Editorial Cartoonist Takes on National Issues With Humor [Interview]
Antonio F. Branco is an editorial cartoonist who takes on national issues in a “no holds barred” manner with a dab of wry humor thrown in to ease the impact. Cartoonists come in many flavors, from the iconic Charles M. Shultz and his beloved comic strip Peanuts to political editorials that pepper newspapers and digital media with hard-hitting visual commentary. Political editorial cartoons deliver a condensed yet powerful message and Branco, who is a conservative and faces liberal media bias, is ascending the ladder of cartoonist success while at the same time, drawing attention to important issues facing the nation. Guardian Liberty Voice had the opportunity to interview Branco and learned that despite his success, he remains a humble patriot who has great concerns about the path America is on.
Alana Marie Burke (AMB): I admire your lack of cowardice in the current hyper politically correct media environment. In your work, you clearly illustrate your opinions with to the point, well-articulated cartoons that hit hard on national issues affecting Americans.
Antonio F. Branco (AFB): I appreciate that, thank you for your perspective. They say every year that we are at a tipping point but I think we are almost beyond the tipping point and it is as though the people in power just don’t seem to have a grip on how serious things are. I think that may come from being insulated in Washington D.C.
AMB: The Guardian Liberty Voice (GLV) is not politically slanted one way or another. GLV is a well-rounded publishing platform that welcomes the voices of not just seasoned journalists from the right or the left, but also the voices of everyday people. This includes writers from all sides of the political spectrum and this is not the “norm” for most media publishers.
AFB: The fact that [GLV] allows all types of voices is a good thing because part of the problem today is that people don’t listen to each other. They have gone into their corners and they are entrenched – it is trench warfare now and they are not going to budge no matter what. Whenever I see, like on Facebook, where they have these discussions that are open for both sides and the moderator tries to keep it civil, I am kind of inspired by that because it allows people to speak their views no matter which perspective they are coming from.
AMB: You are a creative person – a painter and a musician in addition to being a cartoonist. What inspired you to go into the field of cartoons – especially those in an editorial and very political style?
AFB: Basically, I just was tired of sitting on the sidelines watching things happen. A lot of people like me were very frustrated around 2010 and that is what instigated the Tea Party and I just could not sit on the sidelines anymore. I had to do something, even if it was just in a small way. I really didn’t consider drawing cartoons as a way to really impact the world or anything – I just thought at least I am doing something and if a few people see it, share it and get the message out there, all the better. I started out with just a few people on my Facebook page, then it turned into a couple of hundred then a few thousand and it has grown. I now have three pages, my personal Facebook page, Freedom’s Battle where I post not only cartoons but other things in the political arena that interest me, or that other people might want to have a discussion on and that is where I get a lot my ideas for cartooning.
AMB: I was just going to ask you where you get the motivation and inspiration for your cartoons. Your cartoons come out every day, sometimes two a day! So is it the pulse of the people on, for example, Facebook that are a main inspiration?
AFB: Not exactly. My ideas often come from the news, talk radio, CNN, FOX (I do not watch MSNBC) – the headlines of the news. When I see an issue crop up, for instance the children at the border, it elicits certain things, certain pictures in my mind. Of course, these pictures correlate with my conservative values. I will look on Facebook and pick up certain things that correlate with that. This can trigger a flash or a spark and then it will grow from there.
AMB: Although some may not realize this, cartoonists, especially editorial cartoonists can have a great deal of influence on how certain national issues are perceived. For example, Garry Trudeau began his famous Doonesbury strip in 1970, which ended up being published in almost 1400 newspapers nationwide. However even Trudeau has since put Doonesbury on hiatus saying that “now it’s streaming video that’s a leading edge.” I would have thought that the digital age would be a boon for cartoonists.
AFB: I believe that a cartoon, if done right – if you can make a very strong point in that little box with a little bit of humor – can push out faster than a lot of op-ed pieces simply because it is quick. If they can get it and they like it, if it aligns with their views, they will hit the “share” button and it takes just a few seconds. It spreads faster than if you have to read an entire op-ed piece – not that there is anything wrong with op-ed pieces. I read them all the time and sometimes get my ideas from them.
AMB: One of your recent cartoons deals with the illegal immigrant children that are amassing at the southern border. Instead of taking an outrage position, or a political stance you simply illustrated the seemingly open border policy of the Obama administration. Why did you choose to illustrate the issue in that way?
AFB: I tried to get to the root of the problem – where is it coming from? With that cartoon, I was able to go right to the core of it. It seems to be coming out that Obama knew about this problem almost two years ago and did nothing to stop it. In fact, it is my belief that he encouraged it and thought it would advance his amnesty program. I don’t have anything against those poor kids coming up here. We all have compassion for them. Their parents sent them here thinking it would be better for them. On the other hand, there are literally millions of children around the world in the same situation and we can’t take them all. Having said that, in the frame I had to work with I pointed out that the reason those kids are here is because of the Obama immigration policies.
AMB: Every career has high and low points. You have gone from posting a few cartoons on Facebook to becoming a self-syndicated freelance political cartoonist. What are some of the moments that you mark as game changers in your career?
AFB: There really has not been a real low moment. It seems like when I started doing this in the beginning, the low moment was what was happening in our country and that is still, for me, a low moment. People have still not woken up the way I would like to see. I feel like, not to sound too eclectic, but I feel aligned with the universe with what I am doing. I know that sometimes things aren’t moving very fast for me, career wise at times and then some days I’ll think – wait a minute – I’ve only been doing this for four years and I’ve got a lot of things going on now. Mainly it is because I want to expand my stage to get the message out.
AMB: You had a gig on Fox News Watch and you have been discussed on the FOX News program, The Five. Which cartoons inspired them to contact you?
AFB: The discussion on The Five was initiated by Dana Perino and she put up sort of a David and Goliath cartoon of mine where the mainstream media was Goliath and also represented the Hollywood left. David was a little tiny guy and on the back of his shirt it says “FOX News.” Goliath is looking over at Obama who represents big government while pointing at the little guy and saying, “No fair!” Dana Perino really liked it and used it in the “One More Thing” segment of the show.
Fox News Watch has a producer who likes my work and she started throwing my cartoons on the show. They had done it a few times and then John Scott wanted to do an interview so he called me up, they put a few cartoons of mine up during the interview and that was definitely a highpoint – being on FOX News.
AMB: Being a conservative in a liberal media environment must have its own set of challenges. How do you think the liberal bias of the media affects the nation? What methods do you use to overcome the extra pushback?
AFB: I think that is part of the challenge and I like the challenge. I like the challenge of everyday not only to come up with an idea that gets a certain point out but also the challenge of trying to break through the media. One of my pet peeves is the liberal bias in media. They have a responsibility – they are the unspoken fourth branch of government. I think they have a responsibility to be objective. With Obama – and I know it has a lot to do with his race – but even with Clinton, even with Hillary at times you see the bias but more so with Obama than I have ever seen historically. I have been covering politics since President Carter and I have never seen anything like this.
It is a phenomenon that I believe is going to be shown in history as only associated with Obama, primarily because of his race. The media invested so much into Obama, that no matter how disastrous he is, no matter the destruction that he has put on this country that we will probably have to unbury ourselves from for the next 30 years, they will find a way to defend him. You would think that this border crisis would be enough to send people at least center-right but the media goes out of its way to cover for him. That really bothers me because they are not upholding their responsibility.
AMB: In your last answer, you said “primarily because of his race.” Can you elaborate on that?
AFB: I think that liberals in general suffer from a huge amount of white guilt. There is so much race baiting going on and the throwing of the race card around. Conservatives, I believe, do not care about race, they care about the character, about the man. With liberals, it tends to be more about race. If you disagree with Obama whatsoever, it is racist even if you disagreed with Clinton for the same things. I think this [media protection] will happen with any Democrat who happens to be black but if you are a black conservative, the media is just atrocious.
AMB: It seems as though most news is negative, whether it is a scandal, a tragedy, a moral, political or human failure. Do you ever just want to draw something more in the flavor of a comic strip or draw some happy news?
AFB: It’s true and I have some irons in the fire that have been there for a few years. I have been thinking about them but you get so caught up in events that are changing so rapidly. I just keep doing it and you try to find a glimmer of humor in some of these issues. That is also a challenge of doing what I do – to make people laugh maybe.
AMB: You do have a particular way of illustrating Obama’s generous ears and his specific expressions. You also clearly illustrated Russian President Vladimir Putin in a way that shows his craggy disdain and arrogance for America and specifically, Obama. You capture people so well and you do put humor in your work. However, some of your cartoons clearly show that you were affected by an issue to the point where humor just was not a good fit. Humor or not, you definitely take a stand and you do not subscribe to political correctness.
AFB: It has caused me some problems. Huffington Post barbecued me really badly on a cartoon I did a while back and the hate mail I received on that…I find the hate mail entertaining and I don’t take it personally, in fact I grade the hate mail as to how creative some people can be with their hate. My wife has been very patient with me for the last four years, loves what I do and is very supportive. One day I was laughing hysterically in my office while reading my hate mail. She started to read some and said, “Oh my gosh! What the heck is this? These people are nuts!” I said, “Yeah but they don’t even get who I am.”
AMB: Any advice for up and comers in your field that are passionate about certain issues and want to editorialize via cartoons?
AFB: Just do it. Find out what is burning in you, a passion and find a way to communicate that passion. I am not a writer. As I say, I have the speaking skills to draw cartoons so I have to do it with pictures and I try to find a way to use as few words as possible.
There are a lot of opportunities out there that I have capitalized on that weren’t out there 20 years ago. Now you have Twitter and Facebook and you can build a following and find likeminded people. Just doing it makes you better. As far as the negativity part of being a political cartoonist – there are a lot worse jobs I could be out there doing. I look at all the dirty jobs out there that at one time I used to do when I was younger and I would rather be doing what I am now, advancing a perspective and feeling like I have a purpose – even if it is in a small way – I have a purpose. My recommendation is to draw every day that you can and things will start to fall into place.
Opinion by Alana Marie Burke