It’s US election time, so let’s take the opportunity to look at one of the 20th century’s best political satirists, Clifford K. Berryman.
US Presidential campaigns have a habit of throwing up the humorous side of the electoral process. Noticeable examples during the 2012 election that have caught the public’s imagination and gone viral are ‘Big Bird’, ‘Malarkey’, ‘binders full of women’, and ‘horses and bayonets’ (the latter of which was mentioned on Twitter nearly 60,000 times in one minute).
Obviously, though, satire is nothing new (just ask Jonathan Swift). And within a US politics context we need look no further than Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Clifford K. Berryman (1869-1949). Berryman, who worked for the Washington Star and The Washington Post drew thousands of cartoons commenting on the candidates, campaigns, issues and elections of his era, highlighting both the specific and the timeless aspects of American electoral campaigns. In an extraordinary fifty year career, which saw him inadvertently invent the Teddy Bear, he drew every presidential administration from Benjamin Harrison (1889) to Harry Truman (1945).
Below is a selection of some of his best work, all of which can be found in our book Running for Office.
Click a thumbnail to begin the slideshow.
In 1930 Republicans had a slim majority in both houses of Congress going into the midterm elections – they were not able to hold onto it.
When former President Theodore Roosevelt – the clear favourite for the 1920 Republican Presidential nomination – died suddenly in January 1919, the race became wide open. With such a multitude of potential candidates having the proverbial ‘bee in their bonnets’, the G.O.P. Presidential bee could not keep up. In the end HArding won the Republican nomination and, with Calvin Coolidge as his running mate, went on to become President.
The Democratic race to challenge Republican President Calvin Coolidge in 1924 opened up when front runner William McAdoo proved weaker than expected. This cartoon comments on the ever-growing field of potential candidates. And so you know, John W. Davis received the nomination, but lost to Coolidge in the November election.
The Republican’s clear choice for their Presidential nominee in 1904 was Presidential Theodore Roosevelt, but there was no front-runner for the Vice President spot.
When this cartoon was published the 1920 Presidential election was over a year away. With no clear front-runners and both major parties in need of a campaign platform now that WWI was effectively over, this cartoon depicts the Republican elephant and Democratic donkey fishing for issues. They didn’t have to fish long though, as three weeks after this was published the Treaty of Versailles was signed, officially ending WWI and the great political fight over the League of Nations began.
In some instances, candidates become embroiled in scandals and negative campaigning and lose sight of the voters’ interests. As WWI ended, debate over the peace treaty took centre stage. This debate, couple with devastating labour dtrikes in the US and UK, pucshed aside the usual electioneering. Berryman shows the Republican elephant and Democratic donkey wondering why they cannot get their campaign messages heard while Uncle Sam is shown paying attention to more urgent matters.
Campaign contributions and expenditures have historically led to controversy. This cartoon references a speech given by William E. Borah, a maverick Republican Senator from Idaho, on the Senate’s investigations of corruption in the goverment.
Here Berryman draws attention to the overwhelming confidence portrayed by the Democratic Party on the eve of the 1904 Presidential election. The Republicans had nothing to fear though, Theodore Roosevelt won by a landslide.
President Truman was widely expected to lose by a large margin to Republican Thomas E. Dewey in the 1948 presidential election. Despite the polls predicting a landslide for Dewey, Truman won in what the most mot well-known political upset in U.S. history.
Although the Republicans won the 1920 congressional and Presidential elections by a landslide, by 1922 the Republican party was fighting desperately to retain control of Congress as the midterm election approached.
This cartoon highlights the biennial departure of ‘lame duck’ members of Congress – those who are departing apitol Hill after losing their bid for reelection. The lame ducks in this cartoon are deeated Democrats heading to the White House hoping to secure political appointments from President Woodrow Wilson.
Berryman drew this just two days before the end of President Theodore Roosevelt’s second term in office. As Roosevelt prepared for his African safari, his departure posed a quandary for Berryman: since Roosevelt was the inspiration for the teddy bear, should Berryman continue to use the symbol once Roosevelt had left office? He did.