Yes, that Jon Stewart.
The Daily Show is promoting the “Rally to Restore Sanity,” to be held October 30th on, of course, the National Mall. After going through his (extremely funny) outline of the brutal craziness of American politics, Stewart proposes a series of great slogans, culminating with “Take It Down a Notch for America.” But his take, and this rally, does make a serious point. And it’s wrong.
Look again at some examples of the crazies that Stewart talks about: 9/11 Truthers on the one hand, Tea Partiers on the other. Birthers on the one hand, people who want to prosecute Donald Rumsfeld on the other. Let’s all calm down, he says. You notice the problem?
9/11 Birthers aren’t even a fringe in the Democratic Party; they’re a fringe outside the Democratic Party. Tea Partiers, on the other hand, are running the GOP. Karl Rove is cowering in front of them.
Cindy Sheehan got some press a few years ago for a few weeks; Sarah Palin is the frontrunner for the Republican nomination.
With this (admittedly very funny) gambit, Stewart has become precisely what he despises: a generator of false equivalences between centrist Democrats and right-wing nutcase Republicans. There is a difference between Birthers and people who want to prosecute Cheney: there is at least credible, plausible evidence that Cheney purposefully violated American law. His chief of staff was convicted of federal crimes in connection with Bush Administration policies.
“American politics” has not gone crazy: the Republican Party has gone crazy. It’s not even bothering to hide it anymore. If the GOP takes over the House in a few weeks, the chair of the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security will be none other than Louie Gohmert, who famously melted down on CNN when asked to provide evidence for his theory about “terror babies.” Newt Gingrich, famed Republican savant, says that one of our most pressing issues is to ban Sharia law in US courts. Sharon Angle favors “Second Amendment remedies” as a response to the administration. Rand Paul thinks that sections of the Civil Rights Act are unconstitutional. Joe Miller thinks that the New Deal is. Bob Bennett, one of the Senate’s most conservative members, was thrown out because the Utah GOP thought he wasn’t conservative enough. There simply is no equivalence here.
The Daily Show, of course, is a comedy program. Stewart is there to make us laugh, and he does a damn good job of it. I’m a fan. He’s under no obligation to satisfy my political leanings. But the rest of us should keep the truth in mind.