Why we need Jon Stewart in 2016

Published 6:53 PM EDT, Tue September 15, 2015

Story highlights

Jon Stewart stepped down from "The Daily Show" in August

Dean Obeidallah: America needs Jon Stewart's voice now more than ever

Editor’s Note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM’s weekly program “The Dean Obeidallah Show.” He is a columnist for The Daily Beast and editor of the politics blog The Dean’s Report. He’s also the co-director of the documentary “The Muslims Are Coming!” Follow him on Twitter: @TheDeansreport. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) —  

Many, including myself, have wondered what Jon Stewart will do after “The Daily Show.” Speaking on my SiriusXM radio show a few weeks ago, longtime “The Daily Show” correspondent Lewis Black said he thought Stewart might do stand-up comedy, maybe appear on Stephen Colbert’s new show, and probably produce some movie and TV projects.

Other friends who have worked at “The Daily Show” have said they think Stewart will likely grow the “Al Gore” beard, spend time with his family and keep out of the limelight for a while.

And me? I’ve been rooting for Stewart to run for president, or at very least, remain in the public eye and continue to influence public opinion on the issues of the day.

Dean Obeidallah
Dean Obeidallah

Well, it looks like I was right! (I usually don’t brag, but Donald Trump’s influence is apparently rubbing off on me.) Come this Wednesday, Stewart will be back in the media talking a big political issue. Sadly, he isn’t doing a special on the GOP presidential debate that night. What he is doing, however, is more important – and also perhaps provides us a glimpse of what we can expect to see from Stewart in the future.

Stewart, along with a group of approximately 100 9/11 first responders, is heading to Washington, D.C. to lobby Congress to extend funding to aid the first responders who became sick while working at ground zero after 9/11.

Many probably recall that Stewart was instrumental in 2010 in raising awareness about the issue on “The Daily Show” after Senate Republicans blocked funding of this measure. Shortly after Stewarts’s show featured a panel of 9/11 first responders, the Senate Republicans withdrew their opposition and Congress agreed to five years of funding to assist the first responders and their families.

Well, here we are, five years later and with the funding to help the first responders set to end this October, and Congress is again dragging its collective feet. So Stewart is back to push Congress by both directly lobbying its members face to face, and by bringing media attention to the issue.

I’m going to predict this is far from the last time we see Stewart engage on a political issue. And I’ll even go further: I think we will see Stewart in the media during the 2016 presidential race commenting on the aspects of the race and issues he feels passionately must be addressed.

Is this just the Trump in me talking and pretending to know things about issues I’m really clueless about? Maybe. But when I think of Stewart, I can’t help but also think of the famous line from “Godfather III” when Michael Corleone, played by Al Pacino, is trying to go 100% legitimate and avoid the criminal life. But reality intruded and made that impossible, prompting Pacino to utter the classic quote, “Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in.”

Stewart’s DNA is one of a person who truly cares about issues of the day, and that animates his actions. That is why is he going to Washington, D. C. on Wednesday. And that is why Stewart agreed to be in the comedy documentary I co-directed a few years ago, “The Muslims Are Coming!” Stewart isn’t Muslim. He didn’t have to give us his time to be a part of it. But he did so because he wanted to vocally counter anti-Muslim bigotry.

So I simply don’t believe Stewart will be able to remain silent when he sees issues that move him, be it politicians being hypocritical to outright injustices that need to be addressed. Sure, he can scream at his TV like many of us do, but hopefully he will do more than that.

And let’s be honest: While Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel and many of the other late night hosts are very talented, none are Stewart. And none aspire to be.

True, the new “The Daily Show” host Trevor Noah could turn out to be great, but he won’t be in his first year on the show. After all, Stewart wasn’t the Stewart we know now in his first few years hosting the program.

My hope, then, is that like Pacino in Godfather III, Stewart simply can’t keep quiet given the importance of the 2016 presidential race and it pulls him back in. America needs Stewart’s voice now more than ever, and I’m hoping that deep down, Stewart believes that, too.