WASHINGTON, D.C. — When Jon Stewart announced the “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear,” I knew I was going to go. I’m a viewer of “The Daily Show,” and I live in D.C., so the rally was easy for me to get to because it was just a simple Metro ride away. I had no excuse not to go. The Metro was packed and the crowds were far-reaching. I was glad that I went to the rally by myself because I overheard a lot of people talk about how they’d been separated from their friends.
There seemed to be two main types of people who attended the rally: the young (college students and twentysomethings), and people who looked to be in their 60s. The young, like me, seemed mostly to want to go to have fun and see Stewart and Stephen Colbert in person. Many had on Halloween costumes and treated the rally as a party.
The older people in attendance seemed much more interested in making this event a political statement. Many had signs touting how much they hated the Tea Party movement. Some of the signs I saw I thought were pretty offensive, especially the “Glenn Beck is Hitler Reincarnated”-type signs that were plentiful. I got the impression that many in attendance wanted this to be a counter-Glenn Beck rally. Groups like Media Matters, Moveon.org, Code Pink, and NARAL were combing the crowds, collecting e-mails, and trying to drum up support for the Democrats.
However, the feel of the event was a lot more like a big outdoor concert than a rally or political event. And, actually, it was a concert as The Roots played for about the first 45 minutes. I didn’t stay in any one place during the rally but walked around to get a feel for the atmosphere of the whole event. There seemed to be a general attitude of “Here we are now, so entertain us.”
It didn’t feel very much like a political movement was on the rise. It felt like a lot of people were just hanging out on a beautiful day in D.C. While many political pundits will point to audience — those who turned were young and on the left — they will be hard-pressed to explain how this “guacamole recipe” guy is part of any political movement.
The rally didn’t inspire me to get involved in politics any more than I am, and I doubt that many others were inspired politically either. The rally was mostly about having fun. The lack of political movement in the post-rally crowd was emphasized for me when I was waiting at the Metro station and a woman, about 60, felt the need to shout to the crowds a reminder to be politically active: “Wherever you came from, remember to go home and vote!” she yelled. A few applauded her, but most people just looked at her and then went back to their conversations.
The silly and lackadaisical feel of the day was fun. But it did seem like there was little purpose to the event. I guess that was kind of the point. The one thing that did resonate with me was when Stewart called on us to do more to distinguish between the real racists and the Tea Party people. There is real racism in the world and it is evil, and by just generally labeling Tea Partiers as “racist” waters down what racism really is.