In 1900, New York Journal political cartoonist Homer Davenport published a collection of his work titled The Dollar or the Man? The Issue of To Day. The cartoons focused on themes of government corruption and the threat that corporate power posed to America. Davenport’s cartoons mark the beginning of the Progressive Era, a time when many believed that corporations sought to overthrow the government.
"As They Go to the Polls" shows Republican political operative Mark Hanna with his arm wrapped around a giant Trust figure, which represents the monopolistic corporations of the time. The Trust holds the tiny hand of Republican Presidential candidate William McKinley. McKinley won re-election in 1900, primarily due to the support of big business. Hanna, the Trust, and McKinley stroll towards a ballot box.
A decade after The Dollar or the Man? was published, Puck magazine was still fighting big business and government corruption. The cover of the April 21, 1909 issue featured a cartoon by Udo Keppler, the son of Puck founder Joseph Keppler, that satirically illustrated how "protected interests" pressured Congress and forced the cost of living to rise. Inside the issue, editor Arthur Hamilton Folwell described a speech that Republican Speaker of the House "Uncle Joe" Cannon delivered to protect the interests of Standard Oil:
100 years after Folwell wrote those words, corporate influence resulted in the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United ruling. The floodgates of corporate funding in political elections were opened, making corporate control of the government a critical factor in today’s mid-term elections. Total campaign spending is expected to reach $4 billion. Corporate money favors Republican candidates 11-to-1.
In Congress, the Gentlemen of the Oil Trust are alive and well, as we saw last summer when Republican Representative Joe Barton publicly apologized to BP’s CEO when the Obama administration had BP establish a $20 billion fund to cover damages caused by BP’s catastrophic oil spill. Republican Tea Party candidate Rand Paul expressed similar sympathy for the mulit-national British corporation. He called the Obama administration un-American and said that "accidents happen." Republican Minority Leader John Boehner suggested that the federal government (i.e. taxpayers) should share the costs of the cleanup. Boehner, who will become Leader of the House if the Republicans win the majority today, received over a quarter million dollars in donations from the oil industry.
The Republican Tea Party candidates have announced that if elected to a majority, as the polls and political pundits forecast, we can look forward to more gridlock in Congress, a potential government shutdown, taxpayer-funded investigations (the likes of which haven’t been seen since the Monica Lewinsky scandal), a rollback of healthcare and the privatization of public services. We can also expect more oil wars, continued high unemployment (because it means cheap labor) and a new era of corporate governance.
But it’s not over yet. Low voter turnouts tend to favor Republicans (apathy and ignorance work in their favor). Strong voter turnouts favor Democrats. Get out and vote!
— David Donihue, GreatCaricatures.com