On Oct. 30, 2010, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert held a rally on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
Despite the fact that midterm elections were right around the corner, the main goal of the rally was not openly to affect the vote. Instead, the idea was to use satire and comedy to “restore sanity” to the political dialogue in a nation that had become overwhelmed by fear, irrationality, and prejudice. Stewart ended the rally with a “moment of sincerity” where he criticized the polarizing press, the panic incited by pundits, and the increasing inability of citizens to find any sort of reasonable compromise.
The idea wasn’t to point fingers; it was to encourage a more respectful and productive dialogue among people who hold differing views. It was a historic moment when two of the nation’s most important political comedians publicly intervened to improve the course of politics. There were about 215,000 people at the rally. Two million watched it on Comedy Central live and another half million saw it live via the internet feed.
It all feels like ages ago.
Today, both comedians have left their Comedy Central posts and many have speculated that if they had continued we wouldn’t be in this mess.
But that’s not the real change that matters. Now the change is over who in this nation is driven by fear and who is ruled by sanity. When Colbert and Stewart took the stage, they didn’t openly associate reason with Democrats and fear with Republicans. They didn’t have to.
Ever since the post 9/11 era of George W. Bush the nation had increasingly witnessed a turn in the Republican party from conservative values to hysterical ones. There were numerous studies that showed that the Republican brain was less open to nuance, critical thinking, and reason. One study showed how Republicans would hold on even more fervently to their beliefs even when presented with bipartisan evidence to the contrary.
One party could process facts. One party considered them a conspiracy.
One party voted rationally. One voted illogically.
Well, the 2016 election shattered that neat little breakdown.
While there seems little doubt that the entire Donald Trump campaign is based on hype, hysteria, and sensationalism; it’s worth noting the very real ways that the Hillary Clinton campaign has also been dominated by binary thinking, irrationality, and panic.
First of all, the number one reason that Bernie Sanders supporters are told they should vote for Hillary is to stop Trump. Nowhere is there an argument about the merits of her platform. If the primary argument to vote for Hillary is out of fear—then the Democrats have now joined with the GOP in promoting a politics of hysteria.
And they were joined by the mainstream media who basically refused to take seriously the idea that there were any significant election irregularities at all. We had to leave it the alternative media like Democracy Now and to brave political comedians like Lee Camp to even cover the story. (Watch one of his clips on election fraud from RedactedTonighthere.)
Outside of these alternative, anti-establishment spaces no one seemed to notice that the way that Clinton supporters ignored election fraud was pretty much identical to what happened on the Bush-Gore vote. Except this time there is a huge difference– now the fight is within the same party.
But there’s more. Because within the Clinton campaign there is a real issue with “the woman card.” Of course, it is historic that she may well be the Democratic nominee. But that fact has nothing to do with whether or not she is feminist. It just means she is a woman who broke a barrier.
Regardless of whether Hillary should be held to account for her own treatment of women, there seems little doubt that this campaign has constructed a narrow and aggressive view of what it means to advocate for women’s rights. What may be a historic achievement for a woman in this nation is being overshadowed by a view of “feminism” that basically requires women to support Hillary or be sluts that are going to hell. And while it is easy to let Trump’s misogyny distract us, we have to recognize that the Clinton version of feminism lacks critical complexity and smacks of dogmatism.
The fact that Clinton is now the favorite of many on the right, with endorsement after endorsement pouring in, should be evidence enough of a real merging of the right and the “left.” What we have more clearly on view is a breakdown between the political elite and the people.