Chronicles of American Politics: The Posters of the Chamomile Tea Party, 2010-2018

Chamomile Tea Party

Part 4: The Issues 

Part 4: The Issues
Americans have never been more polarized than we are today and there is little empathy for those who think differently than we do. Overt racism and homophobia, the skewed distribution of wealth, gender inequality, and fear that social and technological changes are leaving many behind, are some of the concerns we are grappling with. The anger and aggression are palatable. And, when mixed with politics, these  become incendiary.

Award for Careless Talk, 2010

This poster was created to commemorate Jon Stewart's and Stephen Colbert's "The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear" in October 2010 on the National Mall in Washington, DC. The Chamomile Tea Party sadly/proudly presented this "Sopping Wet Tea Bag Award" to those who used their bully pulpits to misinform the American public.

Read how this poster was conceived: The Genesis of a Message.

Award for Careless Talk, Stevan Dohanos, 1943, United States Office of War Information, Source: Northwestern University Library

Hey NRA! Are These Big Enough For Ya?, 2012

After twenty children and seven adults were killed by a deranged shooter with an assault weapon at Sandy Hook Elementary School, 58 killed in Las Vegas, and 17 in Parkland, Florida, can't we sit down and talk about gun violence without the rhetoric, anger, or shield of the 2nd Amendment? Gun control advocates aren't asking to ban guns. But they are asking to find a place where we can all feel safer. Who needs an assault rifle to hunt? Who needs armor-piercing bullets that shred the body beyond repair? What will it take to have an intelligent and fair discussion about gun control in America?

The Washington Post published Five Myths About Gun Control. This is a good place to start.

Keep 'Em Coming and Coming Right!, 1942, United States Army Ordnance Department, Source: Northwestern University Library

Don't Let That Shadow Touch Them, 2010

"Predatory Capitalism" results when companies' profit-making policies go unchecked by government regulations meant to protect citizens from harmful money-making schemes. The lending practices that led to the economic crisis in 2008 is an example of predatory capitalism.

Economist James Galbraith made this case recently. His theory of economic predation holds that "in a predatory regime, nothing is done for public reasons. Indeed, the men in charge do not recognize that 'public purposes' exist. They have friends and enemies, and as for the rest – we’re the prey."

Why isn't the anger of laissez-faire, "hands-off" conservatives aimed at these corporations instead of just the government? Why is their culpability dismissed and ignored?

In 2018, the Senate passed a measure to rollback some of the consumer protections created after the Great Recession of 2008. This poster focuses on one element of this issue: advocating for individuals to take responsibility for protecting themselves and their families from fiscal policies that may be dangerous to their own well-being. Buyer beware.

Don't Let That Shadow Touch Them : Buy War Bonds, 1942, Lawrence Beall Smith, United States Department of the Treasury, Source: Northwestern University Library

Illegal and Mismanaged Foreclosures, 2011

Wall Street, the economy, government gridlock, extremism, and simple greed have all led to the economic problems Americans face today. Part of the fallout has affected one of the prime tenets of the American Dream: owning one's own home. In 2011, foreclosures were at a record high and many of them were due to mismanagement and lax mortgage requirements. No one was overseeing the process while unscrupulous banks and mortgage companies sold homes to people who could not afford to buy them.

As one example, watch the video above from a 60 Minutes exposé on mortgage mismanagement: The Next Housing Shock.

U.S. Savings Bonds Will Help You Get There!, Artist Unknown, circa 1946, U.S. Department of the Treasury, Source: The Historical Museum of Fort Missoula

Como Ha Sembrado la Inglesia Su Religion en España (How the Church has planted their religion in Spain),, circa 1936, Anti-clerical, UGT Spanish Union poster critical of the established Catholic Church and pointing a link to Nazism.

America's New and Improved Neighborhood Watch, 2013

"There's something uncanny about drones. Flying one is a heady experience, but being watched by one is an eerie, oppressive, somewhat annoying feeling.... They're machines with ghosts in them, and the ghost is saying, "I can see you, but you can't see me." It's roughly analogous to interacting with an anonymous commenter on a blog: you're dealing with someone who is both present and absent, who has decided that what they say or do will have consequences for you but not for them.

"Drones bring that asymmetrical dynamic out into the real world: a drone is the physical avatar of the virtual presence of a real person. They provoke a new kind of anxiety, quite unlike the nuclear terror of the 1980s or the conspiracy-theory paranoia of the 1990s. They're a swarming, persistent presence, low-level but ubiquitous and above all anonymous. They could be al-Qaeda or your government or your friends and neighbors."

Cover Story, Time, February 11, 2013

To Protect Our Freedom, 1939-1945, Artist Unknown, Printed at bottom: "Donated to Canada's War Effort by British Aeroplane Engines Limited, Montreal." Source: Canadian War Museum

It Came from Benghazi, 2014

In the spring of 2014, the warm weather was on its way and with it the beginning of Hollywood's blockbuster summer season. In many respects, Washington, DC is like Hollywood: stars with mega-egos all vying for our attention.

In the summer of 2014, critics (and the GOP) were looking forward to the debut of IT CAME FROM BENGHAZI: The House of Representatives' investigation of the events at Benghazi, Libya. Fact or fiction? Was then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton responsible for the deaths of three Americans, including the US Ambassador to Libya? Or were these investigations politically motivated? It was sure to be as interesting as any episode of House of Cards. But, at what cost to taxpayers? Interestingly, nothing came of the investigation.

In 2017, suddenly the Republican-led government faced its own Benghazi: the killing of four American soldiers in the African nation of Niger. And, just as suddenly, there was silence.

Before It's Too Late Buy War Bonds and Stamps, Artist Unknown, 1942, Kroger Grocery and Baking Company, National History Museum, Smithsonian Institution. Source: William L. Bird and Harry R. Rubenstein, Design for Victory: World War II Posters on the American Home Front (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1998), 90.

Stop the Money!, 2015

The attacks by ISIS on innocent people in Paris, London, Manchester, and other European cities were heinous. The reaction by most Western powers was to counterattack. But, this is about power, not religion. And, an important way to stop ISIS is to cut their money supply. As Charles P. Pierce states in Esquire, let our governments focus on where the money is coming from to fund these terrorists: the Gulf States. Pressure Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Kuwait to stop the funding of ISIS. In June 2017, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain cut diplomatic relations with Qatar in an effort to stop that country's funds to ISIS and other terrorists. And, yes, American dollars are supporting these governments with arms and other military support.

Ned Med Våbnene : Det Norske Arbeiderparti (Lay Down Your Arms, the Norwegian Workers Party), 1936, Norwegian Labor Party election poster. The Labor Party and its youth section were anti-militarist. The 1917 communist Russian Revolution had a big influence on the Labor Party's policy. Source: Getty Images

Horse-play with Weapons May End Like This, 1943, Abram Games, Official War Poster Artist, Great Britain, Source: National Army Museum

Don't Use Our Healthcare as Your Political Battlefield!, 2013

The United States is one of the last of the First World countries to offer its citizens comprehensive healthcare. But the issue has been politically divisive and a target for extreme and often false political rhetoric. The Affordable Care Act is similar to a plan proposed by the Republican Party many years ago and actually implemented in 2006 in Massachusetts by then Governor, Mitt Romney.

So why has the GOP fought so hard to defeat Obamacare? For political advantage? Unbelievably, some have stated healthcare is a privilege, not a right. But, healthy citizens are productive citizens. Partisan politics has once again trumped good governance.

More! More of Everything —Quick!; circa 1943-1945; Office for Emergency Management, Office of War Information, Domestic Operations Branch, Bureau of Special Services; Source: National Archives

Buy War Bonds, 1942, Newell Convers Wyeth, United States Department of the Treasury, Source: Northwestern University Library

To Protect Our Way of Living, circa 1940-1945, Artist Unknown

Back Your Future With U.S. Savings Bonds; 1946; Englert; United States Department of the Treasury, Savings Bond Division; Source: University of North Texas Digital Library

Women! Help America's Sons Win the War : Buy U.S. Government Bonds, 2nd Liberty Loan of 1917, 1917, R.H. Porteus, Source: Library of Congress

The Federal Theatre's "One Third of a Nation", circa 1936-1939, Leon Carlin, Federal Theatre Project, Source: Library of Congress

Let Me Do the Talking!, 2014

The killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri once again brought the issue of racial inequality and racial profiling to the surface. In addition, it renewed the debate over law enforcement's handling of these types of encounters and the militarization of local police forces.

After 9/11, the Defense Department started to give excess heavy military equipment to domestic law enforcement agencies under its excess property program, known also as the 1033 program. After the media coverage in Ferguson, which looked like battle scenes from Ukraine or the Middle East, President Obama signed an Executive Order in May 2015, limiting and prohibiting the dissemination certain types of equipment to local police. In August 2017, Donald Trump rolled back Obama's order.

Let Me Do the Talking : Serve in Silence, 1941-1943, Homer Ansley, Works Project Administration, Source: Library of Congress

Chronicles of American Politics: The Posters of the Chamomile Tea Party

Part 1: Partisanship on Overdrive

Part 2: The Electorate

Part 3: Politicians and Our Political Process

Part 4: The Issues

Part 5: Post-Truth, The Contentious Election

Part 6: Post Election: Post-Truth Reaches New Heights

Download a brief bibliography of topics covered in this exhibit.

Credits: Story

Next, Part 5: The Contentious Election

All Chamomile Tea Party posters are published under a Creative Commons license. You are free to distribute these posters with attribution, providing the purpose is non-commercial and they are not altered. High resolution posters are free and can be downloaded via

The Chamomile Tea Party was formed to comment on the bluster of the Tea Party, which began in 2009 as a protest against Barack Obama's social and fiscal agendas. In the intervening eight years, the political landscape has morphed. Tranquility and compromise, which, at the time, seemed merely difficult to obtain, now seems impossible. These posters reflect the conflicts the American political system has been experiencing during this turbulent period. They are meant to encourage an exploration and a dialogue about the cultural minefield we now find ourselves in. The Chamomile Tea Party is affiliated with Artists for a Better Image, Inc.

Jeff Gates is an artist and writer. He has a B.A. in political science from Michigan State University and an M.F.A. in graphic design and photography from UCLA. He is the recipient of two Artist Fellowships for his photographs from the National Endowment for the Arts. He is the founder of Artists for a Better Image, where he studies stereotypes of artists in contemporary culture. His art is in the collections of museums such as the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Victoria & Albert Museum, Huntington Library, the Baltimore Museum of Art, and the International Center for Photography. He has written for publications such as The Washington Post, The Atlantic, National Public Radio, and Smithsonian Magazine.

Contact the artist.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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