How the Left Has Sucked Humor Out of Politics
Humor and politics have always been intertwined. For centuries, jokes and satire have made politics bearable, even during the most tumultuous of times. But if you've looked around the last few years, you've probably noticed that humor is virtually nonexistent. Why is this, and what does it mean?
Humor and Politics: A Healthy and Important Intersection
What's more important for an individual to possess: a sense of humor or common sense? Influential 19th-century philosopher William James actually believed they are the same thing, only moving at different "speeds."
In the modern era, Dr. Julie Connor has spent a lot of time studying humor. She would agree that humor plays a vital role in the health of individuals, groups, and entire societies.
"There is deep wisdom at the heart of humor," Dr. Connor writes. "It allows you to look at challenges with a lens that frees you from defeat. Laughter lowers stress levels, permits you to comfortably engage with others, and allows you to diffuse difficult situations."
There are a number of physical benefits associated with laughter, including reduction of muscle tension, stimulation of the cardiovascular system, reduction of blood pressure, activation of immune-fighting t-cells, and production of beta-endorphins. Psychologically, humor lowers stress, relieves anxiety, stokes optimism, enhances energy, and increases self-esteem.
It's because of benefits like these that humor is present in just about every area of our lives. Companies use humor on business signs to humanize their brands. Individuals use humor to entertain. Comedians use it to make a living. It's woven into the very fabric of our country and, in some ways, is what sets us apart from other species that we share the planet with.
"Humor allows you to see the ironic, the satirical, and the whimsical in circumstances around you. It need not be dark, profane, or sarcastic to be funny," Dr. Conner acknowledges. "Humor is clever when it invites you to consider different points of view."
It's this latter aspect of humor that gives it relevancy in politics. Humor has a way of tearing down borders, reaching across party lines, and bringing people together. It shows us that, no matter how much we believe in a particular issue or topic, we can all step back and see the lighter side.
While politicians are often seen as dry and impassionate, it's not uncommon to see humor find its way into speeches, engagements, and interactions with voters and members of the press. The annual White House Correspondents' Dinner, which began in 1921 and runs to this day, is one example. It typically features a skit in which the sitting president mocks himself, as well as stand-up comedy from well known comics. It humanizes even the most controversial presidents and makes them more relatable.
This intersection of humor and politics is important to the health and vitality of our nation, yet in recent years, it's seemingly disintegrated before our very eyes.
How the Left Has Sucked Humor Out of Politics
The moment the left – which, in the context of this article, may include politicians, pundits, and members of the liberal media – decided it would plant a flag in the ground and attach itself to political correctness, identity politics, and mass hysteria was the moment it killed humor in the political landscape.
The left has essentially decided that it will be the judge, jury, and executioner for any individual who decides to make a joke. Topics that are off limits include sex, gender, race, health, money, violence, inequality, animals, the environment, and virtually anything else that could remotely marginalize or offend someone.
There was a time where a truly offensive joke would be called out and labeled for what it was. Today, a joke could be a hit with 99 people and slightly offend one person, yet the left will throw a tantrum and act as if the sky is falling. Sometimes a joke won't offend anyone, yet someone on the left will feel that it could offend. Then he'll act offended on behalf of that imaginary group.
As a result of this faux outrage and culture of hysteria, many public figures are choosing to remove humor from their lives altogether and just lie low.
There's simply not enough to gain and way too much to lose from telling a joke at the expense of someone else – unless, however, you decide to attack conservatives, men, white people, evangelical Christians, the wealthy, or women who don't publicly align with progressive feminism. These are the only unprotected classes, and the left will actually reverse course and praise "offensive" jokes against these individuals. In other words, it's all about political identity. If you don't fit the left's agenda, you can be offended all you want.
"Life is absurd, and we can't change that," psychotherapist Antonia Macaro explains. "But we can decide how to respond to that absurdity: with a wailing and gnashing of teeth, with steely defiance, with laughter, or some combination of all three."
Treating everything as a joke is wrong, but so is being unrelentingly serious all the time. As Macaro points out, "[t]he right balance is to be able to step back and laugh at our vanity but then to step back in and get on with life anyway."
When humor is absent from politics, the serious nature of the world we live in becomes too much to handle. Unfortunately, this is the space we're living in right now. The left has taken away one of the things both parties need the most, and it's time to get it back.
At this point, it's unclear how we rediscover humor. The left has to loosen up; the right must be bold enough to keep injecting humor when appropriate; and we, as Americans, have to stop getting offended over things that don't matter. While humor may be laced in truth, it isn't the truth. A joke is a joke and, most of the time, nothing more.
The resurgence of true comedy on the political landscape would be a win for us all.