We took some time to chat with Scott Stantis, editorial cartoonist and creator of Prickly City, about the political landscape as we approach the mid-term elections.
In an enlightening conversation with GoComics, editorial cartoonist and Prickly City creator Scott Stantis provided his views on the mid-terms elections, President Trump, the 2020 presedential campaign, and the state of political discourse in 2018. Prickly City features Carmen and Winslow, the forever-debating young girl and coyote who have divergent views about the way the world works. I asked Stantis about how the strip holds a unique space on the comics page for civic conversations.
"Carmen is a conservative, straightlaced, small "c" conservative, and a very rational person," Stantis said. "Winslow is sort of a kooky liberal character, and I'm both. As an artist, I have those qualities that are kind of intrinsic in an artist's personality. For the most, part Carmen and Winslow express me and my internal dynamics."
We took a look at several of Stantis' most popular recent strips, and he delves into what current events and political perspectives informed them below:
"I am a practicing Catholic, and that does inform how I think. But it does inform me, the idea that my church preaches about sympathy and empathy, and compassion for poor people, for immigrants. How is that reckoned with being a conservative in 2018? Being a conservative in 2018 is really, really weird and really, really hard. Trump is defying what that means, and that's not what it means to me, it's not why I became a conservative, and it's not why I worked in the party. It's not why I think the way I think. We're looking at this and going, 'this is insanity. There's a middle ground here.'"
"This was a line from my priest's homily the Sunday before. I love the line, 'fault-finding culture,' because we're constantly looking for the imperfection in anybody else, particularly if we disagree with them. We love to look at the imperfections, but guess what? We're all humans, we've all done things wrong. We're all really imperfect. So how do we deal with that, and how should that be discussed when we're discussing people running for public office or trying to set public policy?
"This is also pegged to the Kavanaugh hearings. I'm not going to dimiss sexual assault. I did go on to talk about due process and how apparently that dosn't apply to anyone anymore. I just love the Republicans who were shouting about due process, and you're going, 'Didn't you say Lock her up! Lock her up!' Neither side is clean, neither side is virtuous on this stuff. So that's what led to this. And again, we have to find a balance."
"That's one thing about Trump and about where he stands - he fights back. For so many years, really decades, Republicans didn't push back. You could shame a Republican and say, that's just racist and that's just sexist, and sometimes it was. A lot of times, it wasn't. Especially from my perspective as an editorial cartoonist. The discussion can go both ways with equal vehemence. I'm also showing that pushing is a bad thing."
"Everyone is so flipping angry. If you love history - and I do - we're living in some pretty halcyon days. We're living in a time of great prosperity, of relative peace, and peace throughout the world, so I don't know what everyone is so angry about. Humans are weird, that's the ulitimate takeaway from Prickly City. And they're never satisfied ... there may be some component to us that we have to be angry. We're definitely tribal. I think the media helps exacerbate and faciliatate that."
"All writing is personal. This came after a week I spent with my kids. So my sons and their wives and my wife were all together, and for me that was just ... I didn't give two [redacted] about what was going on in the news. I was so fulfilled by being with my two kids and their wives, whom I adore. There are things that are so much more important. And if you're going to judge someone by their politics, that's just dumb."
"There's a column in The Washington Post that says the same thing as this one. 'We're for hating Trump.' I think they're going to win back the House on this, but that's not governing. Anger can only last so long. How long can you be angry?"
"It's true the jobless rate has plummeted and wages are rising, albeit slowly. The GDP is almost double, so it's the old manta, 'It's the economy, stupid.' I just like putting that sign in the trash because they can't run on the economy. They're [Democrats] running on anger and I get it but it's not going to be enough. It will be enough in this cycle, but it won't be enough in 2020."
"The immigration stuff pisses me off. That's how angry I am. I get blowback from Republicans a lot. It's infuriating in that I worked on the Nixon reelection campaign in 1972. I worked on both Reagan campaigns in '80 and '84, and I've worked on local campaigns as well. I have pretty strong Republican bonafides, but we've moved into this area where there's this litmus test that you have to believe it just because it has an 'R' after it. It doesn't mean I support it. It has to make sense to me."
"Immigration policy makes no sense. Immigration is good for the country. It grows the market, brings in innovation and new consumers. It works. And you can manage it. Tarrifs don't work. Tarrifs are about as anti-free market as you can get. I am vehemently opposed to those. The rhetoric that this guy [Trump] spews is repulsive to me. I happen to think in public discussion you have to have some semblance of decorum, and he has none. Unfortunately, a lot of his minions don't think so. He goes to Montana and the guy running for congress body-slams a journalist, and he applauds it the same day a journalist is killed visiting the Saudi consultate. I'm sorry - that's repulsive to me and reprehensible, and flies in the face of my conservative values."
We went on to talk more about what it's like to try to find common ground in America in 2018, and Stantis relayed a story that he tells very often these days.
"My wife is a Democrat, has been our whole marriage. I've been a Republican. In 1988 during the Bush-Dukakis race, she went into labor on election day. Her water broke and she insisted we stop by the polling place on the way to the hospital so she could cancel my vote," Stantis said with a laugh. "I love her and we just celebrated our thirtieth wedding anniversary, so things seem to be working out okay. My point is that you can disagree and you can vote differently, and still like and respect each other. And I don't have any idea where that went in this country. This whole idea that 'you're not just wrong, but you're evil.' And that comes from both sides, it really does."
When asked for the rallying point of Prickly City and his editorial comics, Stantis said, "The strip ultimately is a cry of, 'Can the adults come back into the room please?'"
And that may just be the common ground we're all looking for these days.