Laughing at Palin and Her Wingnut Pals Getting Harder to do These Days

09/19/2010 04:02 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Making fun of Sarah Palin and the Tea Party wingnuts has been fun, granted. And it's given Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert lots of great material. But maybe it's time to re-assess all this.

I now cover Canada for, and having lived in that country, Stewart's announcement of an Oct. 30 rally certainly had the echoes of mild-mannered Canadians:

Stewart's "Rally to Restore Sanity" and "Million Moderate March" and the faux newscaster's plea to "Take It Down a Notch, America," plus his assurance that the Washington, D.C., rally would end at 6 p.m. "because some of us have sitters" sounded more than a bit like a polite request from a Canadian.

Stewart has some of the best writers on television, but his tempered "rallying cry" also made some of the sharpest political observations of this current overheated election season -- the kind of salient observations political columnists once made but are now reticent to, for fear of losing access to sources.

Stewart held up some suggested signs for his let's-all-just-calm-down rally, including this classic: "I Disagree With You But I'm Pretty Sure You're Not Hitler."

Stewart also posted this Canadian-like "rallying cry" at his website:

"Join us in the shadow of the Washington Monument. And bring your indoor voice. Or don't. If you'd rather stay home, go to work, or drive your kids to soccer practice... Actually, please come anyway."

Meanwhile, Stewart's pal/alleged nemesis Stephen Colbert, was promoting his "March to Keep Fear Alive" counter-rally that day in D.C.

Colbert's writers have also been busy cranking out funny and insightful material about the cable-news-induced overheated rhetoric of this political season. This, from Colbert's website:

"America, the Greatest Country God ever gave Man, was built on three bedrock principles: Freedom. Liberty. And Fear -- that someone might take our Freedom and Liberty. But now, there are dark, optimistic forces trying to take away our Fear -- forces with salt and pepper hair (note: a "shot" at Stewart) and way more Emmys than they need. They want to replace our Fear with reason. But never forget -- "Reason" is just one letter away from "Treason." Coincidence? Reasonable people would say it is, but America can't afford to take that chance."

This year's political silly season is even sillier than most, and reminds me of a great line that probably cost Canada's first female Prime Minister, the sharp-witted Kim Campbell, her job (she lasted as PM only four months in 1993.)

"A Federal election," she quipped, "is hardly the time to discuss issues of substance."

Most Canadian voters apparently missed the joke. Campbell was voted out.

Treating Glen Beck rallies and the Tea Party as comedy gold is doubtless funny - or, as Canadians might put it, most amusing.

But progressive radio talk host and HuffPost blogger Norman Goldman said something on his nationally syndicated show the other day that caught my attention.

"We have to stop treating Sarah Palin as a joke," Goldman said. "She could cause real damage to our democracy."

I treat most politicians today as a joke, especially Palin. But Goldman has me thinking about re-evaluating this. What many of us have been treating as a joke has the potential to become a tragedy.

Neither I nor hardly anyone I know would ever vote for Palin or her nutty acolytes. Same is true in the town where I live.

But a recent trip to a popular National Park brought me abruptly back into the general public I've avoided for years.

Many of these chronically under-informed, ill-educated people love Palin.

And because of this, it's no longer so easy to laugh her off.