By James Donahue
As someone who creates a politically oriented comic strip, I’m sorry to admit that I’m not actually very politically savvy. However, 2014 is already shaping up to be big year for politics and political cartoons, so I expect that to include I’ll Kick Your Ass and Asskickin’ Jim.
The landscape in American politics could see some very serious changes by the end of 2014. For the briefest of overviews, I can tell you that it’s an election year for the House of Representatives, which is currently controlled by the GOP. Of the 435 congressional seats, the Democrats need 17 more than they currently hold to take back Congress. In the Senate, 33 of the 100 seats are up for election, and the Republicans need six more seats to take control. Each state will deal with its independent issues, of course, but some nationwide themes could end up making the difference in the end.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is the most incendiary issue today and will probably be the issue most Republicans use as a jumping off point when facing their Democratic rivals. More commonly known as “Obamacare,” the ACA took a major hit when the October launch of healthcare.gov turned out to be an epic failure. It could not be accessed by many of the people who visited the site and was rife with technical difficulties and glitches. The president had to address the issue multiple times and even had to apologize for the errors in launching a government website that didn’t work. This does not bode well for an already controversial program or the people who backed it.
On the same day as the launch of the website, the United States government shut down. This was due in part to disagreements over the ACA and the fact that Congress would not agree on a variety of fund appropriations for fiscal year 2014. This shutdown saw many government agencies closed or understaffed and some employees furloughed or asked to come to work not knowing when they would next be paid. It even closed down the National Zoo’s Panda Cam!
Congress was finally able to reach an agreement to get the government up and running again 16 days later, but the issue will be revisited in February 2014. This agreement was reached one day before the US would default on public debt. The debt ceiling has remained an issue since 2011 and will no doubt be revisited again in the coming years. A failure to solve the debt ceiling problem would cause the credit rating of the United States to be lowered, affecting its economic power in the future.
But the real question for political cartoonists is who will garner the most attention by saying or doing something stupid on the campaign trail. Considering that an army of advisers surrounds most politicians, it’s especially disconcerting that they are so notorious for saying and doing unwise things.
Here are a couple choice doozies, both spoken by former vice presidential hopefuls. How these two statements ever saw the light of day is anyone’s guess:
But obviously, we’ve got to stand with our North Korean allies.
I was recently on a tour of Latin America, and the only regret I have is that I didn’t study Latin harder in school so I could converse with those people.
Not that I’m complaining. It makes the job of any political cartoonist easier when politicians have a huge public platform and endless media outlets from which to share their too often misguided opinions. Politics is a passionate subject for many people, from supporters, rivals, and members of the media, all the way down to the average citizen. When emotions become involved, logical thinking has a way of exiting stage left, resulting in wildly unpredictable statements. Celebrities often get involved or are actively recruited by political parties, to interesting results (see Clint Eastwood, Chair).
As such, you can expect to see a bit of evolution for the I’ll Kick Your Ass strip in the new year. Politicians have been targeted in the past mainly because of the reasons stated above. It’s the same reason celebrities and athletes are often the butt of the joke: With social media and countless networks dedicated to every word they say, they have a constant platform to spew their every thought.
I think this is a good time to evolve and become more aware of those making the decisions that affect the country in which we live. I’m certainly not going to stop picking on other public figures who say idiotic things, but may make an effort to focus more on politics. The 2014 federal elections could be even bigger and more hotly contested than ever because the issues are so emotional. The ACA and Debt Ceiling are hugely disputed, for starters, but as long as politicians continue to vomit careless rhetoric at their every chance, the possibilities are endless.