Last night Howard Dean was on The Daily Show -- I always love seeing Howard Dean, but usually you catch him being attacked for 5 minutes on Press the Meet or something. You rarely see him in a context where the man can laugh. And like most progressives, I maintain an abiding affection for Howard Dean. After all, at a time when everyone in the public sphere, including all the media and all the Democrats, were toeing the bu$h 911-Iraq lie, Howard Dean delivered THIS speech. That was the speech that brought tears to my eyes and gave me hope that we might end the nightmare in 2004 -- and I still believe that had it not been for the "yeeah" media pile-on (and the apparently already agreed-upon media narrative that demanded Kerry the pre-killed candidate) -- the media, in other words -- we might have changed history for the better.
The hope was dissolved in early 2004, but we were all better, stronger people for having felt it. We were, if nothing else, politically "activated" -- transformed from inert grousers to the sort of people who donate money, go to meetings, canvas neighborhoods, collect our cell phones into phone banks... and, after 2004, into people who are deeply cynical about the media, who see through the media, in a large part, because we've already seen them turn nothing (the famous "scream" didn't exist to people who were actually at that event -- you had to filter out the rest of the audio in order to create the weirdness) into political death (through literally 100s of replays per day) for our candidate. And then of course death for the whole party, thanks to John "let's concede Ohio at 10am the day after the election" Kerry.
Bitter? Oh yeah.
Anyway, for all these reasons and more, I love to see Howard Dean get a friendly interview. Which is what you would think The Daily Show would be -- not just because the show is anti-bu$h or trends left, but because the show's main mission is to parody and criticize the media -- and there is no better symbol of both media bullshit and the ability to bounce back from media bullshit than Howard Dean. Even after the "media assassination," Dean worked at the grassroots and, against the protesting of the DC establishment, became chair of the DNC, completely changing the nature of the Democratic party. He's had to wage war with DLC conservative democrats (see Dean vs. Emanuel 06), but he's making the Democratic party more progressive and more populist -- and more national. He's making it a party for progressives in Mississippi and Oklahoma as much as it is for people in New York and California.
But Jon Stewart's interview wasn't half as friendly as you'd think. Stewart began the show by announcing that Howard Dean would be there -- then made annoyed faces while the crowd cheered. He said, "when I say Howard you say Dean: Howard" and the crowd yelled "Dean!" He seemed disappointed. "Why does that still work?" he said. As though his audience should have abandoned Howard Dean?
The interview was more of the same. The audience cheered for Dean. Stewart tried to undercut him. First he demanded Dean explain the intricacies of super-delegates, then he cut him off to make fun of how complicated it was. He suggested several times that Democrats would be better off adopting a less democratic ("republican-like") election system, but also made ham-handed remarks about letting the people decide -- so which is it, Stewart? You want simplicity or you want democracy? 'Cause those are the choices we've faced since the beginning. The whole attitude of the interview was not just aggressive, but almost a little dismissive. And the Colbert Report followed the show with a segment carping on something Dean had said -- the second time this week he'd used that same quote, without context or elaboration (and with a very unflattering picture of Dean) -- although this time he didn't call Dean a "clown," which he did do last time.
Where does all this come from? Why are Stewart and Colbert so strangely anti-Howard Dean? I mean, we're talking about the guy who made millions of Americans stand up and care about politics again -- I didn't watch the Daily Show before Dean made me interested in politics again. And why do they use their mock-media framework to try to knock him down -- in the exact same way the real media try to use it? It doesn't seem to be conscious satire. I just don't get it.
In the end, though, the audience ignored half of Stewart's jokes (the ones where he was trying to talk over Dean) because they were too busy enjoying what Dean had to say. Dean showed himself -- as usual -- to be the picture of humor and likability, handling all the weird punches from Stewart and delighting the audience at the same time. Howard Dean is awesome, and I can't tell you how incredibly happy I am that he didn't retreat from national politics after 2004. No, he's still fighting for all of us, pushing the Democratic Party little by little to the left -- and therefore the country little by little to the left. He's giving the media the finger and becoming an example of how you do it: how you make change despite the media having it in for you. (Even when part of that mob is, strangely enough, the late night comedy boys your people love.)
1. If you wanna be happy for the rest of your life -- Jimmy Soul
2. Golden Slumbers -- Beatles
3. Spill the Wine -- War
4. Super Heroes -- Rocky Horror Picture Show
5. Vulcan -- Snake River Conspiracy
6. The Forecast -- Jason Mraz
7. Aqui no sera -- Ozomatli
8. Pallin with Al -- Squirrel Nut Zippers
9. Mistaken Identity -- Joe Lally
10. Brimful of Asha -- Cornershop