This Is Great! Wait…

This Is Great! Wait...

I’m not typically one for “things are worse now than they used to be” arguments. I see people as fundamentally the same over time — lots of good, lots of bad — but in general pretty consistent from one era to another. For instance, you’ll hear the posit that society today is becoming more violent. Well, I can remember some pretty nasty behavior on the school playground considered to be a rite of passage when I was growing up that would never, ever be allowed today. And we aren’t all that far removed from times when actively enslaving other human beings and displaying decapitated heads on spikes were societal standards.

But one “things have gotten worse” argument that I’m fully on board with: Voting. Specifically, how people determine their votes. Instead of simply picking the most decent, reasonably intelligent candidate who best aligns with our views, we are encouraged, nay, indoctrinated to think like political operatives: What candidate is most electable? What candidate is going excited certain key demographics? What candidate is going to deliver exclusively for our side?

I blame cable entertainment. (They call themselves cable news, but it’s really more of a sideshow than anything else.) They have to fill gobs of time and keep viewers hooked, so it’s an endless stream of nattering talking heads. Spice it up with generous portions of anger and fear, and eventually we’re all pundits. (Or at least we think we are.)

All of which leads to situations like in Michigan’s 3rd district where the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee helped a very Trumpian candidate, John Gibbs, win the Republican nomination for the US House because they hope he is more “defeatable” in the November election. It’s exactly that sort of misguided strategic thinking that helped Trump himself get elected President in 2016.

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Limited Government Intervention?

Limited Government Intervention?

Last week Republican gubernatorial candidate, Tudor Dixon, gave an interview in which she was asked whether a hypothetical 14-year-old incest victim should be required by law to carry a baby to term. I guess you could see it as a “gotchya” question, but she has a realistic chance to be our next governor and with these sorts of situations now being thrown back for states to decide, it’s seems within the realm of reason.

Her answer was basically, “yes, absolutely.” Which checks out because it is consistent with her platform and similar positions she has established on the subject. But sensing that she had perhaps said this with a little too much enthusiasm, she tried to walk it back some with “A life is a life for me. That’s how it is … That’s my feeling.”

For an individual citizen, I think that’s fine, even laudable. But not for an elected official, especially a governor, integral to creating, approving, and prosecuting laws — actual laws that have actual consequences for actual people. I don’t want “that’s my feeling” to be an excuse for what my governor does.

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Do the Right Thing

Do the Right Thing

As we ramp up to the August election and the one in the fall, I’m sure you all have also been inundated with ads/emails/text/mailers and so on for the candidates (and even more so with requests for money to create even more materials). One interesting nuance for me: The digital world seems convinced I’m a major donor to the Democrat Party, flooding my email inbox. The analog world seems convinced I’m a major donor to the Republican Party, flooding my mailbox. I’m neither, but it’s very difficult to change the mind of a database.

I certainly don’t read everything, but I do sample it. I’m now living in Michigan’s 3rd district, so I’ve been getting a lot of Peter Meijer material. I consider Meijer a viable candidate because he seems to be a decent human being. (That’s a baseline …and yet a frightening number of candidates don’t meet the qualification.) He also seems intelligent, which I think should be another requirement.

So I was disappointed to see the mailer include this: “Peter Meijer will continue to oppose Biden’s spending spree that’s driving inflation.” Um, yeah. He’s gotta know that’s not true. Or at the very least know that it’s highly misleading.

The reasons for sky-high inflation are considerably more complex — here’s a short video and some handy charts if you’re interested. But suffice to say, there’s a lot more to it than Joe Biden.

Now in Meijer’s defense, the mailer wasn’t actually from him or his campaign. It was paid for by the “American Patriots for Prosperity Sparkle-Sunshine Gumdrop Committee” (or some such thing) as disclosed in the fine print and was not authorized by any candidate. Which is problematic because it certainly appears to be speaking, if not as Meijer, then certainly for him.

Thus was my inspiration for a very cynical cartoon. Please don’t let it get you down — you still absolutely need to vote!

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Who Do You Think You’re Gonna Vote For?

Who Do You Think You're Gonna Vote For?

In the 1980s, the Detroit Pistons had an intense basketball rivalry with the Boston Celtics. Actually, for those of us who were caught up in it, “intense” hardly does it justice. It was more like “white-hot passionate hatred.” In the years that followed, both teams fell from championship contention and the rivalry, for the most part, cooled — rosters completely changed as players got traded or retired.

So it was sometime later in the 1990s and the Celtics were in town to play the Pistons. My wife and I were watching on TV, and at one point the camera scanned the crowd. There was a fan with a Pistons jersey holding up a sign that said, “We still hate Ainge.”

If you don’t already know, Danny Ainge was one of the most reviled Celtics of that previous era. He was a very good player, which was reason enough to despise him. But he also was a whiner and had a, well, a very punchable face. (Naturally, this is the Pistons fan in me talking, but look him up and see for yourself.)

My wife and I thought the sign was hilarious, and to this day we will randomly say to each other, “I still hate Ainge.” Which is, of course, absurd — the notion that Danny Ainge as a rival player would still be relevant in our lives.

People are funny like that. We carry around slights, real or manufactured, and refuse to let them go. And then when an event (say, an attempted coup) does need to be deconstructed, there are those who want nothing more than to get past it. “What’s done is done — we need to move on!”

Will Michiganders ever find unity? Well, the Pistons seem to be putting the pieces together for a quality team. Hopefully some day soon there will be another Celtics player for all of us to focus our anger on.

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The Evolution of the Big Ten Conference

The Evolution of the Big Ten Conference

Full disclosure: I definitely contribute to the ludicrous amount of money that gets poured into college sports. I like watching games. And not just football and basketball. Volleyball, softball, and even track & field are fun to watch, too.

So I have no grounds for righteous indignation in pointing out that the Big Ten adding UCLA and USC (and, soon, other schools) is all about the money. Of course it’s about the money. There is lots of it, a tremendous possibility of acquiring more, and that’s exactly what the Big Ten and its (more than 10) universities are trying to do. That’s fine. But, also, it is ridiculous.

Take a step back and consider the original idea of college athletics. They were sort of an extra perk that provided balance to the academic life of the students and helped promote the university (sometimes even in that order!).

Now marvel at how it has evolved into what we have now — how at the top level, it has somehow turned into a feeding frenzy between the Big Ten and its mortal enemy, the Southeastern Conference. A crazed race to claim as many schools as possible to grow grow grow, geography and all other considerations be damned.

Is this really the best plan? I mean, has anybody even thought about the travel costs of, say, the Rutgers track and field teams going to UCLA for a meet? Ah, it’s probably just a rounding error compared to the revenue potential of the Los Angeles TV market. And I’ll probably end up watching the meet on the Big Ten Network.

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Bad News, Good News

Bad News, Good News

The way in which the 10 Republican candidates for Governor of Michigan have run their campaigns can be charitably described as not ideal. Michigan Radio and other local media has covered this pretty thoroughly. But it has also attracted national media attention for its, um, not ideal-ness:

I’m currently on vacation, so I had to draw a week ahead — I apologize for not including the additional blunders, gaffes, and debacles likely to have occurred since writing this article.

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Depending on State Leaders to Prioritize Our Health and Well-Being

Depending on State Leaders to Prioritize Our Health and Well-Being

As you are all well aware, the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade this month with the intention of leaving it to individual states to decide pregnancy issues for themselves. Or as the majority framed it, “authority to regulate abortion must be returned to the people and their elected representatives” because “the Constitution does not confer a right to abortion.”

Whether you agree or disagree with the legal logic, the net effect is the same. And, of course, it is real people with real lives who are going to have to deal with those effects.

As likely much less of you are aware, this week the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that cases against former state officials charged for their involvement in the Flint Water Crisis cannot go forward because they have not been properly prosecuted. Or more precisely, “(State laws) authorize a judge to investigate, subpoena witnesses, and issue arrest warrants. But they do not authorize the judge to issue indictments. And if a criminal process begins with a one-man grand jury, the accused is entitled to a preliminary examination before being brought to trial.”

Again, whether that makes sense to you or not, what it means is that real people will have to deal with the consequences. And that includes delaying justice for Flint residents.

As we head into a holiday weekend to celebrate the United States of America, all this is a pretty good reminder that while there are many, many wonderful benefits to being participants in this constitutional republic experiment, it can also be deeply frustrating.

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But Why Are These My Only Two Choices?

But Why Are These My Only Two Choices?

Sometimes an editorial cartoon is simply about expressing a feeling. And in this case, it’s exasperation.

There is, of course, lots to be exasperated about these days, so there’s a good chance yours is for a whole different topic. But for me, it’s continually having my political options as a voter framed as a binary choice between a cratering economy and the end of democracy. That’s it. That’s all. One of them has to happen. Or so we’re told (and many believe).

Why? We’re Americans, for crying out loud! If anything, we are conditioned to having too many choices. Go into any sizable grocery store, walk down the cracker aisle, and you will be faced with approximately 287 varieties of Triscuits. Did anybody ask for these? No. Do we really need that many? Probably not. But there they are. We would never limit ourselves with our snacks — why do we do it with our politics?

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I Agree with Betsy DeVos

I Agree with Betsy DeVos

Living as I do in Michigan (especially West Michigan), I’ve drawn a number of cartoons over the years with and about Betsy DeVos. I don’t remember any of them being particularly complementary. It’s not personal. (I’ve never met her.) But as a political financier/string-puller — and a public official as the Secretary of Education for the Trump Administration — she has given me plenty of opportunities to disagree with her.

She has a book coming out this month, and if you are familiar with DeVos, the title will not surprise you: “Hostages No More: The Fight for Education Freedom and the Future of the American Child”

This can be read a few different ways. If you believe that the free-market is and always will be the best way to solve any issue, it may feel like a glorious call to arms. If you are dubious about the prospects of letting pure capitalism drive education, it may feel a bit overwrought. And if you are devoted believer in public education, it may feel like the overture to the end of times.

A lot of opportunity for divisiveness there. But apparently the book is not just about education. In it, DeVos reflects on how she was the second member of the Trump Cabinet to resign the day after the Capitol insurrection. She writes:

“To me, there was a line in the sand. It wasn’t about the election results. It was about the values and image of the United States. It was about public service rising above self. The president had lost sight of that.”

Nicely put, Ms. DeVos.

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A Contest Nobody Wants to Win

A Contest Nobody Wants to Win

Working in professions like nursing and teaching have become particularly difficult these past few years. (They were not easy gigs before that.) The recent high-profile mass shootings have only taken them to the next level of difficulty. Which is an innocuous way of saying that the way nurses and teachers are currently treated in this country is a national disgrace.

But the big question is (as always): What are we going to do about it?

Well, taking more personal responsibility would certainly help. Nurses and teachers are partners, not miracle workers — we need to do our part, meet them halfway. We can also be better citizens by considering what might benefit the community before defaulting to the most self-serving choice.

And, yes, a component of improving lives (and saving them) is to make changes to existing laws and even establish new ones. Our government was designed to adjust the rules to accommodate a changing world — don’t let the “it’s only constitutional if I agree with it” crowd tell you otherwise.

But it can feel overwhelming. And it’s so easy to become distracted by the Ted Cruzes of the world. Perhaps asking the nurses and teachers what they think would be a good place to start.

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