Chairman's Desk

Democrats can fight fire with fire by choosing Jon Stewart as their leader

What begins as a whisper will rise to a shout. What starts as a tepid suggestion will graduate into an alluring exhortation.

Wait for it, because here it comes: Democrats across the United States will call for comedian and TV personality Jon Stewart to run for their party’s nomination in 2024.

Don’t believe me? It’s started already.

Last month, a tweet about his prospective candidacy amassed a million views in only one day. Even well-known disc jockey Howard Stern is joining the chorus. A couple of weeks ago, he used his platform to urge Stewart to run, claiming that he “owes it to his country.”

Appeals for the former “Daily Show” host to run for office are nothing new. They’ve arisen before. Each time, he has summarily shut them down.

So a reality check. I take Stewart at his word.

That said, I am sure calls for him to run will grow far stronger as the campaign draws closer. Crucially, these calls represent a clear, urgent message: Democratic voters want, no make that need, a fighter in 2024.

Why a fighter? Two reasons.

First, in politics, when you are most discontent, you turn to your best fighter, your rhetorical gunslinger. And conservative courts have given American progressives plenty of reason to be raging mad.

Earlier this month, a Texas judge ruled in favour of a Christian advocacy group that asked the court to reverse the FDA’s approval of mifepristone, a pill (taken in concert with other medications) that induces abortions. At the time of writing, it’s a move that sets the stage for the pill to be banned nationwide.

Moreover, last week Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation that would ban most abortions after six weeks in Florida. This is not Margaret Atwood’s imagined Gilead, but a real one. Justifiably, alarm bells are ringing. The outrage is rising.

These are but two examples. There are plenty of others. But the larger point is one that the Trump phenomenon illustrated all too well in 2016: When voters are angry, they go with the candidate who channels that anger best.

For American moderates and progressives, that individual, bar none, is Jon Stewart. With an impressive legacy spanning over two decades, Stewart has relentlessly laid waste to media figures and politicians on the American right, skilfully calling out their hypocrisies with passion and humour.

Secondly, Democrats will have to confront the reality that their presidential candidate, whoever it is, will likely need to face off against, believe it, Donald Trump on the debate stage.

It won’t be ideal if that candidate needs the assistance of an oxygen mask to reach the podium. It might be even more disastrous if, in response to Trump’s jabs, all he can manage is “C’mon man!”

While Trump can nickname him Sleazeball Stew, the fact remains that Stewart possesses tenacity that Trump has never before faced on the debate stage, enabling Democrats to — at last — fight fire with fire. He is for moderates, what Tucker Carlson is to MAGA supporters, if Carlson was a scrappy New Yorker ready to rage against the machine with a razor-sharp intellect and rapier-like wit.

So while it remains highly doubtful that Stewart will run in 2024, here’s the wider, more significant, picture. By packing courts across the land with right-wing lunatics, the Republican Party may well have dug its own grave heading into 2024.

That’s why many think Joe Biden has it in the bag. I see things slightly differently. While I agree Democrats are in the pole position, the painful truth, but one that nonetheless must be heard, is that a geriatric candidate could seriously jeopardize that advantage.

What Biden ought to do is the responsible thing: pass the torch to the next generation.

The answer might not be Jon Stewart. But if the calls for him to run grow any louder, it could prove to be the wise choice.

This article first appeared in the Toronto Star on April 16, 2023.

Read More