Political Folly

Do you have election fatigue? We certainly do. In an effort to cleanse our palate of this year's election cycle, Bridgeman offers a guide for running for political office with the aide of political cartoons from decades past.

Show you love freedom.

Wearing a flag pin prominently on your lapel, ordering 'freedom fries'...there are many ways to show you are a proud American! Grover Cleveland left no question of his loyalties being featured in this magazine with the patriot's trifecta of a busty Lady Liberty, the bald eagle and the flag. With the posthumous support of  three former presidents'  - one almost feels bad for his opponent, James G. Blaine.

President Grover Cleveland depicted in 'Puck' magazine cartoon after his election, 1884 (colour litho), American School, (19th century) / Private Collection / Peter Newark American Pictures / Bridgeman Images



The cartoon (above) comes from an American magazine called 'Puck', published from 1871 until 1918. The magazine was the first of its kind, publishing cartoons, caricatures and political satire relating to current events.


Attractiveness = Effectiveness

Put your best foot forward at all times. If however, you are not blessed in the looks department, spend loads of money on a new wardrobe, a flattering haircut and don't skimp on the fake tan. A nice burnt orange color in the face makes you look virile and smart, not to mention that the color acts as a homing beacon for your security detail in the case of imminent danger.

Good ol' Abe was not the most photogenic of candidates, but Lincoln credited a very presidential photograph by Matthew Brady for his successful bid for the Presidency
'A Phenomenon of Portraiture', c.1860 (litho), American School, (19th century) / American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA / Bridgeman Images


Take credit, where credit is owed.

Sing loudly about your accomplishments. But when people ignore your incessant rambling about how wonderful you are, try taking credit for others' successful ideas. When questioned, a case of wily semantics will come to your rescue. You didn't actually create the internet, what you meant is the internet is the bridge to 21st century American global domination. Note - you'll be forgiven more quickly if you add a little splash of patriotism into your explanation.

Egyptian Sketches, published by Hannah Humphrey in 1799 (hand-coloured etching), Gillray, James (1757-1815) / © Courtesy of the Warden and Scholars of New College, Oxford / Bridgeman Images

Only the righteous prevail.

It is advantageous to portray your opponent as a demon who has dug his way up from the underworld intent on destroying our way of life. There is of course only one right way to be and to think, and that is YOUR way. Make sure the voters know which candidate is right lest they fall into the clutches of pure, unadulterated evil or worse, Socialism.

Socialism, Throttling the Country, c.1930 (colour litho), English School, (20th century) / Private Collection / Bridgeman Images


Many of the cartoons in this article are by famous British caricaturist James Gillray, whose work was published by Miss Hannah Humphrey in her shop on the Strand. Eager crowds would wait for the new cartoons to appear in the shop window.


Who me?

A general rule of thumb is if you plan to EVER run for elected office, try to keep the womanizing, philandering, Nazi fan club membership, witchcraft dabbling and general debauchery to a minimum. At least have enough money in your back pocket to keep inquiring minds and town criers happily distracted. You can return to your misbehavin' once you get into office.

The Royal Joke, or Black Jacks Delight, published by S.W. Fores in 1788 (hand-coloured etching), Gillray, James (1757-1815) / © Courtesy of the Warden and Scholars of New College, Oxford / Bridgeman Images

You betcha!

Go hunting with the NRA. Out-angry the livid. Exude a zen-like Buddha quality when mingling with hippies. Eat vegan at a PETA fundraising event. Take the requisite Sunday morning church photo. The sky is the limit when being all things to all people. Everyone wants to be 'heard' - even if it's all in vain. No one ever professed that getting elected would be easy. Check your dignity at the door and just do it! Just remember that you may have to dance once in office, or be prepared for a revolt.

The Coalition-Dance, published by William Humphrey in 1783 (hand-coloured etching), Gillray, James (1757-1815) / © Courtesy of the Warden and Scholars of New College, Oxford / Bridgeman Images

Man's best friend.

Make sure to surround yourself with a pack of loyal lapdogs that are quick to tell you what you already know - that you are awesome. After all, no one benefits from having a diverse and open minded range of opinions at their disposal. It only muddles the message. Loyal advisors are useful for a variety of tasks like fetching only the news items that interest you and marking all over your opponent's platform.

John Bull & his Dog Faithful, published by Hannah Humphrey in 1796 (hand-coloured etching), Gillray, James (1757-1815) / © Courtesy of the Warden and Scholars of New College, Oxford / Bridgeman Images

Pot meet kettle.

Be sure to call your opponent out on their bad behavior (whether true or craftily manufactured), as it is sure to make you look better. Plus, all the mudslinging makes campaigns fun for both the media and the voters. We never tire of watching candidates try to outdo one another on TV, on billboards, on morning news shows. Civility in elections would put a whole class of pundits out of work and the last thing we need right now is more joblessness.

The Kettle Hooting the Porridge-Pot, published by P.J. Leatherhead in 1782 (hand-coloured etching), Gillray, James (1757-1815) / © Courtesy of the Warden and Scholars of New College, Oxford / Bridgeman Images

Pay it forward.

Once you get to Washington, make sure to work tirelessly with integrity and resourcefulness to honor the people who put you there. The farmer in Missouri? No. The steel worker in Michigan? Of course not. The middle class family from Albuquerque? Ha!  You know who put you in that seat, and you only have approximately two months to get legislation on the table to benefit your corporate sponsors aka 'constituents' before you have to start your bid for re-election. It's a thankless job, but someone needs to do it!

The Bosses of the Senate, illustration from the American magazine 'Puck', January 23rd 1889 (coloured engraving), Keppler, Joseph (1838-94) / © Collection of the New-York Historical Society, USA / Bridgeman Images



Interested in checking out more political cartoons? Bridgeman has an eclectic and comprehensive selection of  over 1000 American and European cartoons for your viewing enjoyment.

Back to top