Did President Barack Hussein Obama (D) and his lackeys Jay Carney, Ben Rhodes and other West Wing types turn to each other in despair Monday night, asking "If we've lost Jon Stewart, have we lost the country?" Reminiscent of what President Lyndon Baines Johnson(D) allegedly stated about losing influential newscaster Walter Cronkite's support and thus Middle America after Cronkite questioned his Vietnam policies, some of the Obama gang might well have thought this after seeing Stewart's latest analysis of the scandals swirling around the sainted Obama administration.
After dismissing the growing Benghazi scandal as a Republican and right wing partisan attack, Stewart, using the show's iconic amalgam of news clips, attempts to do the same with the growing IRS scandal. But, OMG!, he can't! The IRS is really guilty! The IRS's Lois Lerner, the math challenged director of Exempt Organizations, even "apologized." The IRS can't just apologize! What about poor Wesley Snipes?
Newsflash...the Justice Department asked for AP reporters' telephone records; they needed to know who in the CIA presumably leaked information about Benghazi to a reporter. Doom! Government is overreaching. OMG!, the government does want our guns. And more. Stewart's belief foundations crumpled before our eyes. What to believe in now? "Mother******!"
Throughout this nearly seven minute sketch, Stewart's young, low info, mostly liberal audience laughed and applauded as Stewart mocked the easily mockable IRS. And where Stewart goes, his fans follow. After all, they get their news from him and his counterpart Stephen Colbert.
While Cao did not specifically trace social activism elicited by Stewart's show, we know that Americans, according to Pew Research Center surveys, consider Stewart among their most trusted newsmen. The Project for Excellence in Journalism added that Stewart is "getting people to think critically about the public square." And according to a Rasmussen Reports survey: "Thirty percent of those ages 18-29 say programs like the two Comedy Central shows that feature news reports with a comic twist are replacing traditional news outlets."
On at least two specific issues since 2008, Stewart and Colbert have appealed to their young audiences with some real results.
In December 2010, Stewart lambasted Republicans for filibustering legislation providing health benefits to Sept. 11 first responders. Shortly thereafter, the bill passed. And in this election cycle, Colbert's super PAC has highlighted the out-of-control money in politics, where a billionaire can rig the entire system. When politics is the talk of the college commons, it is Stewart and Colbert who frequently dominate the conversation. Clips of their shows flood the feeds of young people's Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Unfettered from conventions that drive "real" political reporting, Stewart's satire often rings truer because he can say what conventional political reporters can't. Cutting through hypocritical paradoxes -- and often blatant nonsense -- helps him to connect with younger viewers to whom comedy is valuable. According to a Nielsen Entertainment Television survey, young men said that they would rather be stuck in elevator with Jon Stewart than Super Bowl MVP and New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning.
So here's the sequence that Obama is hoping for: Comedy engages younger Americans in the issues, engaged people vote, and young voters skew heavily toward Obama. Which is why it isn't surprising to see the president of the United States appearing on comedy shows. Stay tuned.
Of course, this is a group that is easily distracted. They won't sacrifice their moral certainties easily--they're too young, too uninformed. And soon Stewart and Colbert will transform another conservative into a clown. But the IRS, the AP story and even Benghazi aren't going away. And Stewart and Colbert will be forced to admit that these clowns are maybe, just maybe, occasionally correct--and some of their own beliefs are well...wrong.
And when that happens will a desperate Obama or Carney appear with Stewart to redeem the president?