This represents the last throes of the conversation on That Treacherous New Yorker Cartoon, I swear. But the newest piece of Americana, which I jubilantly snagged from the TNR mailroom (those free copies go fast) piqued my interest in what's been another sub rosa narrative of race in this election: Political cartooning!
Certainly, the (comparatively small) number of black local pols in America has produced a fair bit of cartoonery--see here for a graphic of one opportunistic representative--but by now, the record of caricature on Obama is an order of magnitude greater than any we've seen of black elected officials to date. So, over at the Root, I decided to see what artists had been up to.
The piece focuses on Obama, but I think a larger point is worth making. Essentially, that which makes political cartooning political are its properties (in the theatrical sense)--which vary with each image and each artist's imagination. If a subject requires a big mallet or a jacket full of cash or Air Force One or a bathroom stall to make the artist's point, so let it be drawn. A president Obama will have all of these props and more used on him at some point. But in the long run--especially with politics--it's physicality that makes caricature stick. And that is determined by far more specific markers than a salwar kameez or an AK-47. Some of it is, of course racial (witness the struggle to find a centrist shade of brown). But more of it has to do with what our politicians really look like (witness W, shrunk to a simian synecdoche of all that's wrong in America).
With Obama, finding that balance is going to take some work (witness above).