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Jami FloydBack to OpinionJami Floyd

Will a ‘million’ moderates on the Mall restore anyone’s sanity?

Photo: Flickr/D.C. Atty

Will a million moderates show up today on the Mall in Washington? I don’t know. But I doubt it.

I do know that when Jon Stewart announced his so-called Rally to Restore Sanity, he inspired fans of his “Daily Show.” That much was clear. What was unclear was the real purpose of the event. And it remains unclear, even as the sun rises over the nation’s capitol.

I like the “Daily Show.” I have even been featured there (albeit for just about 10 seconds). So I smiled too when I heard about the rally. But I have to admit that I also rolled my eyes slightly; and publicly I noted my general lack of enthusiasm for the whole idea — or at least my refusal to take it all that seriously.

I’ve had to answer for that sentiment ever since.

I will say this for Jon Stewart and his rally: It has sparked a passionate debate about whether Jon and his team really have comedy or politics in mind for the event.

I have said, from the start, that Jon Stewart is, and always has been a comedian. But his fans are desperate for him to be something more; and they want this rally to have some greater meaning than just good old-fashioned fun. It has become obvious, over the last several weeks that the participants don’t think of this, only, as a comedy event. They think of their participation today as some sort of political statement. That troubles me.

Not surprisingly, liberal groups are latching on to the event.

The Democratic Party is seeking to use the rally as last-minute get-out-the-vote effort for next Tuesday’s midterm election.

Public Citizen, the consumer advocacy group, held a contest to choose the slogans that should be written on the 5,000 signs it intends to distribute at the event.

The Huffington Post, is sending people there on more than 200 buses. Arianna Huffington actually admitted that she is spending “a few hundred thousand dollars” to get her people there.

Perhaps a little reminder is in order: This was originally dubbed the “Million Moderate March.” And yet, people who are going to the rally are generally progressive. Many of them had a strong enthusiasm for, if not tie to, Obama in 2008. And for his part, Stewart and his team have been tight-lipped about what they should expect when they get there. Stewart has tried to say, from the jump, that the “Daily Show ” is nonpartisan.

Of course, Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally in August was the inspiration for Stewart’s event. Beck is a favorite target of Jon Stewart and his colleague, Stephen Colbert. Colbert is staging a concurrent “March to Restore Fear” on Saturday (presumably in right-wing character). It is true that Stewart typically (though not exclusively) has a liberal take on major issues.

Photo: Flickr/D.C. Atty

But it is clear that Stewart and Colbert intend to poke fun at the political “process” — not make a political statement.

So, I have to wonder, what is Jon thinking now? Is he feeling misunderstood? Does he regret the whole thing? Is that why he’s been so quiet in recent days?

All satire is comedy, but not all comedy is satire. Satire is entertainment that makes us think. Satire is humor about something. I guess that’s the “Restoring Sanity” part.

But that doesn’t mean a rally can satisfy the needs of an electorate looking for a quick fix, in a democratic process designed to take time to work.

A rally cannot clear away the gunk from 200 years of mudslinging — a tradition of American politics Stewart loathes, but it’s nothing new. Just go back to the beginning of our republic. Jefferson and Adams traded far better insults than have even Beck and Stewart.

So rally on!

But in the end, what matters most is how many of these marchers turn out on to vote next week; for it would be truly unfunny to see them in greater numbers on the Mall today than at the polls on Tuesday.


  • Jerry Sedlacek

    Perhaps the point is there is no point, maybe, other than showing you can get people to show up for anything, at least today’s crowd will have some genuine laughs, and hear some good music, that’s reason enough to show up !

    Personally I would love it if the crowd swells to a certified Million plus, just so Jon can tell the Beckster to “Go Suck it Cry Baby” !

  • Mel Hopkins

    Mainstream media can not be that clueless? If I read or hear one more journalist ask what does Jon Stewart hope to accomplish with this rally – I fear I will become bulimic. What part of Rally to “RESTORE SANITY” are journalist missing? He wanted everyone to take a moment and collect their thoughts before election day!!!

  • Sara

    There most certainly IS a point, and if it were merely for laughs it would not have existed at all. Will it make a difference? It already has; Stewart’s closing line will be echoed long and far and invoked as a non-threatening castigation of indulgent, dangerous fear mongering in media coverage.

  • SHillNYS

    I think people needed this.we have been swamped with the republicans lies so much you feel like you can’t breathe.Seeing all the people rally gives me hope.But we have to go out and vote,for it is the only thing that can stop the madness from taking over our lives.

  • Rocko

    3 rallies in 3 months, hope the DC economy is healthy

  • CT

    I feel that it’s a sad state of affairs when it takes a comedian to remind everyone to be civil in their discourse. NPR did itself a disservice not covering the event. If they have time to observe the attempt for the largest ‘ukulele group simultaneously playing (by the way, I AM a member and attended both events). This event is just as significant (or not) as Glen Beck’s show and was probably a lot more sincere.

  • Kevelvis

    There’s a reason Jon Stewart continues to siphon more and more ‘mainstream news’ watchers. He is believable, straight-forward and rational. Oh, and Funny. I think he’s just as tired as I am of hearing the crazy that is passed off as political speak these days, only he has the clout to hold a rally. Thanks, Jon. I hear you. A lot of people hear you. And, we get it.

  • Margaret

    “Not make a political statement?” Their “poke” at the political process is a statement in itself. Further, I wonder whether you watch the show? Did you see John’s interview with Jim Cramer? No jokes there.

  • Marianne

    Many a truth is said in jest. Sometimes, the truth is just easier to show if it is taken with a spoonful of sugar.

  • Jean (Snoring Dog Studio)

    Mainstream media almost seems jealous of the attention. And journalists scoff at and lecture us about this rally being an inappropriate mix of comedy and politics. Yet both give so much credence to the hundreds of polls foretelling a “democrat drumming” on Tuesday. Neither are hearing the silent majority, many of whom showed up yesterday.

  • Chrislite713

    Could find only One short report on Fox web site about rally. Even that insinuates the rally was focused on marijuana promoters. Interesting.