Yes, we must talk about Politico's awful, smug insult to Texans and faith

Or maybe we don’t have to discuss the sneering ridicule of Hurricane Harvey victims in Texas, at least not much. Res ipsa loquitur applies here, a fact that was immediately apparent across the political and media spectrum:


Politico only deleted the tweet, not the Matt Wuerker cartoon from their website — at least as of this writing. Why delete the tweet, though, just to keep the column? After all, it wasn’t the tweet that caused the offense.

Wuerker, Politico’s in-house editorial cartoonist, tried to claim that he was only targeting the secessionists:

Is Harris County, where the bulk of Harvey damage is taking place, a hotbed of secessionists? Not exactly, no. In the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump 54/42 in Harris, and also in hurricane-ravaged Fort Bend, 52/45.

But that’s not really Wuerker’s only target or even the main one. In his usual sledgehammer style, he includes a Gadsden flag to slam conservatives, Confederate imagery to smear Texans as racists, and then also includes a gratuitous slap at people of faith. It’s a smug, arrogant, and utterly tone-deaf attack on hurricane refugees in the midst of their crisis, exploiting their tragedy to ride his hobby horses all over their pain.

It’s also ultimately ignorant. Wuerker manages to miss the point of an old joke, one very familiar to people of faith. Here it is: A man is told to evacuate ahead of a massive storm but refuses, saying “God will save me.” A patrol car arrives, but the man refuses to go, saying, “God will save me.” A boat and finally a helicopter come to take him off the roof, but he still refuses, saying “God will save me.” When he drowns, he asks God, “Why didn’t you save me?” God says, “What are you talking about? I sent a patrol car, a boat, and a helicopter!”


The point of this lesson is that the Lord works through us as well as in other ways, as we are expected to serve one another. And I’m pretty sure that the Coast Guard and other first responders don’t mind being considered angels sent by God and have heard that plenty of times before today, without sneering at those who appreciate their efforts. I’d even bet that Jerry Summerall might think of CNN’s Drew Griffin that way after today.

Washington Post analyst Aaron Blake isn’t buying the “secessionist” explanation either:

The first problem with the cartoon is it’s crassness. People are still being saved, and it’s making fun of those same people.

The second problem is the stereotypes. It’s almost a caricature of what you’d expect a liberal cartoonist to draw in response to conservative Texans relying upon the government in their time of crisis. The Confederate flag T-shirt. The Gadsden Flag. The reference to being saved by God (which seems extremely dismissive of Christianity). The Texas secession banner. It’s all kind of … predictable? …

But the cartoon suggests that normal people who believe in small government should essentially forfeit government help in their time of need — or, at least, that they should suddenly recognize that their belief in smaller government is wrongheaded. It’s all very smug, and it gives extremely short shrift to very complex issues.

Quite frankly, that’s Wuerker’s entire oeuvre — smug, predictable, dismissive, and as I put it on Twitter, with all of the subtlety, wit, and artistry of a sledgehammer. His work is routinely poor, but it’s not usually this bad. The question isn’t just why Politico still has this cartoon on its site, it’s why they continue to publish Wuerker at all.


Update: On the point of people inspired by faith and community to serve others …

Update: Our colleague John Sexton hits the nail on the head:

Update: From the ever-excellent Michael Ramirez, a gem on the same topic:

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