Stewart's show transcended politics to become a part of everyday lives among many Americans – particularly the young people who were already watching Comedy Central. Stewart not only gave voice to new voices like Obama and Dean, he also brought back leftist veterans and icons such as Kurt Vonnegut and Howard Zinn – who, it's safe to say, would never have made it on Oprah, much less Fox News or CNN.
The success of these two shows aided, but did not solely bring about, the sea change of public opinion from outright support of the Bush administration to outright contempt. The American flag was no longer everyone's favorite car magnet, and neither was it the unofficial symbol of the Republican Party. Flag decals still abounded – but were more likely to be accompanied by a phrase such as "Peace is Patriotic" or "Dissent is American." Such outright leftists ideas, shunted to the very periphery in the early Bush years, could now be seen even in the reddest of red states.
What was once a trickle soon became a flood. Bookstores were flooded by new works from liberal social critics such as James Carville (as well as Olbermann and Stewart) demanding the return of more "Democratic (i.e. leftist)" values to American culture. Investigative reporters – most notably Watergate veteran Bob Woodward — dug through the inner workings of the Bush administration and produced a devastating study of neo-conservatism in action. Michael Moore, Hollywood pariah, became Michael Moore, the toast of Cannes, when his film Sicko, which decried the American system of privatized health care, earned him a prolonged standing ovation at the prestigious film festival.
The change went from the top – Democratic leaders re-embracing liberal ideals – to the bottom – people in cafes, on the street and in the workplace criticizing Bush, Cheney, the Iraq war and the fundamental tenets of neo-conservatism. This change in media perception was also reflected among conservative sources as well. Staunch Republicans in Washington were forced to distance themselves from the most controversial aspects of the Bush administration or risk losing credibility. Far-right commentators on Fox News or talk radio didn't retreat from their conservative values, but they were forced to concede to at least some mistakes made by the Bush administration, and more importantly, they could no longer insist that all who disagreed with them were "traitors."