Many of the holdings in the graphics division here at Clements are a form of political satire, which seems especially relevant and interesting during this election year. Presidential races have a strong history as opportunities for media outlets to employ satire to create divisions in public opinions. These divisions occur over differing viewpoints and belief systems and are often created in an effort to ensure a specific party’s political victory. Satirical cartoons can both exemplify and exacerbate already existing political tensions, as print media is used to judge electoral histories and political ideologies in an ironic way. Throughout history we have understood political information about candidates using visual aids that help define and solidify our feelings toward their policies and personal lives. The derisiveness of political parties and the negativity focused on presidential candidates is, unfortunately, a longstanding tradition of American political media.
In 1980 the Detroit Free Press printed a cartoon that exemplified this long, ironic past in a humorous and unapologetic way. This print speaks to the heart of our political frustrations with the turbulence and insincerity of the Presidential electoral process.
|"The People's Choice," The Detroit Free Press (January 13, 1980)|
|[Andrew Jackson as the Great Father] (ca. 1835)|
|"The Election Game: Turning the Cards" (1851).|
In our current election year, we see numerous images every day designed to solidify political boundaries and ensure our votes on one side of the aisle or the other. Right vs. Left, Red vs. Blue. Such polarization is partly achieved through political commentary in modern media sources, which was the same aim of the satirical cartoons of our past. The historical pattern of ironic printed materials that commented on political agendas is quite powerful when applied to contemporary society. After viewing some of the rich historical material we have here at Clements and examining the impact that it has had on our electoral past, the power of visual aids in the media can be understood differently, especially in the context of the upcoming November election.
- Handicap Race, Presidential Stakes 1844 by Edward Williams Clay
- Shall I vote for 10 cents a day? Published in 1856
- Democracy against the Unnatural Union : trial Octr. 14, 1817
- Protecting the American home, by Art Young. Published in 1892
- Platforms Illustrated. Published by L. Prang & Co.?, 1864