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

Chamomile Tea Party

Part 2: The Electorate

Part 2: The Electorate
It's simple to say Republicans believe tax cuts for the rich will stimulate the economy and put people to work (also known as "trickle-down economics"); or, as the Democrats suggest, the federal government's role is to ensure that no citizen falls through the cracks. Tax cuts or entitlements? But it isn't that simple. Even within the GOP, there are huge differences of opinion. However, in the end, the failure of our legislators to do anything because they can't agree and won't compromise hurts the public.  

Work on a farm... this Summer : Join the U.S. Crop Corps; 1943; Spencer Douglass Crockwell; United States, Office of War Information, Division of Public Inquiries; Source: University of North Texas Digital Library

Look to Your Right, 2010

This poster was a response to an article by Thomas Sowel, which suggested American democracy was being dismantled by the Obama administration. He compared the president to Hitler and Lenin, both of whom cultivated "useful idiots" (citizens who normally are not politically engaged) to support their radical aims. Sarah Palin asked her followers to read this article. And, its sentiments made their way to a billboard in Mason City, Iowa, showing Hitler, Obama, and Lenin over the headline: Radical Leaders Pray on the Fearful and Naive. Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank wrote an opinion piece about Sowel's article in the July 18, 2010 edition of the paper.

OPA CEILING PRICES - DON'T BE OVERCHARGED; 1941-1945; Office for Emergency Management, Office of War Information, Domestic Operations Branch, Bureau of Special Services.

This is the second ad Jeff Gates placed in the Washington, DC Metro in the month leading up to the 2012 presidential election.

In 2015, anti-Muslim activist, Pamela Geller, submitted a proposal to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) for an ad featuring the winner of a "Draw Muhammad" cartoon contest. The ad was rejected after WMATA banned all "issue-oriented" ads in its system.

In March 2017, a former Egyptian political prisoner's ad campaign set to run during Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi's April visit to Washington was also rejected on the same grounds. Citing free speech, the ACLU filed a suit a few months later, but the ban remains in effect.

Someone Talked!; 1942; Frederick Siebel; United States, Office of War Information, Division of Public Inquiries; Source: University of North Texas Digital Library

The National Parks Preserve Wild Life , J. Hirt, Works Progress Administration Federal Art Project, circa 1936-1939. Source: Library of Congress

Support the Radical Center, 2010

In his New York Times op-ed, journalist Thomas Friedman suggested the 2012 Presidential election might be the right time for a viable third party, one that "will talk about education reform, without worrying about offending unions; financial reform, without worrying about losing donations from Wall Street; corporate tax reductions to stimulate jobs, without worrying about offending the far left; energy and climate reform, without worrying about offending the far right and coal-state Democrats; and proper health care reform, without worrying about offending insurers and drug companies."

Citizens are losing confidence in our government's ability to run the country and we are losing ground on the international stage, both economically and politically. According to Friedman, "There is a revolution brewing in the country, and it is not just on the right wing but in the radical center."

Americans Suffer When Careless Talk Kills!, Harry Anderson, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1943. Source: Library of Congress

See Action Now : Join the Submarine Service, circa 1944, Department of the Navy recruiting poster. In addition to this poster, an 18 page brochure was produced to entice men to enlist.

Defend American Freedom : It's Everybody's Job, McClelland Barclay, National Association of Manufacturers, 1942, Source: University of North Texas Digital Library

"Come on, gang! We're building arms for victory!"; Artist Unknown; Office for Emergency Management, War Production Board; 1942-1945; Source: National Archives

We're Bleeding Liberals, 2012

This poster, along with its companion, I'm a Die-Hard Conservative (next poster), remind us there are shades of gray in our society. The issues are not simple, and voters' opinions are often a mix of party affiliation, class, and personal experience. Often, it's difficult to classify people's positions into simple black and white terms. At the very least, we should be curious enough to question our leaders’ biases and to acknowledge our own.

Wear It Proudly, Magill-Weinsheimer Company, 1942, Source: National Museum of American History

Make This Pledge: I pay no more than top legal prices; I accept no rationed goods without giving up ration stamps, 1943, Office of Price Administration, U.S. G.P.O., Source: World War II Poster Collection at Northwestern University Library

Enough is Enough! You're Not Listening., 2012

"Sometimes an institution becomes too sick to fix itself…Sometimes an institution, like an individual, needs an intervention, from people, from friends, from outside."

— Lawrence Lessig, Republic, Lost

Work Fight Give; Norman Lewis; 1943; Congress of Industrial Organizations; Source: Procession: The Art of Norman Lewis; Ruth Fine, Editor; University of California Press, 2015, Published in association with Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, pp 126, 137

You Can't Shut Us up by Turning off the Internet, 2011

When the Egyptian government turned off the internet during their Arab Spring protests, it was a reminder that we can't always assume the free flow of information is a given. This poster isn't just about Egypt. It's about everyone's right to inform and be informed. It's also about our responsibility to understand how information is used and misused.

"Doing all you can, brother?" Buy War Bonds, Robert Smullyan Sloan, 1943, U.S. Government Printing Office: 1943-O-502782, Source: University of North Texas Digital Library

Remember Dec. 7th!; 1942; Allen Saalburg; United States Office of War Information, Division of Public Inquiries; Source: North Texas University Digital Library

Your right to vote is your opportunity to protect, over here the freedoms for which Americans fight over there., Chester Raymond Miller, circa 1943, Part of the Think America Institute's World War II poster campaign. Source: Library of Congress

The Electorate: America Wonders
The Works Progress Administration (WPA), a large depression-era work program, hired millions to work on public works projects like the construction of buildings and roads. In addition, they hired artists, musicians, writers, actors, and directors to work on large arts, media, drama, and literacy projects. Between 1935 and 1943 the WPA’s Federal Art Project created a series of posters to highlight our national parks. The next eight Chamomile Tea Party posters are part of a series called "America Wonders." Each poster is either based on a poster from this WPA series or is a contemporary interpretation.  

Yellowstone National Park, Ranger Naturalist Service; circa 1938; Department of the Interior, National Park Service; Source: Library of Congress

Zion National Park, Ranger Naturalist Service; circa 1938; Department of the Interior, National Park Service; Source: Library of Congress

Lassen Volcanic National Park, Ranger Naturalist Service; circa 1938; Department of the Interior, National Park Service; Source: Library of Congress

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

Part 1: Partisanship on Overdrive

Part 2: The Electorate

Next::
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 these exhibits.

Credits: Story

Next, Part 3: Politicians and Our Political Process

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 chamomileteaparty.com.

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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