The media-whores will see a racist and “sophomoric” (they love that word) political cartoon. Like every other thing they say and believe they are wrong. They probably mock Trumbull’s “naive” work as propaganda to elevate “slave-holding” white men to sainthood.
There seems to be three overlapping groups. There are those whose concern is for the American people, as the man on the bench might be seen as representing. There are those (fewer) who seem to be focused on the Constitution being trampled. To Obama’s left side, applauding the spectacle are Clinton, Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt and Wilson. Woody seems smugly proud, but his racist hands are ambivalently out of sight so we cannot be sure if he is willing to applaud Obama, or merely his success in imposing the Mastermind Utopian’s “progressive” anti-Constitutionalist Dreams. LBJ is back there (behind JFK) approval on his face. JFK is looking unhappy and pointing to the Constitution.
There is a space opened to the right of the painting behind Madison. George W, Bush smirking, is ambivalently in the same “Amen Corner” with Clinton, the Roosevelt cousins and Wilson, but still pointing towards the man on the bench. (Does the artist believe W.’s policies were misguided attempts to help the people?) That diagonal space running backwards and towards the right side of the painting contains Nixon, George Bush Sr., Harry Truman, Ford and others unidentifiable to me. Probably they are unidentifiable because they are of little importance. Nixon seems merely self-concerned. GHW Bush is looking solemnly at the man on the bench. Ford is directed at the man. Ike, at Washington’s left shoulder and Truman (between Nixon and LBJ) are looking non-too-happily at the Constitution stomper. In the left foreground is Lincoln, Reagan, Jefferson and Washington, all apparently primarily concerned with the welfare of the people, though Washington and Lincoln are also concerned with the Constitution and Obama’s stepping on it. Andrew Jackson too is staring in disbelief at the man stepping on the Constitution. Surprisingly (and erroneously, I think) Jefferson is fully engrossed in the impoverishment of the people, without the concern for the Constitution evidenced in Madison and John Adams, who from behind Reagan’s left shoulder looks mournfully at the loss of the Constitutional Republic he dedicated his life toward. Excellent painting. The liberal media will pan it as an overdone political cartoon. But a newspaper political cartoon may make one either snicker or angry momentarily before turning the page; but this conveys a powerful emotion. The strength of the emotion is directly related to the strength of the viewer’s sense of American greatness and Exceptionalism. Thus the media pundits and “Art Experts” will truly be honest in their dismissal. They see America as just another nation, perhaps more hypocritical, violent and racist than most. We, The People see the power of the painting because we see the Power of the idea of America.