Spanking has a long history in US political discourse.
OK, maybe not quite that long.
But let’s set our time machine to take us to Montpelier, Vermont, on March 11, 1967. On that date, the end of a difficult session in the state legislature, Philip H. Hoff, the Democratic Governor, administered a public spanking on the steps of State House. The recipient was Mrs Kenalene Collins, a Republican member of Vermont’s House of Representatives, who had been systematically voting against Hoff’s bills. He expressed his frustration in conversation with her brother, Wayne Jenkins, wryly calling ‘a bad girl’. Jenkins had a suggestion about how to handle that, and Hoff duly acted on it: the next time he crossed swords with Collins, he warned her that if she didn’t mend her obstructionist ways, he would spank her. She didn’t… so he did:
Sprawling across the Governor’s knee, Kenalene Collins put a brave face on it for the reporters, but later admitted that she was outraged, and would have struggled free if she hadn’t been so busy trying to keep her skirt down. Afterwards she considered slapping Hoff’s face or kicking his shin, but decided against it: she had too much respect for his office as state Governor.
Respect leached out of the political arena between the 1970s and the 1990s, and the profile of political women grew higher, which means the history of political spanking grows fuller as we approach contemporary times. On the other hand, the easy access to spanking imagery facilitated by the internet means that a lot of satirists no longer need to bother themselves with creativity. So here’s a caveat: some of what we’re going to see consists of rather crude collages from familiar spanking images, and some not-so-familiar ones from beyond the mainstream.
And here’s another caveat: political debate provokes deep-seated passions, and it can be nasty to boot. Somebody is bound to get offended, especially since we have to cover both sides of the divide. Because any treatment of satirical spanking in modern US politics is bound to be mainly about two particular politicians with diametrically opposed views…
Once upon a time, there was a girl named Hillary who grew up to be First Lady, then outgrew that office and became a player in her own right.
And once upon another time, there was a hockey mom named Sarah who mysteriously became the Governor of the State of Alaska.
And in due course they both got spanked!
Our story proper begins in 2005. Sarah Palin is still in Alaska, fretting every morning over the fact that she can see bad ol’ Russia from her bedroom window and probably hosting the kind of tea party where you get a slice of cake if you’ve been good. But Hillary Clinton is in Washington as the Democratic Senator from New York, in which position she found herself frequently in conflict with Trent Lott, a senior figure in the Republican party.
In 2007, the Democratic primaries for the following year’s presidential election got underway, with Hillary as one of the candidates. Another was former Senator John Edwards, who had a minor tussle with the best-selling author and conservative pundit Ann Coulter.
She called him a ‘faggot’, which she went on to clarify was not intended as a comment on his sexuality but a schoolyard insult. And since, by her own admission, she was behaving like a naughty schoolgirl…
John Edwards lost out to Barack Obama in the primaries. And so did Hillary, as recorded in a cartoon that, to my mind, takes the grotesque dimension of caricature just that bit too far into cruelty:
But in 2008, after being selected as the Republican candidate, John McCain chose Sarah Palin as his running mate. Was the hockey mom going to spank America all the way to the vice-presidency? At least one cosplayer seems to have thought so:
But others had other ideas. Here’s what happened when cosplay Sarah met cosplay Hillary:
And what actually happened in the election was, of course…
And afterwards, on a comedy stage in Oakland, California:
So President Obama had handled his political opponents in the Republican party…
… and now he had to deal with his allies in the Democrats, including those closest to home.
He also put Hillary in her place:
And her place was the State Department… as Madam Secretary!
And so the stage was set for eight years of the usual bitter controversy and political inertia. We, however, get to leapfrog over most of that… But before we land in the quagmire of the 2016 presidential election, let’s take a brief detour into local politics. The state is New York, and the lady in peril is Eva Moskowitz, the educational activist and CEO of Success Academy.
Forced to defend her schools against public criticism, she wrote an open letter to the press in which she was unwise enough to mention the disciplinary record of one of the pupils. This led to the intervention of an angry parent with a lawyer. Or, putting it another way:
And so we return to national politics just in time for the primaries. Donald Trump starts us off, but here’s a prettier sight:
That’s Megyn Kelly, the news anchor on the right-leaning Fox New Channel, who served as moderator in the presidential debate in August 2015, and grilled Trump over his disrespectful remarks about women. Afterwards, Trump responded by calling her a bimbo and withdrawing from the next debate. Alabama cartoonist J. D. Crowe interpreted it like this:
Trump probably appreciated that, in part because he always wanted to be John Wayne…
But as the race got going, most of the Republicans had a different rear end in their sights.
Ted Cruz, Republican candidate from Texas, caught out an inconsistency between something Hillary said publicly as Secretary of State in 2012, and what she said privately to her daughter Chelsea. Sane people might think that makes Hillary a typical diplomat, but for many Republicans, it makes her a liar. Cruz told a campaign meeting in Charles City, Iowa, what he thought she deserved: ‘In America, the voters have a way of administering a spanking.’
Roundly defeated by Cruz in the Iowa caucus, Chris Christie jumped on the spanking bandwagon in New Hampshire and said that if he debated Hillary, ‘I’ll beat her rear end on that stage.’
And yet another hopeful, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, was also shown going into action:
This run of spanking talk from the Republican candidates, all within a few weeks at the end of the winter, caused some commentators to brand the party with misogyny. ‘Republicans can’t keep their spanking fantasies about Hillary Clinton to themselves,’ wrote Liz Bruenig of New Republic, while the online pundit Bonnie Fuller opined:
‘America’s 104 female congresswomen had better get their body armor on if Trump, Cruz, or Christie is elected, and they don’t always agree with their sexist president. Ted Cruz wants American voters to give Hillary Clinton “a spanking”. What will he want to do to non-compliant Congresswomen or the millions of female citizens who disagree with his policies? Spank us all?!’
Meanwhile, Hillary was having a tough fight of her own in the Democratic primaries. If she is the one thing that united the Republicans in 2016, for her own party she was a deeply divisive figure, partly because of the political twists and turns of her husband’s presidency and partly because of the question marks hanging over security during her own time as Secretary of State. It’s significant that the most devastating critique of Hillary – as well as one of the better pieces of artwork we’re going to see – came not from those spank-minded Republicans but from the cartoonist Jones the Savage, whose politics lean to the liberal side of the divide:
So if Hillary needs putting back into line, who’s going to do it? Lady Liberty may get her revenge one day, but not just yet awhile. And one prominent Democrat might be considered to have the authority…
… but maybe Bill’s part of the problem, not its solution.
A lot of Democrats obviously wanted Hillary to meet her nemesis at the hands of Bernie Sanders, her opponent in the primaries:
The trouble is that Bernie’s politics lean so far to the left that, in the USA, he’s as unelectable as Donald Trump is (or ought to be). Reality check: Hillary was always going to come out of the primaries on top.
And so we reach the big vote, the one that will determine the future of the nation and the fate of the world: Clinton versus Trump. Personally, I believe that a Democratic White House (and Congress) is better for America and safer for everyone else on the planet. And putting it in more trivial terms, don’t forget that, if Trump wins, the outcome will be:
For one day. Whereas if Hillary wins, she’ll be getting similar treatment from satirical cartoonists for four years.
So you see, whatever you may think of Hillary Clinton, there is something to be said for putting her in the hot seat!
Postscript (November 9): Obviously some of the above is now a period piece. I’m leaving it to stand not just because it contains material that is still of interest, but because my opinions remain the same in spite of what a large number of US voters – the poorly educated, the ill-informed and the irresponsible – have chosen to inflict on America and on the world.