These last few days have been big for American politics. Over the weekend, we had the wonderful opportunity to witness Jon Stewart’s “Rally to Restore Sanity,” a supposedly non-partisan march on Washington, D.C. that sought to lampoon nonsensical criticism of the president and to reintroduce “reason” and “compromise” into our political process. And yesterday, the American public responded to the call and took a great step towards the restoration of sanity: they threw the Democrats out of office.
In the first place, it seems odd that America’s leading political satirist is making a public plea to elevate the civility and intellectual seriousness of our political discourse. Make no mistake about it, Fox News and MSNBC are guilty of egregious distortions and exaggerations, but The Daily Show is hardly a rigorous exercise in political philosophy. And given his tendency to take cheap shots at easy right-wing targets and to shamelessly pander to the presumptions of his largely left-wing audience, Stewart can hardly posture as the concerned and reflective intellectual that he made himself out to be at his rally.
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Moreover, Stewart is no moderate. Though he claimed a non-partisan message, “The Rally to Restore Sanity” was nothing more than another pro-Obama march. Stewart can make the facile observation that social progress requires compromise, but it is undeniable that this argument is tied to the political frustration of the Democrats, who just can’t seem to get the Republicans to “compromise” on issues as uncontroversial as a $787 billion stimulus bill, a record $3.5 trillion budget and a drastic, maybe even unconstitutional overhaul of America’s healthcare system.
Also telling is the self-serving selectivity with which Stewart’s rally criticized political extremism. Does anybody remember how the far left acted during the Bush years? “Not My President” was a popular motif during Bush’s presidency, a statement that would be denounced as racist were it uttered today. And Obama is not the first president to be compared to Hitler by fringe radicals — Moveon.org, a left-wing organization with over 5 million members, compared the invasion of Iraq to the Holocaust just six years ago. While it’s true that Obama’s race has subjected him to a wide range of bizarre and baseless accusations, the conviction that Obama is a Muslim terrorist bent on subverting America from the inside is hardly more contemptible than the belief that George W. Bush orchestrated 9/11 to boost the value of Halliburton’s stock. I guess I missed Jon Stewart’s rally to defend George Bush from these equally outlandish charges.
And it seems that, despite all efforts, Stewart and his supporters failed to persuade the American public to embrace their call for sanity. I doubt that many of The Daily Show’s viewers were celebrating Tuesday’s election results over champagne. Perhaps the election turned out this way because the majority of Americans subscribe to a conception of sane politics that transcends the strident cries of our most radical constituents and actually addresses the problems we face as a nation.
This column is by no means an unequivocal endorsement of the Republican Party. As a civil libertarian, I have serious ideological differences with most Republicans when it comes to social issues. And I am not at all certain that the Republicans will make great leaders for however long their political success endures. But I am confident that they will at least try to take us off the disastrous path that we have been on since the Democrats assumed such vast majorities in Congress, and that they will at least restore some notion of sanity that most Americans would willingly endorse.
Under the leadership of President Obama and the Democrats, our nation amassed $3 trillion of debt in the past two years alone. It took George W. Bush eight years to accumulate $4.8 trillion in new debt. This means that the president is spending money nearly three times as rapidly as his predecessor, who himself was the most reckless spender in all of American history. And given that America has lost roughly 1 million more jobs than the Obama administration said it would if Congress did not pass the stimulus, the benefits of this outrageous spending have yet to be seen, and many Americans suspect that they will never come.
Finally, just as the American public punished the Republicans for supporting an unpopular war in 2008, it is now punishing Democrats for forcing unpopular healthcare reform onto the American people. As of Nov. 1, 58 percent of Americans favor repealing the healthcare bill, and 45 percent “strongly” support repealing it. As of last night’s elections, we will no longer have a Democratic majority that so blatantly ignores the wishes of the American people.
I doubt that the Republican gains will satisfy those who attended Jon Stewart’s rally last weekend, but all other Americans can rest assured: sanity has been restored.
Ken Hershey is a sophomore in Trumbull College.