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Opinion: Trump and Biden prove that political caricatures are coming to life

Regardless of their abilities, world leaders have been routinely lampooned as hapless, bumbling fools who are dangerously out of their depth.

Satire, social media, performing arts and popular culture in general conspire to ensure presidents and prime ministers are rarely portrayed as serious people; instead, they are either the political equivalents of Mr Bean or unstable megalomaniacs inexplicably let loose with the nuclear codes.

US President Joe Biden will again take on Donald Trump at this year’s election. Photo Niall Carson/PA Wire
US President Joe Biden will again take on Donald Trump at this year’s election. Photo Niall Carson/PA Wire

This lazy depiction is not always true, of course (we’re all still here, at time of writing, despite talk of World War Three being at its most feverish since Frankie Goes To Hollywood topped the charts).

With the benefit of hindsight, many of us were guilty of regarding George W. Bush as some sort of village idiot when he was actually far more switched on than all the caricatures suggested. Most people would now surely breathe a sigh of relief if someone of Bush’s calibre suddenly appeared on the ticket for the US Presidential elections later this year.

This brings us to the two actual candidates, Joe Biden and Donald Trump, who are both playing up to the stereotype almost to the point that it has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Questions have been raised about Biden’s forgetfulness and frequently bemused demeanour, while Trump seems to actively invite questions over his fitness for office with a string of consistently unhinged pronouncements.

The fact that Trump is an open goal for satirists and has become the butt of so many tired jokes over the years simply makes ridicule like water off a duck’s back. Trump’s followers have become even more defiant, defensive and rabid as a result, while his opponents are somehow surprised to find that a sneering air of superiority is no way to get anyone to switch their allegiance. And so, US politics remains trapped in an endless spiral of antagonism between two entrenched and deeply unpleasant factions.

Whoever wins, it will be business as usual for the comedians, commentators and others who rely on a certain level of presidential ineptitude to sustain their own careers. The rest of us will just worry how long that ineptitude can be sustained.

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