Jon Stewart may no longer be the host of The Daily Show, but he remains firmly entrenched in the hearts of the American people. A petition to make Stewart a moderator in the presidential debates has exploded on Change.org.
“Over the last 16 years, Jon Stewart has played an influential and iconic role in covering US politics and media,” the petition reads. “We believe he should continue that tradition as a moderator at one of the 2016 Presidential Debates.” Stewart’s qualifications are impressive. Mariel Waters, the person who started the petition, notes that the influential comedian has interviewed “15 heads of state, 22 members of the United States Cabinet, 32 members of the United States Senate, 7 members of the United States House of Representatives, and scores of other political leaders from this country and around the world as he simultaneously won the hearts of the American public.
Waters — and nearly 200,000 Americans at this point in time — asks the Commission on Presidential Debates to allow Stewart to host “one of the three presidential debates directly preceding the election.”
Waters told a New Jersey radio station that the idea came from two Change.org petitions in 2012 that called for Stewart to moderate a presidential debate — but, unfortunately, those petitions did not gain quite the momentem hers did. One of the petitions managed just over 317 signatures, and the other just shy of 1,300. “I thought this would be a great opportunity to get the ball rolling again on this great idea,” she said.
The idea of Stewart moderating a presidential debate — especially if Trump remains the GOP frontrunner — is entertaining, at minimum. Perhaps Trump may be enough to lure him into accepting the opportunity to moderate. In May, the funnyman famously said that he would have difficulty retiring if Trump runs for President. Having Stewart moderate the debate may have another effect that Waters did not mention — bringing young people to the polls.
In 2014, our nation experienced the lowest youth turnout and registration rates ever recorded — though the GOP has a lot to do with that. The Center For Information & Research On Civic Learning And Engagement notes that:
Since 2010, many states have made both registration and the act of voting less convenient or, indeed, quite difficult for some eligible young voters. States have implemented photo ID requirements with restrictive lists of acceptable identification, have shortened voting times, and have repealed laws that had allowed people to register on the same day they voted. Our own research shows that these changes are associated with lower youth turnout.
As of April, Hillary Clinton was very popular with youth voters (Republicans, of course, do not excite our youth nearly quite as much), but not quite popular enough to motivate them to get involved in the political process.
Perhaps, if Stewart moderates the debate, it will draw younger voters into the “conversation.” Of course, this would be terrible news for Republicans, who have a lot to lose if students get more involved. After all, capturing a sizeable portion of the youth vote will likely mean a Clinton or Sanders presidency.
So, why not? Psychology Today analyzed Stewart’s ability to draw in young voters in 2010. According to the publication, Stewart (and Stephen Colbert) both earned the loyalty of voters, with 74 percent and 80 percent, respectively, saying that they look to Stewart/Colbert for their news. “I know Stewart says he is giving us fake news but he’s really just getting me interested in following up a story myself to see what else we are not being told,” a 19-year-old student told Doctor Larry Rosen at the time. “It’s not the news. It is a portal to more news. That’s The Daily Show Effect. It has turned my friends and I into wanting to know more and we know how to find more but it helps that he gives us a starting point.”
You can sign the petition here.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.