Populism and Elitism in One Place

There's a fascinating magazine cover coming out soon, and it's for the New Yorker. You can see the Cyrillic lettering and the immediate joke--Eustace Vladimirovich Tilley is what it is called.

The scathing cover will accompany an investigation featured in the next issue that explores Russian President Vladimir Putin's influence on the presidential election, and the frightening return of a Cold War the United States is at risk of losing. The issue comes in the wake of a bombshell report on Thursday that cited White House officials requesting the FBI dispute evidence Trump aides communicated with Russian officials during the election. According to CNN, the FBI rejected that request.

This is a riff on the first cover of the New Yorker, and so it represents a little bit of highbrow satire and commentary, right down to the onion dome over the shoulder. The "elites" are contemplating Donald Trump as some sort of angry insect that should be disdained or kept safely at a distance. Trump himself is depicted as being in an impotent, volcanic rage as per usual. Oh well, they never did like me, or so says Trump.

I think this is important for a number of reasons. One, it's a view of the president that is being expressed in caricature that is becoming normal for people to see--Trump as something small, insignificant or annoying. He is rarely, if ever, depicted in a neutral or positive light. We see the buffoonery and the cartoon aspect of him, always in orange and always with his mouth open. He is never a man shown thinking.

Two, this is really a better example of populism than it is elitism. There isn't a huge audience out there for the New Yorker, but there is one for people who want information about what's going on so this amplifies the need to figure out what is the connection between Trump and Putin. The populist angle here is that it gets to the heart of the notion that the people who voted for him now want to know where his loyalties lie. This New York-centric publication is doing the work that used to be done by major American newspapers. I think it is important for people to read and hear things that inform them and keep them up to date on the latest scandals. At any other point in our nation's history, Trump would not only have not been the Republican president, he wouldn't even have been the nominee. People are still furious about this, and even a New Yorker cover can inspire and sustain their embrace of populism in the face of fascism.

Three, this chips away at the people stuck supporting Trump. These are the dead-enders. A good number of them believe this is all phony. What's astonishing to people who follow the news and read the New Yorker has been the fact that Trump got elected by rather overtly working with the Russian government.  Well, the magazine is about to do a deep dive into all of that. Will it change anybody's mind? Who knows? If you're a Midwestern Republican, this image just sails right past you without registering. But there are always people who peel away from madmen. There are many people who cannot roll with an incompetent banana republic president.

Four, the artistic renderings of Trump and Putin are now becoming too numerous to ignore. The constant refrain--the riffing and meme-ing if you will, are devastating. Presidents who are depicted in the popular day-to-day media in a negative manner have the impossible task of living these things down. Think George W. Bush as big eared and clueless. Think of Bill Clinton as always smiling, even when depicted by those opposed to him. Think of President Obama, cool and poised no matter what was thrown at him. In a little over forty days, the general impression of Trump is that he is a howling, braying old fool with his cake hole permanently set to spew.

The artful aspect here is invaluable. Want to bring Trump down? Draw a picture of him bellowing and fussing about nothing while on his phone. This is what defines him and keeps everyone else sane.