The party of no has become the party of incitement – or at least that seems to be the consensus of the comedic political watchdogs over at Comedy Central. It was the first night back on the air since the passage of the health care bill for both The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, and both hosts came out swinging against a sub-set of Republicans who they seemed to think were less interested in forging debate, or discussing policy, than in fomenting the anxieties and rage of their key voters.
Both shows discussed the mysterious white powder that was delivered to congressman Anthony Weiner’s offices. Then they touched on the bullets and bricks put through the windows of other representatives, the vandalizing of homes, the spitting on black congressmen. The Daily Show opened with a montage that paired John Boehner’s warnings of Armageddon with Rush Limbaugh’s call to get the “bastards,” going on to compare the vitriolic rhetoric of tea party protesters with the recent comments made by Sarah Palin while stumping for John McCain, that “when we take up our arms, we’re talking about our votes.”
Stewart pounced on what he saw as the insincerity of Palin’s indignation – the hypocrisy of one political party claiming that the passage of a bill through congress amounted to a circumvention of America’s political process. “Real Americans can do whatever they want to threaten people that tyrannically impose their will through a legal legislative process set up through the constitution,” John Oliver ranted ironically in one aside, suggesting that what the minority party in congress really resents is the fact it is in the minority.
The Colbert Report, meanwhile, spoofed the ways in which Republicans have attempted to convert the Democratic health care victory into a glass-half-full situation for their party. Quoting John McCain, that the Republicans will deny the Democrats any cooperation for the remainder of the year, Colbert speculated that not only will a Republican loss over health care help them in the 2010 midterm elections, but also that a 2010 loss would then set up a huge gain for 2012. He also mocked McCain’s obstructionist promise, sarcastically pondering how Obama will cope with the fact that he’s lost all of his bipartisan support. Colbert may have been in character but the message was clear: Keep obstructing, and you’ll keep losing.
Both shows, and both commentators, underscored the peculiar position that the Republican party now finds itself in. The caucus relentlessly stonewalled health care, and lost, and now the only path forward involves rallying a base towards repealing health care – which means stirring up fears about the socialist Obamacare and hoping that a backlash persists all the way through November. The Colbert segment, however, pulled no punches in implying that with all this political posturing, and rhetorical wrangling, the one thing that’s fallen by the wayside is actual legislating. “I will not be denied my indignation,” Colbert proclaimed, “America as we know it is dead.”