Jon Stewart appeared on CBS This Morning about a week ago with Charlie Rose to discuss the election. Here’s the full (though unfortunately short) video:
I like Jon Stewart. He’s funny and smart and though I don’t always agree with him, I can almost always understand where he’s coming from. And I really wish he had been hosting The Daily Show this election cycle rather than retiring just as Trump announced his candidacy and handing the reigns to the not-terribly-funny Trevor Noah.
Anyway, I agree with Stewart on most of his points, but two in particular stick out as either specious or stupid. The first, specious:
Donald Trump is a reaction not just to Democrats but Republicans. He’s not a Republican. He’s a repudiation of Republicans.
Trump’s not a Republican in that he doesn’t toe the traditional Republican line 100%. Yes, he talked about Social Security and infrastructure spending, for example, in ways that normal conservative Republicans wouldn’t dream of, but unsurprisingly both of those are popular with not just Republicans, but the entire country. It’s just one example of many of how Republicans do themselves no favors by being completely inflexible when it comes to their fiscal ‘conservative principles.’
But what Stewart’s wrong about is that Trump is completely a Republican when it comes to his views on minorities, women, immigrants, and religions that aren’t Christianity. Trump’s views on these people aren’t incompatible with traditional Republicans’—they’re just unfiltered and amplified. It’s why so many of his supporters admired him for ‘telling it how it is.’ He won the nomination and the presidential election (sort of), so enough people who are registered Republicans also think he is a Republican. It’s the guys in Washington like Paul Ryan of whom they’re more skeptical. (Why do you think guys like Ryan regularly get called ‘RINO’?)
And the fact is, at the end of the day Trump or a Trump analogue could not have run for the Democratic nomination, partly because it’s hard to imagine what an inverse Trump would look like—though Clinton and Sanders are both anti-racist, what would a candidate who was as anti-racist as Trump is racist look like? I don’t know.
The second, stupid:
There is now this idea that anyone who voted for him has to be defined by the worst of his rhetoric […] In the liberal community, you hate to see this idea of creating people as a monolith. Don’t look at Muslims as a monolith. They are individuals, it would be ignorance. But everybody who voted for Trump is a monolith, is a racist. That hypocrisy is also real in our country.
That’s great, except there’s no comparison to be made between someone who’s Muslim with someone who votes for a candidate in a single election. The complexities of everyday ‘choice’ when it comes to religion are far greater than bubbling in a name on a ballot on a single day. And when you extend that same logic to blacks or Latinos or women, it makes even less sense. Those aren’t choices. You don’t look at any of them as monoliths because then you’re admitting that people come into the world inherently flawed because of their ethnicity, nationality, or gender.
Perhaps Stewart doesn’t believe this, but my own belief is that you are morally responsible for the predictable consequences of your actions, and voting is included in this. I voted for Hillary Clinton. I am well aware of her flaws, perhaps the biggest being her propensity for foreign intervention (the polite term for ‘war’). And I knew that in voting for her I would have been helping to enable and facilitate the deaths of innocent people around the world, and that I would be morally responsible for that. That is a sin I could have shared with millions of other Americans. It’s a sin I share with all of those who voted for Obama, who has authorized innumerable drone strikes in multiple sovereign nations, among other things. Those deaths are real, and we are in our own ways partly responsible for it.
And I believe the same is true, perhaps truer, for those who voted for Trump. It doesn’t matter whether a Trump voter is or isn’t racist or believes he is or isn’t racist—he voted for a racist, and so is responsible for the logical outcomes of that. When the KKK announces it wants to organize a parade in North Carolina, when white-supremacists lurking under the guise of the media-friendly term ‘alt-right’ sieg heil at political conferences in DC, when countless reports of an explosion of racist and anti-Semitic vandalism occurs across the country (and remember, it’s been less than a month than the election, and he’s not even in office yet), every person who voted for him is in part responsible for those things. They are a predictable result of his election. They are not abstractly connected. The things he said during his campaign, the support he received from white supremacists like Richard Spencer or the KKK’s David Duke, and the actions pro-Trumpers have taken since his election are perfectly in line. To imagine otherwise is fantasy.
So sure, Trump voters can’t all be defined by the worst of Trump’s rhetoric, but they approved of and endorsed it, however begrudgingly, and they are in part responsible for what happens. If that’s something the Party of Personal Responsibility can’t handle, that’s their problem.