Commentary Magazine


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The Comedy Central President

Timothy Noah at left-leaning Slate is nervous about the upcoming Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart rally:

There’s still a lot we don’t fully understand about the Tea Partiers and the political independents who have lost faith in Obama. But one thing we should all be pretty clear on by now is that they hate, hate, hate anything that smacks of elitism. The spectacle of affluent 18-to-34-year-olds blanketing the Mall to snicker at jokes about wingnut ignoramuses and Bible thumpers will, I fear, have the effect of a red cape waved before a bull. Stewart and Colbert aren’t supposed to want to affect the midterm elections, and for the most part I believe they don’t. But let Republicans regain the House (and maybe even the Senate) in part because Comedy Central used mockery not merely to burlesque political protest but also, to some inevitable extent, to practice it—and I think Stewart and Colbert will be sorry they came.

Well, if it will make him feel better, the House is already pretty much lost, and the Senate isn’t going to be decided by sneering comics. It does, however, remind us that the “cool” set was originally entranced with the “cool” candidate Obama. Why? Well, aside from liberalism (Hillary Clinton had that after all), they shared a contempt for the Bible-and-gun huggers, a suspicion that their fellow citizens were dolts and racists, and a confidence that they were smarter than just about anyone else. Appropriately, in the final week of the campaign, Obama is appearing on The Daily Show. The host and his audience are indeed the president’s base.

Noah is nervous that it’s dangerous to the liberals’ cause to take this act out in public, where the voters might get the idea that Obama’s supporters are snickering at them. Well, they are. And Obama’s affinity for those who ooze contempt for Americans goes a long way toward explaining why he is now so estranged from the people he seeks to lead.