Having slept on it, I now count myself pretty firmly in the David Remnick camp. Two pieces of analysis helped push me over the edge. First, TIME’s own James Poniewozik frames the question about the cover properly:
The question that matters politically is: what effect will the picture have on other people? Questions like this—which involve citizens guesstimating how other citizens will receive a particular message—always fascinate me, because they usually come down to one universal: as a rule, Americans are united in a belief that other Americans are dumber than they themselves are. Someone has to be wrong.
Then Gawker takes Poniewozik’s point one further:
This obvious and heavy-handed satire has enraged Democrats and liberal media critics because now they are pretty sure this nation of child-like imbeciles will believe it to be an un-retouched photograph from the FUTURE. … We look forward to this new era of political cartooning, when images must reflect precisely what the creator means without use of exaggeration or satire. Maybe the Mallard Filmore guy should do their next issue?
Of course the critics could still be right. The New Yorker cover satire could unleash a torrent of bigotry and lies directed at Obama. But I have more faith. The bigotry and lies will be a feature of this election season, but they will be marginalized. And the New Yorker cover should serve to marginalize them even further. That’s the whole point of it, after all.