Jon Stewart and the Politics of Contempt

While Republicans are focused on the presidential debates tonight in Cleveland, liberals will be gathering around their televisions this evening to say goodbye to Jon Stewart. This will be the last edition of The Daily Show, and Stewart’s exit is equivalent to past television farewells of icons such as Johnny Carson. But while Carson was a seminal figure in American popular culture for decades, Stewart’s importance transcends television or even comedy. While the tributes to his supposed brilliance are, at best, overbaked, there should be no doubt that he has influenced our political culture profoundly during his tenure. Indeed, rather than giving him a hard time for his private meetings with the president in the White House that seemed to point toward him being given his marching orders by his political master, what we should be doing is examining the way Stewart influenced Obama.