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.
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.