On the one hand this was a clever (or desperate?) move by Hillary. It was an opportunity for her to look young and hip to older voters, and possibly even cleave into one of Obama’s core constituencies – America’s youth. Remember, this is a candidate who picked up 11% of the youth vote in Iowa. Contrast that to Obama’s 57%.On the other hand, the Jon Stewart interview revealed why Hillary can’t dent this demographic. Jon Stewart almost only lobs softball questions to politicians on his show. But that doesn’t mean being a guest is easy. To pull off a Daily Show appearance an interviewee must be prepared to a) be themsleves; b) concede that the circus exists and c) admit to their role in said circus.
Take for example this exchange during McCain’s interview on the Daily Show after he announced he would be giving the commencement speech at Liberty University (the right wing, born again college founded by Dr. Jerry Falwell).
Stewart: You’re not freaking out on us? Are you freaking out on us? Because if you’re freaking out and you’re going into the crazy base world — are you going into crazy base world?
McCain: I’m afraid so.
Stewart: All right, sir. You know we have great regard for you here, and I hope you know what you’re doing there, I trust that you do. When you see Falwell, do you feel nervous, do you have vomit in the back of your throat — what does it feel like?
McCain: No, but I’ll give him your love.
Essentially, Stewart calls out McCain for pandering to the worst part of the Republican party – and McCain basically concedes “Yes, but I have to do it.” This type of authenticity (I can almost feel Andrew Potter breathing down my neck right now) plays well with young voters. As the most media savvy generation they know the candidates have to jump through all sorts of stupid hoops. If the candidates aren’t going to stand on principle and not do it, they should at least admit they are playing the game.
Sadly, this is not how Hillary played the Daily Show. Instead she stayed scripted to the end and never strayed from her lines. Nor did she seem human. Instead she was just another politician too scared to be personable and too controlling to do anything but campaign in the traditional sense for the audiences votes. This is not a critique of that style per say, but it is exactly the type of performance that makes Hillary unappealing to the young viewers who watch the Daily Show.
Check out the comments section of the Indecision 2008 website. By and large, these young Daily Show viewers were not impressed.
Maybe Hillary will win today, but if she does, I’m fairly certain her performance last night will have had nothing to do with it.
As an aside, I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my main man Beltzner who saved this post from being an unthinking ramble.