Jon Stewart will return to “The Daily Show” in two weeks, hosting on Mondays and overseeing the rest of the week as executive producer.
That seems like a very good thing on the surface. In an election year that’s going to be ugly and combative, Stewart’s perspective, wit, and willingness to punch holes in Trump and his sycophants will be more than welcome. I’ve seen several opinion pieces saying Stewart’s commentary on current events will accrue to Joe Biden’s benefit, but that’s only true if what he says changes the minds of independent voters.
There’s no use considering its impact on the MAGA crowd, because all they’ll do is attack him and act like wounded victims every time Stewart says anything even mildly negative about Trump. Considering how GOPers love to mock liberals as snowflakes who take offense too easily, the truth is Trumpophiles are the ones who overreact, none more so than their Dear Leader. He’s the one who demanded the FCC investigate “Saturday Night Live” for sketches making fun of him (yet more proof that he has no idea how government agencies work — the FCC has no power to regulate content other than obscenity). Meanwhile, extreme MAGA nuts are spreading ridiculous conspiracy theories on right-wing outlets and social media about Taylor Swift because she endorsed Biden in 2020.
While I will tune in to see what Stewart is up to, I have cut way back on my consumption of political content over the last few years as it became more distracting than informative. I don’t think I’m alone. Polls showing Americans are paying less attention to political news don’t take into account the fact that most of the country long ago decided which side they’re on — and it has become even more unlikely that their votes will be swayed, despite the best efforts of a late-night TV show.
Moreover, the public’s perception of Trump hasn’t gotten any better in recent months, what with his legal issues, his cognitive decline, and his general meanness. Since he lost the last presidential election by seven million votes, what incentive is there for anyone who didn’t back him four years ago to do so now? How does he close that gap? Forget about the polls, which are meaningless this far out. I don’t see how Trump gains any more support from the electorate — he may even lose more if he’s convicted of any of the 91 felonies he’s charged with.
So, the only way he can win is if there are leaks in Biden’s support.
Events in Israel and Gaza may be affecting the willingness of some percentage of people who voted for Biden in 2020 to do so again. But I doubt there are enough of them to reduce his popularity among the electorate on a large scale, particularly since the situation will hopefully change for the better over the next nine months.
The improving economy, with a lot more jobs being created, inflation down, gas prices reduced, and consumer spending way up are all things the President can crow about. So is the fact that violent crime is at a fifty-year low and the murder rate is also way down. Millions more people have healthcare because Biden expanded upon the Obamacare wins.
And the list goes on.
Presidents don’t control the stock market, but its rise to record levels of late impacts the retirement accounts of a lot of middle-class people. Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act is so powerful even the Republicans who voted against it in Congress are now trying to take credit for it in their campaign materials.
And don’t forget about abortion. Trump goes around crowing he’s personally responsible for the repeal of Roe v. Wade. Democrats running for the White House and Congress will make that a major talking point as campaigns ramp up even more — and for many voters, that will be the only issue that matters in November.
Considering all those factors, how much of an impact could Jon Stewart’s return to “The Daily Show” — with an audience of less than a million — have on the outcome of the election? Whatever the number, it’s very small.
At best, it will bring back some viewers — like me — who haven’t watched the show regularly for a long time. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy Trevor Noah or some of the host wannabes’ on-air auditions. It’s just that I lost interest in consuming a lot of snarky current events comedy — including Stewart’s short-lived Apple TV+ show. We’ve kept up our John Oliver habit and I have checked out a few Jimmy Kimmel monologues, but that’s about it.
Nonetheless, I look forward to seeing what Stewart offers as host and EP of “The Daily Show.” The real question is not about his possible impact on the election, but whether he can make it Must See TV — for the long term — again.