It’s easy to be critical of the attendees at the recent Stewart/Colbert non-political but political non-rally rally, and for good reason. As a group, they are hard to take seriously. Egged on by Stewart’s Daily Show, they routinely confuse conviction for extremism, and the possession of neither information nor principles with moderation. Most of them are actually just standard liberals pretending to be moderate, anyway. There is also room to be critical of the rally itself, as Cat Stevens was allowed to participate despite his past support of the fatwa against Salman Rushdie. It’s important to point all these things out, as conservatives are doing, but there are other things conservatives should take note of as well, such as the actual content of John Stewart’s keynote speech. All things considered, it wasn’t half bad. In fact, I thought it was pretty good.
There isn’t much to disagree with when it comes to Stewart’s treatment of the media, where he rightly mocked the hysteria obsessed “shock news” strategy of cable news. This is important to conservatives not only because our longstanding antipathy toward the media (a direct response to their antipathy toward us), but also because the next thing media almost always does after highlighting the new great threat to existence in America is to demand government action. Pulling the rug out from under these tactics serves conservative ends. Stewart also earlier made fun of the media tendency to judge rallies by the color of the attendees, a tactic often used to dishonestly attempt to discredit conservatives.
I can also point out that Stewart stuck up for the Tea Party, saying that “Not being able to distinguish between real racists and Tea Party-ers…is an insult.” The video montages introduced early by Colbert also picked on left-wing blowhards like Ed Schultz, Chris Matthews, Kieth Olbermann and Alan Grayson almost as much as it targeted figures on the right – though they clearly over-extended themselves in targeting Beck, who seemed to have a much lower threshold in terms of how incendiary his comments had to be for them to single out. Nevertheless, he did a good job of picking the low hanging fruit. And as a liberal speaking to an overwhelmingly liberal audience, it can actually matter more than when conservatives point out such things.
Still, that was just the low hanging fruit. It’s hard to be too impressed over such statements of the obvious. What was really striking in Stewart’s speech was the implicit conservatism. Take the following passage:
We hear every damned day about how fragile our country is, on the brink of catastrophe, torn by polarizing hate, and how it’s a shame that we can’t work together to get things done. The truth is, we do! We work together to get things done every damned day! The only place we don’t is here (in Washington) or on cable TV!
But Americans don’t live here, or on cable TV. Where we live, our values and principles form the foundation that sustains us while we get things done–not the barriers that prevent us from getting things done.
Liberals often confuse themselves into believing that everything important must happen in Washington – if the federal government isn’t taking care of the poor, it isn’t happening, as private charity doesn’t count. If politicians aren’t solving problems, then they aren’t being solved. Period. That’s the liberal view, and Stewart just shredded it to pieces. Once liberals accept that ordinary Americans going about their business can solve problems, their entire ideology falls apart. The assumptions behind this passage are conservative, and even if the audience doesn’t acknowledge them as such, the consideration of such ideas by the left is a huge crack in the foundation of liberalism.
Stewart hasn’t quite put all the pieces together. He still wants those in Washington to “work together,” whereas we recognize that when politicians collaborate to solve a problem, the situation is more often than not made considerably worse. When politicians fight, they keep each other in check. When they collaborate, the result is a conspiracy against the public. Stewart doesn’t see that, and maybe he never will. But that’s okay, because he just told a liberal audience that solutions can come from other sources than government – and they cheered him for it.
Cross-posted at Conservative Compendium.