As promised back in Part 1, I want to dive into more detail here about the imagery and inspiration in my new drawing, Hell Is Empty, and Trump's GOP Is Here.
Broadly, this image is rooted in two related ideas: news journalists' many conflicted portrayals of Mitch McConnell and the liberal media's near-apocalyptic depiction of Trump, his influence over the GOP, and the influx of Trump political acolytes into the party.
Needless to say, the Republican party is currently undergoing some profound identity shifts following Trump's presidency, and it's forcing every elected official to make hard decisions about their politics and their careers.
This affects all of them, the most recent example being Liz Cheney, who was voted out of her leadership position for speaking out against Trump's claims about the election. But the person caught in this maelstrom who fascinates me the most is the top-ranking member of the party, Mitch McConnell, who can't seem to find solid ground to stand on following the January 6 riot and Trump's departure from office. McConnell has been alternately praised and rebuked by both parties this year as he oscillates between public condemnation of Trump and a passive acceptance of the former president's growing dominance over the GOP, apparently torn between protecting the iteration of his party he has known for most of his career and being cautious to avoid anything that could seriously jeopardize his career.
More than anything, this year has proven McConnell to be a career politician, determined to ride out the party's identity shift and maintain his leadership position even as an increasing number of his fellow congresspeople choose to retire and get out of Dodge altogether.
Consider McConnell's impassioned rebuke on January 6 of Trump, Trump's conspiracy theories, and the Capitol riot, during which he implored his fellow Republicans to certify the presidential election vote as a means of firming up a damaged democracy.
Liberal news media – normally fierce critics of McConnell – responded by heaping praise on the senator, writing glowing, in-depth articles about the man's deep love for US history and his unwavering commitment to the Consitution. In the week following the speech, McConnell became a beacon of justice in the liberal news cycle, part of the old guard of the Republican party who stood firm against the incoming threat to democracy.
On the other hand, McConnell's constituents in Kentucky responded to his speech by arming themselves and gathering at the state capitol to protest against him.
McConnell a month later attempted to have his cake and eat it too by condemning Trump's actions but voting not to impeach the former president, a move that earned him the ire of essentially everyone, including Trump, who responded by calling him a "dumb son of a bitch" to RNC donors.
The months since then have seen McConnell grow increasingly cautious in his public opinions, keeping a finger in the air at all times to sense the prevailing political winds and doing his best to avoid further damage to his career -- lest he follow Liz Cheney into political obscurity.
It's a drama worthy of its own soap opera, and my goal with Hell Is Empty, and Trump's GOP Is Here is to capture the conflicting social and media depictions of McConnell and portray the tension of his role within the party.
Here, I've portrayed McConnell as a literal knight in shining armor, ostensibly protecting his party from corruption and standing proud in his role against Trump adherents, represented as the monstrous, vile, and violent creatures liberal news media often makes out Trump supporters to be.
Although he seems to stand firm, McConnell's integrity -- his literal guts -- is spilling out into the horde while his shield is engulfed in flames.
Trump, who I've represented as a messiah-like figure to reflect the role he holds in QAnon lore, looks over the scene, watching McConnell closely as his minions slowly overtake the senator.
The title of this one is, of course, borrowed from Shakespeare's The Tempest, "Hell is empty, and all the devils are here" and represents the insistence by liberal news media (and some conservative news media!) that Trump is destroying the Grand Old Party.
Needless to say, I'm having a good time with all this. I have three more drawings in the works and I've finished the pencil art on two of those, so plenty of inking to come. I'm also going to start posting on my Instagram account again soon, so follow me there for more updates!