As Becky reported, I attended the Stewart/Colbert rally on the Washington Mall yesterday. The value in the event, for me, was the opportunity to feel some camaraderie with folks who share my politics. I needed that confirmation that I am not alone in country full of right-wingers. And even though we didn’t stay for the whole thing–one can only stand being packed in like a sardine for so long–that goal was met and I consider the day a success.
However, Jon Stewart’s words left me cold. He engages in what Jules Boykoff calls “civility fetishism.” His concluding speech amounted to a lengthy tone argument, condemning “both sides” for their shouty, divisive rhetoric. He drew a false equivalence between the far right and the far left, lumping all “extreme” media outlets together to condemn them and comparing the Tea Party’s antics to those of us who’ve identified the Tea Party as racist. Political moderates are correct (and uniquely sane) by virtue of being in the middle. They don’t get angry like those on the far left and far right. They don’t stage protests to express that anger.
I find it disturbing that Stewart’s biggest problem with the Tea Party crowd is their loud voices and hyperbolic signs. If they’d only bring it down a notch he’d take their complaints seriously. And if only progressives asked nicer, we’d get what we want. I don’t know if Stewart is truly that naive or if he’s trying to appease his conservative critics. Either way, it strikes me as supremely stupid.
There comes a point at which it’s foolish to assume good faith on behalf of your opponents. Reasoned debate is not possible with folks who do not value reason. Calls to “work together” for the good of the country make no sense when people want to take the country in opposite directions. This is the same problem I have with Democrats who believe bipartisanship is possible with Republicans who are hell-bent on maintaining the status quo or undoing the progress we’ve made. Sometimes, the other side is not just misguided or misunderstood. Sometimes they are legitimately villainous.