Although the big event in Washington on October 30 is billed as a non-political event, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s “Rally to Restore Sanity” will be anything but non-political. And even though Stewart has played down the obvious reaction of the quiet majority, the “people with s*** to do,” that populate America to the lunatic fringers that seem to have captured the media, the rally, besides attempting to restore a little sanity to the perception that politics is a matter of extremes in the United States, will be anything but non-political. Its very existence is political.
Jon Stewart has paid lip service to the Rally to Restore Sanity as a non-political event, noting that everyone is invited, but the rally was born of an idea that hit the Internet in early September, when the idea was broached on Reddit that Stephen Colbert, the faux conservative talk show host of Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report,” should hold a counter rally to Glenn Beck’s “Rally to Restore Honor” that was held on August 28 (on the anniversary of and in the same location as Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech). Given the fact that the ultra-conservative Beck lied about actually holding George Washington’s inaugural address in his hands (which he later admitted to), so it is questionable how much honor was restored. But be that as it may, Colbert was charged by a groundswell of Internet support to hold a “Rally to Restore Truthiness.”
From that idea, Internet websites were created, including a Facebook page, exhorting the idea. Then Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert began obviously toying with the idea of rallies, teasing their audiences with extravagantly worded hooks laced with hyperbole about an upcoming monumental announcement. When they announced as two separate rallies, the “Rally To Restore Sanity” and the “March to Keep Fear Alive,” Stewart’s was an appeal to the majority of reasonable moderates in the nation that, regardless of political stripe, got things done without resorting to bellicose political polarization. Colbert, in keeping with his faux uber-conservatism, pushed for an anti-Stewart rally, where he would push the fears that drive the nation’s politics, because, as was noted on his part of the website, KeepFearAlive.com, “reason” is just one letter away from “treason.”
Of course, before it was over, the two rallies were combined. The date had already been set for October 30, with Jon Stewart inviting everybody who came on his show, from Bruce Willis to Bill O’Reilly (who declined, stating that he wanted Stewart and Colbert to rise to the occasion or fail on their own). Stephen Colbert asked his guests if they’d come if he invited them. On the night the rallies combined, with Jon Stewart “signing” the permit for the rally to be held on the Washington Mall, Colbert, who had come to Stewart because he supposedly hadn’t obtained a permit for his “March” acted as if he had tricked Stewart, and Oprah Winfrey, appearing like the disembodied head in the “Wizard of Oz,” chided him softly, then paid for everyone in the audience to go to the rally.
But non-political? Hardly. Just going the “Rally to Restore Sanity” is a political stance. Of moderation. Of Reasonableness.
Republican, Democrat, Green, Socialist, Independent — all are invited to participate, because the theme is not so much anti-anything (except perhaps extremism) as it is pro-moderation, an appeal to the normalization of political relationships where things can get done in Washington on a bipartisan basis, an affirmation that the vast majority of Americans do not want to achieve some great socialist Stalin-esque state or some ultra right-wing fascisti regime. In short, as Jon Stewart has been saying, it is a rally for “reasonable” people.
As one of the six bus riders chosen for a free trip to Washington (from the “The Daily Show” website) pointed out, most of the animosity and perception of polarization in politics in the U. S. is media-driven and really doesn’t exist. Most people agree to disagree and simply want a government that works in the best interest of the people.
So how much sanity can Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert restore in three hours? It is difficult to say. It is probably safer to say that the Rally to Restore Sanity will become a symbol of affirmation — even a confirmation — that the United States really isn’t going to hell in a hand-basket, or that the political lunatics that populate the media’s landscape are taking over the asylum that is Washington politics.
And, hopefully, they — those that are holding the rally and those that are attending and observing the rally — will be able to have a little fun in the process. After all, it is being hosted by a couple of comedians.
The “Rally To Restore Sanity” will be broadcast in its entirety on Comedy Central Network beginning at noon on Saturday, October 30. The rally can be followed on CNN, Comedy Central’s website, and on Twitter as well. They even have an app for that. For details and merchandise (all proceeds going to the Trust for the National Mall, which works to preserve the grounds), go to RallyToRestoreSanity.com.