September 25, 2018

Waiting for Sanityman: Can Jon Stewart save America?

The fate of our country won’t be decided by a politician.  It will be determined by a comedian.

Not long before Jon Stewart announced his Rally to Restore Sanity, he told a New York magazine writer why he and his crew on “The Daily Show” would never do something like that. “We’re not activists,” ” target=”_hplink”>page that they’d come, that’s not the same thing as actually showing up on the National Mall on Oct. 30. The Web site Politico, a bellwether of Beltway groupthink, oblivious of saying exactly the kind of thing that Stewart loves to singe, ” target=”_hplink”>asked, “Have Stephen Colbert”—convener of a dueling March to Keep Fear Alive—“and Jon Stewart crossed the line?” Warning that “at a certain point even sarcasm jumps the shark,” the writer—who “would eat a bowl of broken glass just to touch the hem of Stewart or Colbert’s pants”—nevertheless cautioned that “it’s tough to tread in the muck of parody and not wind up bearing an uncanny resemblance to the things we despise,” and that unless the rally motivates a Democratic get-out-the-vote effort, it will be “a Comedy Central-fueled ego trip.”

What made Stewart change his mind? Clever promotion for “” target=”_hplink”>calling for an end to all the shouting and divisiveness: “We are not red states and blue states; we are the United States of America.” This is the Stewart whose “

Read more about Jon Stewart here.

” target=”_hplink”>announced the rally, to illustrate the 15-to-20-percenters, he rolled a montage of big mouths—Chris Matthews, Sean Hannity, Alan Grayson, Newt Gingrich, Tea Party shouters and lots more. Tucked in among them, for only a couple of seconds toward the end, was Jon Stewart himself, backed up by a gospel choir, excerpted from a ” target=”_hplink”>hammered Senator John “I-never-considered-myself-a-maverick” McCain for selling his soul, but it was Sanityman who asked Meghan McCain to give her dad a scented mash note making up.

Jugular Jon—the one I have a man crush on—isn’t a knee-jerk partisan. He’s plenty rough on ” target=”_hplink”>Huckabees and Dick ” target=”_hplink”>finding his voice again on the campaign trail.

I don’t think there’s an 80 percent consensus on anything in this country, unless it’s stated so abstractly that you can carve it in marble. Sure, we all agree on fiscal responsibility, but today there’s a divide, not confined to a bellicose fringe, on whether our progressive tax system actually amounts to redistributionist crypto-socialism. Everyone wants a clean environment and energy independence, but toss the idea of a stiff tax on gas into a sanity rally, or raise the prospect of tougher regulation, and the mellow would quickly curdle. These may seem to be differences about means, not ends, but they’re really differences in our underlying beliefs about markets and governments, freedom and responsibility, me and we.