Nast generally led public opinion rather than followed it. Like most political cartoonists and editorial journalists, he was far from objective. Almost always, he preferred to be against a person or a cause, so he could serially pound the negatives — except when it came to his idol, President Ulysses Grant, whom he treated much too leniently. While repeating his basic message again and again., Nast varied his presentations in order to keep his content fresh and interesting.
To engage and persuade his audience, Nast effectively created a new visual language replete with symbols, caricatures, allegories, satire, puns and repetitive slogans. His readers understood his ocular shorthand, comprehended the minute details which more subtly reinforced his frontal attacks, and were familiar with his Shakespearean and other literary references.
This 1876 cartoon attacking New York Governor Samuel J. Tilden could apply to many politicians today.