Former Daily Show host Jon Stewart spoke with San Francisco Chronicle’s Peter Hartlaub at the Clusterfest comedy festival in San Francisco this weekend. The duo talked Donald Trump, Samantha Bee, renewed political enthusiasm in this country, and how political parties create insidious codes to abide by and trick their enemies into navigating incorrectly, only to then call them out for doing so.
According to The Daily Beast, Stewart is not only about to embark on a stand-up tour with Dave Chappelle, but plans to make his second feature film following his 2014 debut, Rosewater. Naturally, things quickly got political, with Hartlaub asking if Stewart was going to “slay the dragon” in his new material. “Yes. It ends here. Tonight,” before voicing his sincere thoughts.
“I will say this,” he said. “It speaks to the yearning in America right now that this is a dragon that can be slayed. And I think he will be defeated by better ideas.”
Ever the political commentator and comedian to embrace and consider complexity when it comes to the modern American political process, Stewart’s opinion on the two-party system’s weaknesses and the Trump administration’s endless fiascos was pretty straightforward.
“Everybody’s looking for a shortcut,” he explained. “It’s really quite simple. What is the opposition party? Oh yeah, the Democrats. If they could come with like, I don’t know what you would call it, a set of ideas. And then they would say them in a way that didn’t seem fucking weird. And then, like, the people would—understanding how the Electoral College works—vote and then I’m assuming at that point he has to leave.”
While many of us who grew up listening to Stewart, and used his show to wind down from frantic workdays infused with politically aggravating news or complex current events, he’s not the hero we’re looking for. “It’s not going to be a comedian,” he said, referring to Trump’s successor. “We mistake cultural power for power.” He argued that local involvement and community activism was far more constructive than playing absurd political games and using the media as a tool.
“To some extent, that is what will make America great again,” he said. “What we’ll see is the transformative power that the fear that a leader like Trump puts into regular people, that they begin to take matters into their own hands at a local level. That will be the change.
As for Samantha Bee, who called Ivanka Trump a “feckless cunt” and has been facing calls for her resignation, Stewart is adamant that the right doesn’t really care about political correctness that much, and that Bee’s statement is merely an opportunity for the right to call the left out.
“They don’t give a shit about the word ‘cunt,’” he said. “That is probably—he says that instead of ‘please,’ I’m guessing.” Finally, Stewart expounded on the real truth of the matter here, regarding the strategic use of self-victimization and shaming opponents through the media. He explained that nobody could “make them give up this ‘We’re the real victims’ game,” because “it’s a game, it’s a strategy, and it’s working.”
“Please understand that a lot of what the right does, and it’s maybe their greatest genius, is they’ve created a code of conduct that they police, that they themselves don’t have to, in any way, abide,” he explained. “Don’t get caught in a trap of thinking you can live up to a code of integrity that will be enough for the propagandist right,” he said. “There isn’t. And so, create your own moral code to live by, but don’t be fooled into trying to make concessions that you think will mollify them.”
In case you think Jon Stewart is a staunch Democrat or entirely anti-Republican, he actually has friends and family members who voted for the President, and not only doesn’t dislike them but appreciates them as human beings. “Not only do I try to avoid them, I love them,” he said. “Because they have other qualities that I think are exceptional.”