Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Ceteris Paribus*

Andrew Sullivan asks, in response to David Horsey's cartoon mimicry below, "How would the Republican base react to this":

McCain Satire

Well, ceteris paribus ("all other things being equal"), this cartoon doesn't work anywhere as well as New Yorker's Barack Obama's dap, which has been described thus:

Michelle and Barack are in the Oval Office, doing a celebratory fist bump. There's an Osama Bin Laden portrait on the wall and a burning flag in the fireplace. He's a Muslim and she's a revolutionary. Of course, Obama has to push it aside and can scarcely laugh about it.
Well, all other things aren't equal, of course, but here goes:

The New Yorker is a literary magazine in its essence, whereas the National Review is the founding journal of opinion of American conservatism. The respective audiences, while overlapping on the liberal/conservative divide, are likely different in orientation toward activism and praxis. Had the Obama fist bump first appeared at the American Prospect or Harpers, then, well, perhaps ... (and I can't think of a conservative analogue to the New Yorker).

Further, take a look at what Horsey hopes to satirize: McCain in a wheelchair? I can't see how this is an effective lampoon. One of the most amazing elements of the GOP primaries this year was McCain's resurrection from near dead politically, and images of the Arizona Senator
lugging his own bags while huffing to catch a plane at the airport powerfully showcased the man's vigorous drive to victory.

How about Cindy McCain's overflowing pharmaceuticals? Well, unlike Barack Obama's patriotism or his ties to ex-domestic terrorists, Mrs. McCain speaks openly about her past struggles with drug abuse and she's used her own imperfections as a model for personal and social improvement. Also, in contrast, Michelle Obama herself indeed epitomizes the angry black woman (black power!), and she spoke forcefully at Princeton about the primacy of an outsider's status amid America's structures of hierarchy and inequity - not unlike a Weatherman bomber might boast about rightfully "taking it to the man."

As for McCain's humorous repartee found in lines like "Bomb, Bomb, Iran," well, there's been a lot less analytical attention to McCain's off-colorness than that of Obama's elitist put-downs, like those of the bittergate controversy. Supply does not create its own demand.

And Dick Cheney's portrait on the wall, with a copy of the Constitution in the fire? Well,
polls have shown the nation evenly divided on the balance between protecting the national security versus protection civil liberties; and for the most part, the "evil" Richard Cheney is a figment of the hard-left's imagination.

In contrast,
large numbers of Americans believe Barack Obama to be Muslim:

Ludicrous as it might seem .... and obvious as it should be that the New Yorker would never do anything deliberately to hurt the Democratic nominee, it remains the case that a Newsweek poll has just found 12 per cent of voters believing that Obama is a practicing Muslim and another 12 per cent (possibly the same 12 per cent) convinced that he used a Koran for his swearing-in ceremony at the United States Senate. These are of course exactly the sort of people who do not read the New Yorker, or go in very much for the ironic and the satirical, so that as usual the aesthetic effort is somewhat lost on what ought to be its target audience.
In other words, the New Yorker cover was shocking precisely because it tapped into real fears residing close to home among millions of Americans who worry less about McCain's age than about Obama's infidelity to traditional American cultural and religious values.

In any case, it's a funny cartoon, but even with first-mover advantages it wouldn't have riled the conservative base the way the New Yorker cover hammered the left's solar plexus.


* "Ceteris paribus" is the logical reverse of "mutatis mutandis," the title of Sullivan's post.

David Horsey's original cartoons are here.