by Brian Tomasik
Due date: 17 March 2004

Matt Wuerker’s cartoon is quite complex and highly clever. He illustrates many different factors that infiltrate our elections: huge donations from campaign contributors, the tendency of the media to “premasticate” issues (that is, to eliminate all of the complicating factors and present a simple, easily swallowed message), and the relegation of third parties through their exclusion from the presidential debates. The cartoon’s title seems to indicate that these factors are the real force behind our election process. Mechanic Uncle Sam’s statement, “…if only I could fix these hanging chads…,” suggests indirectly that he has been very successful in building the rest of the “voting machine.” The message of the cartoon, then, is that the most substantial problem with our elections is not the literally mechanically dysfunctional machines but the politically and socially dysfunctional processes that, from the start, restrict the opinions of voters—and, hence, the types of candidates capable of being elected. It is interesting, also, how the visual depiction of the thought-narrowing factors as mechanical components gives a whole new meaning to the term “manufacturing consent.”