color palette, but I also don’t want to use infinite random colors in a cartoon. When it’s time to choose colors (like, for someone’s clothes) I’ll try to pick a color I’m already using somewhere else. For example, I used the same blue for the left-hand house trim, the woman’s shirt, and the man’s blazer. I tried coloring her blazer pink, to echo the pinkish house on the right. And I realized I accidentally recreated the color scheme of Ellie Sattler’s iconic outfit from Jurassic Park. But I’m guessing no-one will notice.


TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON

This cartoon has a single panel, which shows two rather nice houses burning, with bright orange and yellow flames on the roofs and coming out every window, leaping high into the sky. Both houses have two full stories plus an attic. The house on the left has bay windows, and the house on the right has a sizable front porch with columns.

The house on the left has a mailbox on its front lawn; the mailbox has “Democracy” written on it. The house on the right has a yard sign on its front law, which has “Climate Change” written on it.

On the sidewalk in front of the houses, two people are talking. The person on the left has short blonde hair (or her hair looks blonde in the firelight), is wearing a pink jacket and tan pants, and is holding a smartphone that she’s looking at. She looks very worried.

The person on the right has short, fluffy brown hair, red cats eye glasses, and a van dyke beard. He’s wearing a blue jacket and a blue-and-white patterned scarf.  He is yelling angrily at the sky, waving his fists in the air.

WOMAN: Look at this… College students are criticizing a speaker… And the students are being strident and unreasonable!

MAN (loudly): This is the worst disaster EVER!


This cartoon on Patreon

This entry posted in Cartooning & comics. Bookmark the permalink. 

32 Responses to Cartoon: Centrists

  1. 1
    Dreidel says:

    This cartoon would be much more relevant if you labeled the mailboxes with actual issues that the average person is concerned about, such as “inflation” and “world peace.”

    But at least, after all these years you FINALLY drew a political cartoon in the standard political cartoon format — one single picture frame.

  2. 2
    Jacqueline Onassis Squid says:

    The house on the right looks an awful lot like my house. I know who I’ll be blaming when, er, uh, IF my house burns down.

  3. 3
    bcb says:

    The centrists quickly corrected themselves and said that students exercising their free speech is only the second biggest scandal. The real biggest scandal is that a webcomic artist drew a political cartoon criticizing centrists and put it on the internet!

  4. 4
    Eytan Zweig says:

    I share Amp’s frustration with centrists, but I don’t quite agree with the way the issue is framed in the cartoon. A few weeks ago, the day after Russia invaded the Ukraine, a facebook friend of mine who identifies as an anti-progressive liberal (she’s European, so the issues are a bit different, but in American terms she’s pretty traditional center-left) posted about how Putin was able to build up military power because progressives were too busy “worrying about pronouns”.

    That’s essentially the same criticism as in this comic, and if I reject it when it applies to me, then I don’t see how I can accept it when it applies to others. Essentially, we’re all allowed to care about different issues, and the fact that I probably spend more time in my private and professional life encouraging proper pronoun usage than I do stopping international bloodshed doesn’t mean I don’t care about both.

    We should judge centrists, and progressives and conservatives and liberals and anarchists and communists and everyone else, primarily by the merits of their beliefs. But at the same time, we have to allow different people to have different priorities. It could well be that the centrists in the comic are wrong, but they’re not wrong for having their own priorities (of course, it’s a perfectly valid criticsm of centrists and centrist politicians that they pay lip service to combatting climate change but support policies that are harmful to the climate. But that’s not what this cartoon is criticising them for).

  5. 5
    Görkem says:

    “actual issues that the average person is concerned about”

    Thanks for clueing us in to what the average person is concerned about!

  6. 6
    Mandolin says:

    I like the colors.

  7. 7
    Polaris says:

    Your average person can delay climate change only by a matter of seconds at best.
    However what they can do is tell SJW:s to stop bothering the scientists and engineers whom can actually do something about it.

  8. 8
    Jacqueline Onassis Squid says:

    However what they can do is tell SJW:s to stop bothering the scientists and engineers whom can actually do something about it.

    Is this parody? It seems like a parody.

  9. 9
    Polaris says:

    Is this parody? It seems like a parody.

    It should be. However “Inclusive math”, “equity in math”, and “number talk” are already things.
    Not to mention the woke SJW mob opposing the scientific method as a whole because they dislike biological truisms and harass the very people whom could help humankind advance beyond the biological limitations they dislike.

    Its insane.

  10. 10
    Görkem says:

    @Polaris: I am sure the IPCC will come out and ask for SJWs to leave them alone any minute now.

  11. 11
    Jacqueline Onassis Squid says:

    So it is parody. I’m so glad because the alternative is almost unimaginably awful.

  12. 12
    Joe in Australia says:

    This cartoon didn’t appeal to me. Part of the reason is that I rarely enjoy the style parodied by Ward Sutton (“Stan Kelly”) in The Onion: the sort of political cartoons in which objects are labelled to give them symbolic significance. The worst modern example is probably the Trump supporter Ben Garrison; for a while I thought he was parodying Kelly!

    The other part of my reason is that the issues seem poorly connected. Are we supposed to deduce that the speaker is being criticised because of their views on democracy and global warming? Because without the presence of the students it just seems that the cartoon is saying “tone-policing students is relatively unimportant compared to these other issues”. And that’s true! But you could substitute a host of other labels there and make the same point. The students might be protesting high tuition (a totally valid protest) or something quite trivial, and the critic would still be in the wrong. Really, the reason tone-policing student protests is almost always stupid isn’t that there are more serious issues; it’s because it’s a reactionary defense of the status quo and the critic should actually be taking a stance on the substantive issue.

  13. 13
    Polaris says:

    So it is parody. I’m so glad because the alternative is almost unimaginably awful.

    One cannot be selectively anti-Science.
    Woke are the creationists of our time.

  14. 14
    Eytan Zweig says:

    Of course one can be selectively anti-science. There are probably climate scientists who are anti-vax. There are definitely biochemists who deny climate change. I have personally witnessed scientists debate whether the methodolgy of entire other fields of science are valid.

    I’m not going to get into a debate about whether so-called SJWs are “anti-science”. But even if we were to assume everything you say in @9 was somehow accurate, that still doesn’t mean that SJWs are harassing climate scientists.

  15. 15
    Celeste says:

    Okay, I’ll bite.

    Polaris, when you talk about, “tell SJWs to stop bothering the scientists and engineers,” is there a specific event you’re talking about or something? Was there an, “SJWs harass climate scientists,” story I missed in the news?

    Also, when you talk about, “woke SJW mob opposing the scientific method as a whole because they dislike biological truisms,” what, specific biological truisms are you talking about?

    When you say, “Woke are the creationists of our time,” again, is there a specific event or belief you’re talking about?

    If you have an argument to make, make it. If you have a point to make, make it. This just all seems very vague, in an “in joke that only you get” kind of way.

  16. 16
    Jacqueline Onassis Squid says:

    Woke are the creationists of our time.

    It’s not good satire but no real human being could possibly be such an inanimate regurgitator of the most ridiculous far right propaganda buzzphrases. Not unless they were a fascist or some other hateful flavor of authoritarianism.

  17. 17
    Celeste says:

    So I figure that the “biological truisms” are either

    1) Racist, in a Quillette/Bell Curve type, “why won’t anyone take my research that Black people are genetically inferior seriously,” way.
    2) Sexist, in an incel/religious right/evo-psych type, “why won’t anyone take my research that women are supposed to make me a sandwich seriously,” way
    3) Homophobic, in a religious right/natural law type, “why won’t anyone take my research that reproduction is the purpose of marriage seriously,” type way
    or
    4) Transphobic, in a dirtbag-right type, “why won’t anyone take my gender theory that the overwhelming majority of doctors, researchers, and trans people disagree with seriously,” way.

    I’m curious about which of those it ends up being. Of course, Polaris, I’m open to being pleasantly surprised. Maybe you’ve got a legitimate critique, and I hope you do!

  18. 18
    Jacqueline Onassis Squid says:

    So I figure that the “biological truisms” are either..

    I would bet a pile of money on 4. Talk of “biological truisms” (especially in place of words like “facts”, which is what they’d like you to think a truism is. Largely because these ignorant bigots don’t actually understand what a truism is, making statements like those above mean, hilariously, not what they think they mean. But I digress.) these days is almost invariably transphobic lies about science.

  19. 19
    Kate says:

    Your average person can delay climate change only by a matter of seconds at best.
    However what they can do is tell SJW:s to stop bothering the scientists and engineers whom can actually do something about it.

    Woke are the creationists of our time.

    White Evangelical Christians are the actual “creationists of our time”. They are a lot more numerous, a lot more anti-science, and a lot more dangerous to democracy today than the “Woke”.
    The ones actually preventing action on climate change are people in industry, and their supporters in the Republican party and the right of the Democratic party.

  20. 20
    Mandolin says:

    Creationists are the creationists of our time…

  21. 21
    Corso says:

    Hey Amp,

    I’m wondering if you could maybe talk about your process, specifically the amount of time between when you start a project and when you post it?

    I’ll admit, the reason I’m asking is a little critical; It feels like Ukraine is really overshadowing current events, and particularly in the context of the 2A strip, but also here, the reality of what’s happening in Eurasia makes a stark counterpoint. Did you start the strips before Russia invaded Ukraine?

  22. 22
    Görkem says:

    @Corso: There’s no obligation for artists to address the issues you feel like they should address.

  23. 23
    Corso says:

    Gorkem @22

    You’re right, of course. He doesn’t have to say or address anything, he doesn’t have to respond to me at all.

    I just think knowing at what stage the Russian atrocities were at when he started making the comic that mocks worrying about certain issues when there are more important issues in play might change the way I digest it. Because if he started working on it two months ago, and it just takes a while to come out, fair play! If he banged it out in the last week…. Maybe he should look at it twice.

  24. 24
    Kate says:

    I just think knowing at what stage the Russian atrocities were at when he started making the comic that mocks worrying about certain issues when there are more important issues in play might change the way I digest it.

    I think you missed the point of the cartoon. It’s not that students “criticizing a speaker” and “being strident and unreasonable” are less important issues than global warming and attacks on Democracy…it is that they are not, in fact, problems at all.

  25. 25
    Ampersand says:

    Did you start the strips before Russia invaded Ukraine?

    We work quite a bit ahead of when they get posted outside of Patreon. I wrote the strip in mid-December, I’m guessing, and Becky began working on it in late December. I posted it on Patreon on January 22nd, about a month before the invasion of Ukraine.

    (Deleted a sentence b/c when I typed it I was confused about what post I was responding to!)

  26. 26
    Ampersand says:

    The house on the right looks an awful lot like my house. I know who I’ll be blaming when, er, uh, IF my house burns down.

    Please keep in mind that Becky drew the house with virtually no direction from me, so she’s the one the police should arrest.

  27. 27
    Ampersand says:

    Eytan, does it make any difference if we’re critiquing a political movement or ideology, rather than an individual?

    I agree that different people can have different priorities. It’s fine for someone’s main issue to be the health of the squirrels in their local park, if that’s what they’re passionate about.

    However, if a movement or ideology concerned with national politics made the health of the squirrels in one particular park their leading priority, I think it would be okay to criticize their priorities.

    No individual can or should be expected to be able to simultaneously make dozens of issues a priority.

    But political movements can and do. And you seem to be saying that we should never criticize a political movement’s priorities because that’s just like criticizing a person for having different priorities. And I’m not articulating it well today, but it feels to me that these things are different in a significant fashion.

    A few weeks ago, the day after Russia invaded the Ukraine, a facebook friend of mine who identifies as an anti-progressive liberal (she’s European, so the issues are a bit different, but in American terms she’s pretty traditional center-left) posted about how Putin was able to build up military power because progressives were too busy “worrying about pronouns”.

    1) There were many progressives who were vocally anti-Putin since way before the invasion. (Admittedly, this was mostly in the context of criticizing Trump and other conservatives for being pro-Putin.)

    2) The claim she made about what determines if Putin does or doesn’t build up a military power is a factual claim that’s ridiculous on its face. She actually believes that Putin picks up his newspaper, reads the US news, and says “aaaah I see some Americans want people to use preferred pronouns. Now’s the time to build more tanks!”?

    To me – and admittedly, I haven’t read what she wrote, just your nutshelling of it -it sounds like your facebook friend is using the invasion opportunistically to support her already-existing beefs, in a way that makes no real-world sense.

    It’s shallow and stupid, and – unless my cartoon claimed that Centrists caused global warming and attacks on democracy by being far more interested in panicking about student protestors, which, to be clear, it does not – it’s not the same thing as the argument my cartoon makes.

  28. 28
    Ampersand says:

    I like the colors.

    Me too! Becky did an awesome job on this one.

  29. 29
    Eytan Zweig says:

    Amp @27 – I agree with you that there’s a difference between criticising individuals and ideologies. But I think the cartoon doesn’t do a great job of critiquing centrist ideology. The cartoon depicts the two centrists as ignoring crises that you and I both consider of paramount importance, while proclaiming that a trivial matters is “the worst disaster ever”. But that’s not centrist ideology. Centrist ideology is that those issues are equivalent, given that they come from opposite sides of the political aisle, and that they must both be addressed in ways that perserve the status quo. What you depict is a way that (many) individual centrists then take that, by focussing on the issues where perserving the status quo is simple, and ignoring the ones where that’s a patent impossibility. But that’s not the ideology that drives them. The cartoon is like criticising animal rights activists by showing someone who cares about the health of the squirrels in the park while ignoring the battery chicken warehouse outside the park. It’s not a criticism of the actions of members of the movement, not of the ideology of the movement.

    Which, I will say, deserves a lot of criticism. I’m not coming in here in support of centrism, I’m just trying to explain why this critique didn’t work for me.

    As for my facebook friend, I’ll point out that I agree entirely with you that she was doing nothing but using the crisis to reinforce her pre-existing beefs and that that made no objective sense. That said, her point wasn’t that Putin was directly influenced by reports of progressives, but rather than progressive “identity politics” (as she’s put it) had so much influence on European politics that they distracted the public and the politicians from paying attention to Putin’s actions, and thereby prevented anti-Putin policies from being put into place earlier. Which also is just wrong on multiple levels.

    However, and this returns to my initial point – by framing your criticism of centrism as a conflict between climate change/threats to democracy on the one hand, and opposition to students activism on the other hand, you’ve made the cartoon be about your (and my) “existing beefs”, rather than about the centrists. A centrist looking at this cartoon would just think “oh look, this is by a leftist who can’t look beyond leftist problems to understand what centrism is actually doing”.

    Now, I know the target audience is not the centrists themselves, and that your goal wasn’t to convince any centrists of the errors of their ways, just to caricaturize them. My critique isn’t about that, though it probably sounds like it is somewhat (I was a centrist myself in my early adulthood, before moving steadily leftwards, and the instinct to tone police is still there). My critique of the comic is that it feels to me like a toothless caricature, because – to me – it felt like by exaggerating centrist behaviour, you stopped accurately representing centrist ideology.

    One last thought – if instead of titling the cartoon “centrists”, you titled it “Fox News viewers”, and drew a MAGA hat on one of the two people, it would still make sense, just felt a bit mild. And maybe that was partially the point you were trying to make – that many so-called centrists are indistinguishable from the less rabid right. But I don’t think that was the point, because generally in your work, if you are trying to compare two groups, you represent them both in the cartoon.

    So basically, I am not disagreeing with you about the flaws of centrism, I just found this particular cartoon not particularly effective in making that point.

  30. 30
    Jacqueline Onassis Squid says:

    Centrist ideology is that those issues are equivalent, given that they come from opposite sides of the political aisle, and that they must both be addressed in ways that perserve the status quo.

    Theoretically, for some very small group, sure. Realistically? No. What you are naming isn’t, in fact, Centrism, but bothsiderism. If that’s what centrism means to you, that means that pretty much all major media is centrist.

  31. 31
    Ampersand says:

    I just found this particular cartoon not particularly effective in making that point.

    That’s fair. You’ve given me a lot to think about – thanks.

  32. 32
    Eytan Zweig says:

    Jacqueline @30 – It’s bothsiderism for the particular issues mentioned in the comic, because (in my experience and in my reading of centrist opinion pieces) climate change and threats to democracy are issues centrists share with the left, and distrust of student activism (especially if it’s in the interest of social justice) are issues centrists share with the right. If the issues in the background were, for example, trans rights and systemic racism, then that would be different.

    That said, I come from a European perspective, and here centrists tend to be moderately socially liberal (but not progressive) and moderately economically conservative (but not anti-environmental) while explicitly rejecting both “identity politics”/social justice and nationalism. It may be that an American perspective is different. So my question to you is – how would you define centrism, currently?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *