For a decade, Republicans have been the butt of far more jokes than Democrats have. It’s natural that comedians would make fun of the people in power. During most of the Bush-Cheney years, we could rely on nightly comic savaging of our president from a variety of outlets. (Remember That’s My Bush?) But even though Democrats have been in power for two years, comedians have continued to focus most of their attention on Republicans.
Conservative critics and internet commenters always accuse the Daily Show and other late-night comics of having a liberal bias (even Jay Leno). Comedians had no trouble making fun of the Clintons, though, and continue to do so today. The problem seems to be that the current Democrats are so b-o-r-i-n-g, and except for Joe Biden, no one’s been able to pick up any good personal foibles to build a parody on.
The predictions for next week’s elections are that Democrats are going to lose big. My personal feeling is that not being made fun of has hurt the Democrats. As voters, we keep getting told we want the candidate we’d rather have a beer with, but how can I have a beer with someone I don’t even know how to make fun of? It would be as boring as last year’s beer summit.
Now that they are losing their jobs, Democrats are finally getting comedians’ attention. The jokes focus mainly on two charges: Democrats are weak, and Democrats are traitors to themselves.
Democrats are weak
The Colbert Report’s tagline for their midterm election coverage has been spoken by a demonic, menacing Capitol Building: “Democrats Are Such Easy Prey.” This theme about Democratic weakness has been accepted as a given since John Kerry’s campaign. Similar is the charge that Democrats scare easy. Jay Leno: “Sunday is Halloween. It’s the scariest day of the year. Unless you’re a Democrat, then it’s next Tuesday.”
Letterman: Top Ten Signs Dem party in trouble
Democrats have deserted their principles
One of the strangest developments of this election season has been the Democrats’ wholesale disavowal of the same legislative accomplishments they campaigned and won on in 2008. The Onion captured the mood this week best: Democrats: ‘If We’re Gonna Lose, Let’s Go Down Running Away From Every Legislative Accomplishment We’ve Made’.
Colbert discussed a new Democratic campaign slogan for their relationship with President Obama, “I Don’t Know Who This Person Is 2010.”
Indecision 2010 Revenge of the Fallen
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This theme is widespread enough that it was even the cold open for Saturday Night Live, with Paul Brittan’s very good impression of Harry Reid playing the Birther card.
Saturday Night Live Barack Obama and Harry Reid Opening
Together these takes on the Democrats emphasize just how baffling this electoral strategy is. You almost feel politicians who won’t stand up for themselves deserve to lose. It’s no wonder that Barack Obama would go on the Daily Show to try to defend himself. It could be that Obama just needed a sympathetic audience, but maybe Obama knows that these days comedians are the only people who understand. I thought the President presented his argument well to Jon Stewart. Having been almost disowned by his party, his message is essentially the same as the one made more forcefully by the parody video character Baracka Flacka Flames: “I brought you change, what the fuck you thinkin’?”
Head of the State
One positive note for Democrats
Jimmy Fallon had some good news for Harry Reid. His election predictor, a puppy race (puppies!!!), foresees a Democratic victory in Nevada’s Senate race.
If Puppies Could Vote
The Colossal Donut Index
This week’s Colossal Donut Index was 5. It shows a continuing trend upward, led by Dancing with the Stars and a strange presidential announcement on Entertainment Tonight. It was also helped by decreasing comedian coverage of Christine O’Donnell, which as predicted here started to wane after last Saturday’s full moon.
Stephen Hoban is a writer living in New York.