Bloody Red State

Posted by on January 27th, 2010 at 12:56 PM

Brian Fairrington is a political cartoonist who leans to the right. It’s easy to understand, then, his jubilation when Scott Brown, a Republican, was elected to the U.S. Senate last week to fill out the rest of Teddy Kennedy’s term, all that was left of a nearly half-century of continuous Democrat incumbency. Brown’s arrival in the Senate marks the first time since 1972 that the Congressional delegation from Massachusetts has not been Democrat from top to bottom, side to side. The first time since 1952 that Massachusetts had had a Republican senator. Fairrington’s cartoon is a nicely layered comment on the historic moment.

When I ponder editorial cartoons, I look for visual metaphors, images so memorable that they are burned into the observer’s brain pan thereby affecting whatever he/she thinks forever thereafter. At first plush, the metaphor in this cartoon is the Grand Old Pachyderm slaying a Democrat—a bloody though simple enough metaphor for the election of Scott Brown. But then I realized that the pool of blood forming under the corpse was in the shape of Massachusetts. And so the erstwhile Democrat blue state becomes, for the nonce, a Republican red. And with this fillip of visual information—likely to be overlooked by anyone not familiar with the shapes of U.S. states (and how many fresh highschool graduates these days are?)—Fairrington’s deft cartoon acquires a meaningful and supremely memorable complexity.

It was the tea baggers, they say, that turned the trick for the Republicans. And the tea baggers are now often termed the “Tea Party.” The anti-government party. Did you ever have tea parties when you were a kid? And if you did, wasn’t the tea always make-believe?

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