The challenge facing Stewart and The Daily Show crew is at least as old as the quote from “The Second Coming” where Yeats complained that “the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” Can Stewart get functional people with busy lives – the non-screamers, the non-shouters, the non-Kool-Aid drinkers – to care enough to come to a rally in Washington on a fall weekend? The answer matters because it’s a measure of the way an unrepresentative group of extremes have been able to hijack our politics and dominate the debate. Decisions in a democracy are made by people who show up: voting with their ballot, their feet and their wallet. It’s up to the moderate majority of Americans to straighten their civic backbone and demand something better and different than demagoguery.
Humor, after all, is a social corrective against arrogance, ignorance and pretension. Those qualities are never in short supply when it comes to politics. But the rise of comedians as trusted voices of sanity in a hyper-partisan era should be a wake up call to journalists that we need to take our jobs a hell of a lot more seriously.