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Four More Years
Here is how political cartoonists have sized up the candidates over a tumultuous half-century.
October/november 1984 | Volume 35, Issue 6
“Well, Men, That Buttons It Up,” says a GOP boss to his cohorts, reflecting the party’s justifiable optimism over Eisenhower’s 1956 candidacy for a second term. The cartoonist was Herblock—Herbert Lawrence Block—who began drawing for the Chicago Daily News in 1929. In 1946 he went to the Washington Post , became widely syndicated, and won Pulitzer Prizes in 1942, 1954, and 1979. Stevenson once again opposed Eisenhower as the Democratic candidate, and he lost by an even larger margin than in 1952.
By 1960 television was universally established in America, and it played a prominent role in that year’s presidential campaign. Sen. John F. Kennedy, who entered and won seven primaries for the Democratic nomination, took the nomination on the first ballot. Vice-President Richard M. Nixon won the GOP nomination easily and campaigned on the record of the Eisenhower administration. A crucial factor in the campaign was a series of television debates between the candidates. There was great fretting in the Nixon camp over the Vice-President’s appearance, and particular worry over the shadow of his beard, which showed clearly on the black-and-white televisions of the time. The Democratic Daily News of Greensboro, North Carolina, parodies Nixon’s predicament while asserting that Kennedy is the more substantial candidate. And in fact, Kennedy’s good looks played a real role in his narrow victory.
“I just happened to be passing by …,” says Lynclon Baines Johnson to a forlorn Republican elephant (here symbolizing the party’s liberal wing), and LBJ, who had succeeded to the Presidency on Kennedy’s assassination, is delighted to give the beast a lift. The liberals were unhappy with the policies of the GOP candidate, Sen. Barry M. Coldwater of Arizona, a leader of the party s conservative wing. The cartoonist is Bill Mauldin of the Chicago Sun-Times , winner of Pulitzers in 1945 and in 1959. Aided by GOP defections, Johnson trounced Goldwater in the election.
A cartoon in the British magazine Punch (left) foresaw that popular opposition to the Vietnam War would cause grave problems for Johnson, and indeed, the President decided not to run in 1968. Vice-President Hubert H. Humphrey was the Democratic nominee, Nixon the GOP choice. George C. Wallace, who had been governor of Alabama, entered the race as a segregationist candidate; David Levine, known for his work in The New York Review of Books , saw him as a sinister force holding the balance of power in the election (right). Wallace scored well in the South and in many traditionally Democratic working-class areas in the North. The Democratic split helped tip the balance toward Nixon.
Edward Sorel’s Richard Nixon presides over a motley crew in this burlesque of Washington crossing the Delaware. Sorel saw the rowboat of state foundering amid antiwar sentiment, the rising black challenge to Southern politicians, the demands of women’s liberation, and the prevalence of street crime, while a pompous and militaristic Nixon does not deign to notice them. Nevertheless, Nixon managed to get his troops across triumphantly—only to be routed at the battle of Watergate two years later.
“There must be some mistake,” exclaims this Democratic boss when presented with the new party candidate in 1976. Jimmy Carter, the former governor of Georgia and a political outsider, had beaten the party machine in the primaries to capture the nomination. Carter then went on to narrowly defeat President Gerald Ford (who had succeeded Nixon after his resignation). But Carter never gained the confidence of Establishment party figures such as House Speaker Thomas (Tip) O’Neill, whose jowls could well have inspired this cartoonist for the Boston Globe .
The lack of a real choice is a continuing lament in recent American election history. This cartoon from the Minneapolis Star & Tribune mocks all three 1980 candidates—Carter, Republican Ronald Reagan, and Independent John Anderson. The Wizard of Oz provides the cartoonist’s inspiration, with Carter as the scarecrow, Reagan as the tin woodsman, and Anderson as the cowardly lion. Reagan won a decisive victory in the election, but his “lack of heart” remained a favorite theme of his opponents.