A Political Cartoonist Takes on Election 2020

“To me, a perfect cartoon has no words,” editorial cartoonist Marc Murphy tells Leo. 

How do political cartoons shape the views of voters? I recently asked Marc Murphy, an editorial cartoonist for the Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky. 

“If I didn’t think cartoons had some impact, I’d just be wasting my time,” said Murphy, whose work has appeared in the Courier-Journal for the past 13 years. “But I don’t think I’m ever going to draw something that’s going to make somebody who thinks differently than me look at it and say, ‘Well, that’s the most wonderfully-drawn, articulate, intelligent thing I’ve ever seen in my life. I think I’ve changed my mind.’” 

Still, Murphy acknowledges the power of images. According to one recent study, the human brain can process images up to 60,000 times faster than text. “To me,” Murphy said, “a perfect cartoon has no words.”



By definition, a cartoon is a simple drawing that features its subjects in a “humorously exaggerated way.” But Murphy says that he struggles to find humor in tragic or troubling events. For this reason, he does not view his work as comedy, but rather as commentary on the society we live in. “When I start to fashion the cartoon, I find myself saying, ‘This is horrible’. But you can’t draw ‘This is horrible’ five times a week.” 

Rather than trying to change the minds of others, Murphy aims to create comics that are fair. He focuses on actual events, rather than opinions. 



In “normal times,” Murphy draws what presents itself in the news without consideration for how often he is drawing a particular person or issue. “One of the reasons that’s so important,” he said, “is because if I become perceived as a one-party political hack, that would diminish the impact of what I’m doing.”  

However, during what he characterizes as a “reality TV show” presidential race, Murphy believes that there are “very specific and very real dangers to the country—and the world—and those are largely coming from one side.... As bad as the Democratic Party can be, it pales in comparison to what’s going on in the White House, so that’s what I’m going to draw.” 

Still, Murphy does not expect to change minds with his cartoons. “People who feel the same way that I do, or who may be on the fence, will feel supported,” he said.

As the November 3 presidential election approaches, Murphy and his cartooning peers around the country are likely to find plenty of material. 



Photo courtesy of the author