The streets are not going to be quiet for the foreseeable future.
A Conversation with Ted Rall
by James Mann
Ted Rall is a political cartoonist and author. His books include After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back as Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan (2014), The Book of Obama: From Hope and Change to the Age of Revolt (2012), as well as graphic novels on Trump, Snowden and Bernie.
His withering depictions of those in power – particularly those on the left, run counter to the media pablum and has earned him both praise and condemnation, but he doesn’t lie or sugarcoat the issues. We asked him his thoughts on the 2016 election and more.
Q: You forecasted a Trump win long ago. Are you surprised it actually occurred?
A: I think it would be kind of funny for someone to predicting outcome and then be surprised when it materialized. Yes, I saw this coming. No, I’m not surprised it actually occurred. The thing that I found strange throughout this election year was how the mainstream corporate pundits who kept getting everything wrong nevertheless had confidence that their methodology was sound. Throughout the Republican primaries, for example, the polls consistently underestimated Donald Trump. Why then, during the general election, did the posters not change their approach? They kept doing the same thing, getting bad results, and being surprised. Even now, the liberal intelligentsia doesn’t get it. I’m not a genius. I just observed the way that Trump was constantly being abused by the media and imagining myself as a Trump supporter being asked if I supported him. I would probably say no. To me, that predicted the phenomenon of the “shy Trump voter.”
Q: You wrote a book on Bernie Sanders, and were a vocal supporter. What do you see for him going forward?
A: I think Bernie Sanders is currently about to begin an attempt to rehabilitate his reputation. He suffered enormously by endorsing and campaigning for Hillary Clinton, a person who did not share the same political point of view as he did. Many of his supporters were extremely disappointed. I wasn’t surprised because he had promised early in the campaign to endorse Clinton in the event that he lost. I guess it could be argued that the behavior of the Democratic National Committee, revealed by WikiLeaks, rendered that promise null and void in my opinion. But obviously not in his. He has become something important – the leftist insurgency within the Democratic Party – and I think neither him nor Elizabeth Warren will be in a position to lead it forward due to their age. This kind of thing has to be led by younger people. But they’re going to remain important within the party for the foreseeable future.
Q: You stated in a column that “Trump… he’ll be good for the Left. And, in the long run, the Left will be great for us.” How so?
A: It’s really quite simple. Under Democratic presidents, the liberal left tends to go straight to sleep. Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, do you remember much if any protests during those presidencies? Meanwhile, much of the stuff that they did was stuff that Republicans did, and when they did, the left woke up. Trump is like 1000 Republican presidents combined. Not only is the old left awake. The old left is going to be supplemented by a new one. The streets are not going to be quiet for the foreseeable future. This can only be good for America. America needs a revitalized left.
Q: You sued your former employer, the Los Angeles Times for defamation. How did that come about and what is the status today?
A: Unbeknownst to me, the LA Times effectively became owned by the LAPD. (The LAPD pension fund purchased controlling interest in the parent company of the newspaper, something that ought to be illegal but somehow isn’t.) Anyway, I managed to draw a lot of cartoons that made the cops angry, and finally they ended up getting me fired. It boiled down to an audio recording of my arrest for jaywalking back into 2001. There wasn’t much on the recording but street noise. I had said in a blog in the newspaper accompany my cartoon that I had been missed treated by a police officer and had been handcuffed. The Times told me that the staticky recording proved I’d lied. First, I told the complete truth. I had the audio recording enhanced. It proved I was right, but instead of taking me back, the newspaper ignored me, turned off the comment section on their website, ignored the social media firestorm that followed, and doubled down with yet a second article smearing me as a liar. I am suing them in order to protect my reputation as a journalist, to send a message that journalists should not be intimidated by the police, and for press freedom.
Q: What is the state of political cartooning these days?
A: There are lots of good cartoons but the profession seriously endangered. Depending on how you count, there are perhaps about 20 full-time political cartoonists left in the United States. There are more of them in Iran. The main problem is that big news websites like Slate and Salon refuse to hire cartoonists.
For more with Ted Rall, and to view his cartooning, visit rall.com.