Farewell To An Icon
Democracy Or Bust

Winkler Headshot_sketchThe countdown to Aug. 6 continues as beloved “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart concludes the final shows of his 16-year run. Americans begin to ask themselves: what will we do without him?

Jon Stewart joined “The Daily Show” in 1999. Unbeknownst to Stewart and the rest of the world, the show would go on to win 19 Emmys and become one of the longest-running programs on Comedy Central. Now a household name, Stewart is known for satirically criticizing the government as well as the mainstream media. He’s so adept that many people find Stewart more reliable and educational than actually watching the news.

Stewart’s coverage of the political sphere has been pivotal in the public perception of politicians and the current trajectory of the American system. For example, Stewart shifted “The Daily Show” to a more issues-driven format at the beginning of the 2000 election, leading to his coverage of it titled “Indecision 2000.” Stewart spoke about the show’s coverage of the 2000 election recount in a profile by Variety, claiming that the recount was the moment that the show found its editorial footing. And, following the Sept. 11 attacks, Stewart gave a powerful monologue that is still widely circulated to this day on the anniversary of the attacks.

But Stewart doesn’t only talk about issues; he also encourages action. When Stewart dedicated an entire episode to covering the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, he brought to light the bill, which had failed to pass in the Senate due to a Republican filibuster. The bill would go on to receive Congressional approval a week later and was signed into law in just two weeks ago. The passage of this bill meant $7.4 billion allocated for the testing and treatment of survivors of the 9/11 attacks. That is no small impact.

So what’s going to happen come Aug. 6th?

With an ever-growing presidential candidate field, who will hold these candidates accountable for what they say? (I’m looking at you, Donald Trump.) “The Daily Show” currently fills a gap in the media by saying what news networks won’t say and attracting an audience that would otherwise be uninterested in political happenings. With an election turnout rate of only 41.2% in 2012 among 18- to 24-year-olds according to the Census Bureau, our generation needs to become more interested in politics, not less. “The Daily Show” is a key factor in making politics interesting and, dare I say, fun.

Now I am being a tad dramatic. But despite the fact that “The Daily Show” is not ending and Trevor Noah is taking over, few expect Noah to reach Stewart’s level in the first year. This leaves the 2016 candidates with minimal accountability to their words and actions. As Stewart pointed out in a recent episode, “our incessant Trump-gazing has caused us to miss important non-Trump news.” The media doesn’t know how to balance the need for ratings and the need to deliver substantial news to its viewers.

So desperate times call for desperate measures.

“I’m issuing a new executive order that Jon Stewart cannot leave the show,” declared President Obama during his seventh and final appearance on “The Daily Show.” Like many viewers, even the president having a hard time letting go.


Sydney Winkler is a rising senior in the College. Democracy or Bust appears every other Saturday.

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