As usual, the cable television program offering one of the sanest takes on the ongoing protests in Wisconsin is Jon Stewart's show on Comedy Central. Are the folks at CNN, MSNBC and Fox ever embarassed by this?
Here's the segment:
Digby didn't like it:
I'm so glad we have Jon Stewart around to reduce all political activities of ordinary people into a clown show. It makes it much easier to maintain our ironic distance. Silly people making noises in public is really beneath all smart liberals like ourselves -- the only respectable way for people to engage in politics is to let Jon Stewart explain it all to us in our special coded hipster humor... he's telling liberals (nobody else cares what he thinks) that it's more important to behave in a dignified, fair fashion than to stand up for your beliefs in a way that could be perceived as unseemly or one-sided. That makes you as bad as the other side.
Except, of course, it really doesn't. It's really about what you're fighting for. Tea partiers were trying to stop the federal government from reforming our health care system so that middle class workers will not go broke or die if they get sick. The Wisconsin protesters are trying to stop the Republican governor from making it illegal for them to belong to a union so that they can live a decent middle class life. Can we all see the pattern here? I'm sorry that people are misbehaving and failing to have the Oxford style debate that Stewart seems to think we should have, but this is a big argument that's taking place and I'm fairly sure that it's not going to be resolved by having some elite representatives of both sides sitting around Charlie Rose's table hashing it all out and then going out for drinks afterwards. Neither do I think that's what's important. If the Tea partiers had been well-behaved, would it have made their noxious politics any better? I don't think so.
James Joyner comes to Stewart's defense:
Here’s the thing: If we all agreed on which causes were worthwhile and which were destructive to society, we wouldn’t need to have debates. Alas, we don’t. Those of us on the other side of the Wisconsin debate see the protesters as disrupting the democratic process, breaking their social contract, and rent-seeking. Those of us on the other side of the fight over government bailouts saw moral hazard being thrown out the window, rewarding people who had been greedy and imprudent at the expense of those who’d played by the rules and sacrificed. Those of us who opposed ObamaCare . . . well, we weren’t exactly a coherent group. As for myself, I saw it marginally lowering freedom while doing nothing to solve the underlying crisis.
The reason I watch Stewart (and Stephen Colbert, who I’ll turn to shortly) and not more vitriolic liberal comics like Bill Maher is precisely because of his civility. While his bits are aimed at people who generally agree with him, he’s not insulting to those who don’t. He’s welcoming and engaging conversation, treating his audience like intelligent, decent people. We tend not to agree on the issues but he rightly calls out the BS on both sides. Given his political leanings, he naturally sees more of it on the Right than the Left. But he at least tries to be intellectually honest and consistent in his principles.
Meanwhile, Will Wilkinson concurs that the Tea Party and the Wisconsin protests have something in common with one another.