In 2001 Ann Telnaes became the second woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning, a highly competitive field in which fewer than 5 percent of the practitioners are women. During the eighty-one years the award has been given, all but a few winners have been affiliated with a newspaper. As a freelancer and a woman cartoonist, Telnaes is thus doubly unusual among Pulitzer winners. The Pulitzer Prize committee awarded her the prize for “a distinguished cartoon or portfolio of cartoons published during the year, characterized by originality, editorial effectiveness, quality of drawing, and pictorial effect.” Her drawings exemplify these qualities in dynamic, inventive compositions, which capture humorous and dismaying aspects of the election, communicate the candidates' foibles and flaws, and convey her unflinching views on the roles of the Florida legislature and U.S. Supreme Court in the election's outcome.
Bland Election Choices
This cartoon compares the choice of presidential candidates in the 2000 election campaign to choosing among boring breakfast cereals. Telnaes recalls, I remember reading . . . about how Americans were not that excited about the election. I thought, a perfect image is to have the American in the morning looking awful, unshaved, deciding which ridiculous cereal to eat. We've got Gore Bran, . . . and then we have Bush, who, at the time, was thought to be quite a lightweight. I had him as a Frosted Flake.
The Race for the Presidency
Faulty ballots, misled voters, disputed counting of returns in Florida, and more flawed the results of the 2000 presidential election. Telnaes depicts the problematic processing of election returns as a horse race to underscore the fact that historically close numbers of popular votes and electoral votes determined this election. Lines of action in the composition lead the eye from left to right through the horse's body to his nose on the far right, but one object lies farther to the right—the beanie worn by Bush. Telnaes says, “It's basically a win on either side, except Bush is just a little ahead, because he has the beanie.”
The Ace in the Pocket
Democratic candidate Al Gore's lawyers' final effort in his quest for the presidency was their appeal to the Florida State Supreme Court to count 14,000 disputed ballots before the December 12, 2000, deadline for selecting presidential electors. The Republican-dominated Florida Legislature meanwhile prepared to convene a special session for December 8, 2000, to appoint a group of presidential electors who would support George W. Bush. Bush's brother Jeb was Florida's governor. “If the Supreme Court hadn't made the decision, then the Florida legislature would have decided whether [or] not the governor's brother was going to become president,” Telnaes observes. “This cartoon's about that ace in the GOP's pocket.” In this cartoon, she used negative space to design a composition that evokes the atmosphere of a backroom card game.
Supreme Court Decision Overturns Recount
On December 12, 2000, the Justices of the Supreme Court voted 5 to 4 to terminate the recount of disputed ballots cast in Florida in the presidential election of 2000. By overturning the Florida Supreme Court's earlier order for the recount to take place, the Supreme Court effectively handed the presidential election to George W. Bush. The five members of the majority depicted in this cartoon are Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Sandra Day O' Connor, Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, and Clarence Thomas. “They are all wearing little Republican elephants on their underwear,” says Telnaes.
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The Bush Decision, December 13, 2000. Brush and ink and opaque white over blue pencil and graphite on bristol board. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ppmsca- 04682; LC-USZ62-134297 (16) [left side]
The Bush Decision, December 13, 2000. Brush and ink and opaque white over blue pencil and graphite on bristol board. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ppmsca- 04683; LC-USZ62-134298. Courtesy of Tribune Media Services (17) [right side]