Opinion » Ted Rall

Rise of the Obamabots

Stifling liberal dissent under Obama


NEW YORK--After they called the election for Barack Obama, emails poured in. "You must be relieved now that the Democrats are taking over," a buddy said. "There will be less pressure on you." That would have been nice.

In the late '90s, my work ran in Time, Fortune and Bloomberg Personal magazines and more than 100 daily and alternative weekly newspapers. Then George W. Bush came in. And 9/11 happened.

When mainstream political discourse was redefined between Dick Cheney on the right and libertarian Bill Maher on the not-as-right, there wasn't room for a left-of-center cartoonist. My editor at Time called me on Sept. 13, 2001. "We're discontinuing all cartoons," she told me. "Humor is dead." I snorted.

McCarthyism made a big comeback. I had drawn a monthly comic strip for Men's Health. No politics. It was about guy stuff, but they fired me because of my editorial cartoons. The publisher worried about pissing off right-wingers in a period of nationalism on steroids.

It was tempting, when Obama swept into office, to think that the old days were ending. I was wrong. I didn't count on the cult of personality around Obama.

In the 1990s, it was OK to attack President Bill Clinton from the left. Along with like-minded political cartoonists, my cartoons and columns took Clinton's militant moderates to the woodshed. It feels weird to write this, but it's true: There's less room for a leftie during the Age of Obama than there was under Bush.

I was merciless to Obama. His administration doesn't need journalists or pundits to carry its water, that's what press secretaries and PR flacks are for. Cartoonists and columnists who promote government policy are an embarrassment. But that's what "liberal" media outlets want in the age of Obama.

Liberal magazines that once gave me work ignore me. Other censors are brazen.

There's been a push among political cartoonists to get into editorial blogs and online magazines. In the past, rejections had numerous causes: budgets, lack of space. Now there's a new cause: too tough on the president.

A sample of recent rejections, each from editors at different left-of-center media outlets:

"Don't be such a hater on O and we could use your stuff. Can't you focus more on the GOP?"

"Our first African-American president deserves a chance to clean up Bush's mess without being attacked by us."

Obama is the one they ought to be blackballing. He has been a disappointment to the left, yet they continue to stand by him. Which means that they are not liberals at all. As long as Democrats win elections, they are happy.

"So what should I think about [the war in Libya?,]" asks Kevin Drum in Mother Jones. "If it had been my call, I wouldn't have gone into Libya. But the reason I voted for Obama in 2008 is because I trust his judgment ... I think he's smarter than me, better informed, better able to understand the consequences of his actions and more farsighted."

Obama and the Democrats have made it clear they don't care about the issues I care about. I know I'm smarter than Obama. I wouldn't have made half the mistakes he has.

Hey, Obamabots: When the man you support betrays your principles, he has to go--not your principles.