Jon Stewart Rally Shows How the Left Blew It
By Peter Beinart|The Daily Beast
It’s a good thing that Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert held their “Restore Sanity/Keep Fear Alive” rallies last weekend on the National Mall. Now, when historians look back at what the American left did wrong in the early Obama years, they’ll have an entire event, preserved on CSPAN, which captures it perfectly.
I love Jon Stewart as much as anyone else in my demographic, but the rally hit at least three wrong notes. First, ridiculing fear. Yes, of course, Fox and friends hype the threat from terrorists, illegal immigrants, Christmas haters etc. But one reason they do so successfully is that there are quite rational reasons, in America today, to be scared out of your wits.
Many Americans think that the great recession is not a passing misfortune but the new normal—that they will never regain their old quality of life. And they may well be right. The specter of decline haunts much of our political debate, and while the Tea Party has built an entire narrative around the idea that America is losing its former glory, the Obama administration keeps dancing around the subject.
In his closing monologue, Stewart did acknowledge that Americans have legitimate fears, but the thrust of the event was that Americans would soothe their rattled nerves if only the media and politicians stopped whipping them up. I don’t think that’s true. In the last year or so, the right has found a way of acknowledging Americans’ terror about economic decline. The left has not, and last weekend, Stewart barely tried.
Second, the fake bipartisanship. In his montage of media silliness, Stewart made a point of counterbalancing idiotic Fox clips with idiotic MSNBC ones. And in his closing monologue, he insisted—as did candidate Barack Obama in 2008—that Americans aren’t that divided after all; only our talking heads are.