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Jon Stewart Is the Left's Rally Monkey (in a Nice Way)


The other night Rachel Maddow interviewed John Stewart. It’s about 7 minutes long, but interesting if you care about this sort of thing:

Jon Stewart claims not to be “on the field” but in the stands. Maddow contends that what she does on MSNBC and what Stewart does on Comedy Central are different only in degree, not in kind. There’s some truth to that, but I think the truth about Jon Stewart is somewhere in the middle.

Stewart is right that he has certain freedoms as a comic that Maddow doesn’t have. Rachel’s job is to help her team advance the ball. (Lean Forward!) Sometimes she does this by defending the quarterback and sometimes by knocking out players on the other team’s front line (see Sharon Angle). She’s dishing out hard hits on national TV and to be fair, she’s taking hits too.

But while Stewart’s not on the field in that way, it’s silly to pretend he is just a guy in the stands. He’s got millions of fans himself, and we all know which team he supports. As I see it, the only place Jon Stewart fits in this analogy is on the sidelines as the D-team mascot. This isn’t meant as a cheap shot because if you go to see professional sporting events, the mascot can be pretty important to the team. Listen to how Forbes magazine described the role of a sports mascot:

Hook ’em while they’re young. It’s a common corporate strategy: Appeal to young groups and secure a slew of customers for life. And when it comes to professional sports, that’s the job of the mascot these days.

What started out as a gimmick to entertain fans during breaks in the action has become an ultra-important component for major- and minor-league sports teams looking to market at the grass roots by nabbing new fans at increasingly earlier ages…

Bring a second-grader to a football or baseball game, and there’s little chance he’ll understand what’s going on down on the field. But that muppet-like dinosaur or blue horse roaming the stands will draw his attention immediately. It’s what will stay in his memory long after the game is over, all but ensuring an upbeat first impression. Presto: a fan for life.

Maybe you can see where I’m going with this. In political terms, the mascot would be the guy who gets out the youth vote. Sort of like all those young hip people who watch the Daily Show and turn out for rallies on the mall.

Speaking of rallies, in southern California where I live we have a mascot called the rally monkey. He’s part entertainment and part genuine attempt to rally the base. The two go hand in hand. It can even change the game on the field. I’ve seen it happen. Each and every game, usually when the fans are feeling a bit slack and dispirited, this appears on the jumbotron:

[youtube aziWSxqGBD4]

Jon Stewart can claim he’s not part of the game all he wants, but if that were really true the President of the United States wouldn’t have stopped by in the final inning of the big game…er, election. So no offense, Jon, but from the White House’s point of view you’re the left’s rally monkey. And I mean that in the nicest possible way.

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