It’s hard to say who provided the best cartooning material during the 2012 Republican primaries. The lunatic fringe voters, the ones who turn out for these events, dutifully produced a rich, colorful succession of front runners; Bachmann, Gingrich, Santorum, Perry, Paul, Trump and—one of my favorites—Herman Cain.
There’s no question that Michele Bachmann was the most fun to draw. Those manic eyes—with the whites showing all the way around the irises—were practically all you needed for a decent caricature. Herman Cain, though, had something special. Sure, the others could match him quote for quote with well-crafted absurdities, but the man could also sing.
He didn’t just think he could sing, like Mitt Romney (who could ever forget Mr. Romney’s cringeworthy America, the Beautiful?)—he actually could, and did. Newt Gingrich tried to one-up him by giving press conferences in zoos, but those were cheap stunts, and a little weird at that. And then there was the soothing, mantra-like refrain of Cain’s “nine-nine-nine” slogan. At first, I thought it was a German riff on Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No,” but then I realized I wasn’t supposed to know what it meant, because neither did he. It was designed to stick in my head, like an annoying commercial.
I was sorry, for professional reasons, when the Hermanator dropped out of the race. I wish him success in his new career crooning to the faithful on Fox News.
The poet Juvenal said: “Give them bread and circuses.” As the Roman emperors knew—and Mr. Cain’s new boss, Roger Ailes, knows—the key to enduring power is to keep the mob entertained.