Jon Stewart Offers Perspective on the Election of Donald Trump

Jon Stewart
“One of the things that struck me as odd about this election was that nobody asked Donald Trump what makes America great,” said Jon Stewart. CBS

One of the most notable absences from the 2016 election cycle was former Daily Show host Jon Stewart, who for 15 years skewered the insanity of our political process nightly before stepping down in 2015. On Thursday morning, Stewart made a rare TV appearance on CBS This Morning, where he talked with Charlie Rose about what to make of Donald Trump's election.

"I don't believe we are a fundamentally different country today than we were two weeks ago," Stewart said when Rose asked him what he thought of what happened on November 8. "The same country, with all its grace and flaws and volatility and insecurity and strength and resilience, exists today as it existed two weeks ago. The same country that elected Donald Trump elected Barack Obama. I feel badly for the people for whom this election will mean more uncertainty and insecurity, but I also feel like this fight has never been easy."

Stewart then spoke of the "cynical strategy" of Republicans to ensure that the "swamp" is fetid and the government isn't working, and then to "use its lack of working" as evidence of its inherent failure. The irony, as Stewart sees it, is that Trump is in fact a "repudiation" of the Republicans who nevertheless will "reap the benefits" of his victory.

"I guarantee you, Republicans are going to come to Jesus now about the power of government," Stewart said.

He also questioned Trump's "metrics" for what makes America great, and he found the media's failure to ask him this one of the oddest things about the election. "It seems like, from listening to him, that the metrics are that it's a competition," he said. "What many would say makes us great is that America is an anomaly in the world. There are a lot of people [who believe], and I think his candidacy has animated that thought, that a multiethnic democracy is impossible. That is what America, by its founding and constitutionally, is."

Does Stewart believe it can be a good thing that we are now forced to, as Rose put it, "find out who we are"?

"Absolutely," said Stewart. "I would rather have this conversation openly and honestly than in dog whistles."

He went on to warn liberals not to demonize the half of the country who voted for Trump. "I think Donald Trump disqualified himself at numerous points," he said, "but here is now this idea that anyone who voted for him has to be defined by the worst of his rhetoric. There are guys in my neighborhood who I love and respect and who I think have incredible qualities, who are not afraid of Mexicans, who are not afraid of Muslims, who are not afraid of blacks—they're afraid of their insurance premiums."

According to Stewart, liberals' blanket criticism of Trump voters is another irony of the election. "The liberal community hates this idea of creating people as a monolith. 'Don't look at Muslims as a monolith. They are individuals, and it would be ignorance.' But everyone who voted for Trump is a monolith, is a racist? That hypocrisy is also real in our country."

"This is the fight that we wage against ourselves and each other," he continued. "America is not natural. Natural is tribal. We're fighting against thousands of years of human behavior and history to create something. That is what exceptional about America. This ain't easy. It's an incredible thing."

As Gayle King of CBS This Morning said when the broadcast cut back to the studio, "It's so nice to hear from him about this."