What hath Jon Stewart wrought?

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In a recent post, Robert Rackley riffs on an article by Jon Askonas at the New Atlantis arguing that Jon Stewart paved the way—however unintentionally—for Tucker Carlson. I haven’t yet read the piece (I will over the weekend) but I have to say that I agree with the premise.

The Iraq War, the War on Terror, the Bush presidency generally were formative times for me. Voting for Bush in 2000 was the last time I voted for a Republican for president. Those years moved me from the conservatism I grew up with to being an anti-war, left-leaning liberal. I voted enthusiastically for Obama, (naively) believing he represented something genuinely new.

Though this whole process, Rachel and I were watching Jon Stewart. He felt like a kindred spirit. In fact, it was watching one of his interviews with John McCain during the 2008 election that finally flipped me from third-party protest voting to Obama.

But then Rachel and I went to a live show he did at IU in 2011. We loved the show. During the Q&A, however, someone asked him to do some Bush jokes and the crowd roared their approval. Mind you, this was well into the Obama administration. A nagging worry crystallized into a coherent thought in that moment: Jon Stewart’s purpose was to flatter liberals by talking about how dumb conservatives were.

I realize, of course, that is not entirely fair. I do believe Jon Stewart is a sincere person, with real convictions. But somewhere along the line, he was consumed by the entertainment machine.

He is not even close to the only one. Politics are, at this point, a team sport: cheer your side, hate their side, no matter what. And there are only the two sides. Did Jon Stewart contribute to this atmosphere? Yeah, probably. So did Newt Gingrich back in the nineties. Plenty of people can be blamed, including me with my Facebook rants.

How do we fix this mess? I have no idea. I only know that I’m out of the game. “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”

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