Why are so many politicians like cartoon villains?
From Trump to Matt Gaetz, Steve Bannon, Lauren Boebert, and Jacob Rees-Mogg, so many terrible politicians present themselves as bizarro caricatures. Why? The answer tells us plenty about our politics.
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I was chatting to my Dad recently and he posed a good question: “Why is it that so many terrible politicians are like cartoon caricatures?”
This became particularly apt yesterday, when Donald Trump hyped a major announcement, that turned out to be…shitty cartoons of himself in digital trading card form. For just $99, you, too, could own a worthless piece of memorabilia from an authoritarian cult.
But my Dad’s question is a good one. Trump, of course, is ridiculous, but think about the other scions of Trumpworld. Matt Gaetz, with his big, vampiric hair, coiffed with one bottle of gel per outing into the sunlight; Roger Stone, a septuagenarian dandy who dresses like Batman’s Penguin, complete with a tattoo of Richard Nixon on his back; Steve Bannon, who clearly thinks showers are a deep state plot; and Lauren Boebert, who would marry a gun if Colorado law allowed it.
These people are living caricatures, cartoon villains who deliberately look like, to borrow the phrase from Britain’s Dominic Cummings, misfits and weirdos. And Britain has the same dynamics these days, too. It’s not just Boris Johnson’s larger than life hair (that he reportedly ruffles before TV interviews so it would look more unruly) but Jacob Rees-Mogg, who represents the 18th century in Parliament. He speaks like a bygone aristocrat and looks like one too.
So, why do they do this? Why not just present themselves normally, like everyone else? The answer provides a disturbing window into our modern politics—and why it’s so often dysfunctional. Because the truth is this: these clowns are behaving rationally in presenting themselves as they do. Cartoon villainy, for a very simple reason, works.
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