Oh thank god, someone finally figured out who's responsible for the republican party's voting for Donald Trump: Jon Stewart! According to Jesse Bernstein of Tablet Magazine, Stewart and his smug liberal culture of mocking the dumbness of the GOP platform caused them to... become dumber? Is he some kind of Judo or Jedi master, destroying them by their own hand?
I mean look, I'm all for a fair apportioning of blame, but I'm really not following this guy's argument. Let's break it down:
- Jon Stewart exhibits "liberal smugness."
- Therefore he is ignorant (the author doesn't really explain how this conclusion is reached).
- Because Stewart's critiques called Fox News and co stupid, people didn't engage with the (stupid?) ideas presented by Fox News and Co.
- Therefore, Donald Trump.
Bernstein's claim that the Democratic party's share of the manual laborer vote is due to "intellectual elitism" isn't at all supported by the facts or any argument other than "it feels right." I think a far more worthwhile analysis here would look at the role of gerrymandering, money in politics, and the right's heavy reliance on social wedge issues like creationism, gay marriage, and abortion rights to drive their voters. The right endorsed trade deals and union busting while simultaneously failing to deliver on any of those social promises -- and this really highlights how the idea that Democrats insult the poor while Republicans honor them is just obviously absurd, which is what gets us the Donald Trump republican anti-establishment revolt.
It's also just obviously crazytown to blame Jon Stewart for the rise of Donald Trump, when the viewers of the Daily Show -- if they're as smug and elitist as this author claims they are -- almost certainly haven't taken part in any of the actual votes which selected Donald Trump.
My takeaway: This guy is putting the cart before the horse, by insisting that the ideas being put forward by the GOP and FOX News over the past 20 years have been by and large worthy of reasoned discourse and not ridicule. But this is obviously a false dichotomy, since the whole value of Stewart, Colbert, Bee, and Oliver's takedowns has been in their sharply honed razor edge of reason which they've used to cut apart the illogical arguments of the right, and it's telling that the video in the article is of a Bill Maher segment, i.e., a liberal who many liberals consider to be a smug blowhard.
Finally, at what point is it ok to call a Republican politician dumb? Was it not ok with Bush but now it's ok with Trump? Is it still not ok? Is it somehow Jon Stewart's fault that the intellectual republican party has trickled out of a slowly sinking ship since the 1950s? This article provides no actual insight into the mechanics or ethics of criticizing an opponent's views on their merits and ultimately just boils down to "hey that's mean." Well ok, sure I'll grant you that calling someone dumb is a little bit mean, but it's nowhere near as mean as denying rights to gays, women, minorities and oh yeah, quietly fucking over the poor while you promise them it's totally Jon Stewart's fault. And staying silent while someone tries to do all of that? That'd be pretty mean too. As the saying goes, "All it takes for meanness to succeed is for good cultural critics to be nice."