In an age where it’s hard to get a significant consensus on just about anything, Jon Stewart managed to become the undisputed champion of the left. Liberals might not be able to agree on Obama, Michael Moore, Hillary Clinton, Paul Krugman, or MSNBC, but they loved The Daily Show. Stewart, who even turned his comedic satire against the Democrats every now and then, became one of the left’s most trusted figureheads.
A few years back, a poll determined that college-aged Americans got the majority of their news from Stewart. He had become more than a comedian; after years of presenting his funny, yet mercilessly critical views of current events, he had convinced his viewers that he – unlike Fox and CNN and the rest of them – was giving it to them straight. And even though he went out of his way to assure critics that he was just trying to make people laugh, he started to attract a new kind of reputation: credibility.
Now, he’s leaving. Stewart announced Tuesday that he would be ending his run on the Daily Show later this year in pursuit of other interests, at least one of which he said, tongue in cheek, would be getting to know his own family. The wags are speculating on what he might do next – some even going as far as to suggest he should take over for the disgraced Brian Williams at NBC – but Stewart is remaining mum on his plans.
Conservatives have plenty of reasons to dislike Stewart. Clearly competent when it comes to putting together a satirical comedy show, his point of view is relentlessly liberal. He’s taken his shots at Obama, CNN, and other liberal icons, but he’s reserved the vast majority of his barbs for the right. For viewers getting their first exposure to any particular issue through his show, it’s little wonder that they found themselves influenced by his politics.
In that way, Stewart has been an enormous tool of power for America’s liberals. Viewers who found Moore disgusting, MSNBC shrill and boring, and Obama less inspiring than he promised were all too happy to hold off forming an opinion until Stewart gave his. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he was singularly responsible for our country’s creep to the left over the last decade. Or at least more responsible than many would like to admit.
In the same way that liberals have failed to generate much interest in a left-wing equivalent to Rush Limbaugh, conservatives have failed to come up with a right-wing alternative to Jon Stewart. Perhaps this, more than anything, demonstrates a key difference between the two philosophies. To conservatives, there isn’t anything funny about Sharpton. There isn’t anything funny about Obama. There isn’t anything funny about watching the country slide towards a multicultural, liberal, free-for-all future. It feels a bit too much like laughing at a funeral.
Stewart will be replaced. The left will find their new figurehead, and they will keep laughing at those wacky conservatives. In the meantime, we can only shake our heads and keep fighting the good fight. Our champions may not have top-rated comedy shows, but they’re out there all the same. They can be found in our history books, our churches, our communities, and our families. They can be found in the truth. And that’s good enough.