November 1st, 2010
11:50 AM ET

Did Stewart restore sanity? Or just have a comedic success?

When Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert announced their sanity rallies, politicians on both sides of the aisle took notice.

And with the event taking place so close to a crucial midterm election, many wondered what impact it might have on voters. Would a disillusioned citizen suddenly decide they needed to have their voice heard? Would the people in the middle find a way to silence the extreme views of the far right and far left?

With the rally over, and some time to reflect, we ask - was sanity restored or did a whole lot of people just show up to see their favorite comedians and work political satire into funny Halloween costumes that swamped the Metro trains of D.C.?

CNN Contributor John Avalon said the point of the rally was simple - people don't want to be divided.

"The rally's size and enthusiasm was evidence of a growing demand for something different - an alternative to predictable talking points and the partisan spin cycle, a desire for humor and honesty, independence and integrity. It is both an opportunity and an obligation."

In a Politico.com article James Hohmann, Marin Cogan and Byron Tau answered the question about whether the rally would galvanize an unexcited Democratic youth movement in their second paragraph bluntly, with two words. "It didn't."

"The event, with the Capitol as the backdrop, was a comedic success ...," they wrote. "But Stewart’s decision to avoid explicit partisan politicking denied the left a kind of galvanizing moment that might have driven to the polls his Democratic fans who weren’t already planning to vote or motivated previously apathetic liberals to grass-roots activities ...
"While Stewart may not have changed many minds, he also did nothing that might create a backlash to his brand as an entertainer or blow up on Democrats."

In a column for the Huffington Post, however, Russell Bishop argued there was plenty to learn from what Stewart and Colbert did.

"Perhaps it is time to supplant the Biblical statement that 'a child shall lead them' (Isaiah 11:6) with something more contemporary. How about 'two comedians shall lead them'? Here's a large dose of gratitude to Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert for their inspiring civility lessons this weekend in Washington, D.C. Perhaps tapes of the event should be required viewing in civics classes these days?"

Bishop argued that regardless of your political views, the message he found in the rally was about the nature of the political conversations we are having, and the ones we should be having.
"My constant message is that even if you can't change the world, at least you can change yourself. If you can't change your circumstance, at least you can change how you respond," he wrote. "So, you can imagine how inspiring I found this rally to be: two comedians and some rock stars reminding us that life can be lived devoid of the nasty rhetoric that has become all too commonplace in what passes for discourse these days."
If you ask Forbes' Zina Moukheiber, the pair might be on to something.
"The two comedians might be on to something, tapping into the feelings of the disaffected middle. There are moderates all over the world, yearning to express their 'moderation.'  They can start with the Middle East."
David Wiegel, who attended the rally, described it in an article on Slate.com as "a crush of humanity unlike anything I've seen liberals put together at the Capitol since the Obama inaugural."

"[Democrats]  had reverted, actually, from the confidence leading up to Barack Obama's election to the very familiar panic they felt during George W. Bush's presidency," he wrote.

But he also echoed what many others said - regarding the event as a sea of mocking, crazy signs - with no real impact.

"If looking for 'crazy' or smug protesters was less easy at this rally than at a Tea Party, or at the August Glenn Beck rally that inspired Stewart, that's cold comfort for liberals. Those rallies had important ideological thrusts. Beck's rally spent two hours informing conservatives that if they wanted to dismantle the welfare state - and they had to - they had a network of churches and charities that they could rely on to help the aged and care for the sick. The ideology of 'Restoring Sanity' was liberalism with a killing dose of helplessness."

But then again, perhaps the media might not be the right people to ask about how the rally went. At least that's likely what Stewart would say himself. After all, the rally began with a fiery criticism of the media for creating and nurturing of extreme political views.

Time magazine James Poniewozik even said as much: “don’t be surprised to see some defensive media responses to the critiques over the next few days.”

So we'll give you an alternative, the anti-media roundup from the always popular Auto-Tune the News.

Then tell us what you think. If you were at the rally, what did you take away from it, if anything? And what impact, if at all, do you think Stewart had on down-the-middle voters?

soundoff (349 Responses)
  1. Justin

    The simply complicated truth:

    In any argument defined purely by two diametrically opposed viewpoints, both viewpoints will be wrong. Failure to acknowledge that leads to nothing but continuation and escalation of the scale of those errors.

    Both parties have the wrong solutions, on AT LEAST half of their views. Yes, our current recession is the result of the Bush presidency. Yes, Bush began the bailouts that seem to be the rallying cry of the republicans. Yes, Bush decided to invade Iraq without any substantial, verifiable evidence of nuclear weapons as he claimed. BUT. Democrats in the Senate voted, along with Republicans, to authorize that invasion. Obama continued the bailouts that Bush began. Obama did support the overhaul of american medical care – but that 'Obama Care' is built upon ideas that BUSH initially tried to pass, and on the medical program put in place by Mitt Romney (another Republican) in MA.

    It's irresponsible to assign to any president the entirety of the blame or credit for the country's economy. Yes, Clinton left the nation's budget with a surplus – with the aid of a Republican congress. And while the Clinton years were relatively peaceful, that had more to do with the infancy of al queda than anything else. And Bin Laden? How about tracing that back to Regan and the first Bush?

    EVERY previous president, and every bill passed by congress, in the last 40 years, contributed to the chaos of today.

    But I guess acknowledging that might inspire people to actually cooperate to work on solutions, rather than compete to assign blame.

    I should probably make sure there aren't any Tea Partier's around waiting to stomp on me before posting....

    November 1, 2010 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Saw diametrically had to respond

      Word brotha

      November 4, 2010 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jasper

    This is the Extreme Middle of America.... Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert represent them. Jon Stewart says he leans somewhat to the left, so what? Everyone who was there was friendly, outgoing, wanting to put their best effort into restoring sanity.

    Best thing is, everyone knows about the rally to restore sanity and if they were there, they would have seen how awesome the crowd was. FOr so many people to get together in the same area and to laugh at each other's signs, make small talk, sign books to have a memory of the day, its unbelievable.

    I can honestly say that I have never seen anything like this and I would be there again tomorrow if I had a chance. I didn't want that feeling of working together to end.

    It was absolutely amazing and I hope people will be able to take out of if what I got. We all want the same for the United States, we all want the country to prosper. Our ideas on how to get there may differ but we can make it happen if we work together. With the media pulling people further left and further right, all we'll see is a division which we can't overcome.

    Lets use sanity!

    November 1, 2010 at 6:33 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Pat from SC

    I attended the Rally. I did not go for the show but rather to be one of the thousands and thousands out on our Mall sending a simple message to the media and our politicians. There are many of us who are reasonable, intelligent people. We would like that reflected once in a while in legislation and on the "tube".

    The attendees were wonderful! Thank you Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, their respective staff and the National Mall for a great experience.

    November 1, 2010 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Landon V

    I was present at the rally. The rally to me was a great way to pull people together that not only share an interest in comedy but also and interest in their country. I found the rally to be greatly beneficial for as John Stewart in his address to everyone was very simplistic and touched the raw basic points that many Americans wish to convey. The address was not bloated with political hoopla, it was straight and to the point and you cant do anything but thank both John and Stephen for their contribution both comedically and politically. I think people will think more seriously about voting and the choices they can make to help change the country into something that is better

    November 1, 2010 at 7:05 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Sharon

    I was there from Florida. I am an older American and I went to prove to myself that there was still more to America than a constant portrayal of us as angry and demanding unrealistic changes. I am so proud to have participated with one of the most racially, gender, religiously mixed gatherings of people of all ages. Everyone was polite and kind to one another. At the airport we met a gal from Toronto who left with the most positive image of Americans that she had ever witnessed.
    And yes, there were some wild and crazy signs, mostly poking fun at the loud and the rude. I hope that people see that this gathering represents more truth about Americans than the constant representation of the Tea party protestors who are loud and angry and very mislead.

    November 1, 2010 at 7:07 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Philip Grant

    Yes, he is on to something. Some of us, and I do believe it's more of us then the screamers on both sides, want sain, construction conversation. Some of us want mediation, instead of conferatation.

    I think we are the silent majority in this country. We need stay silent no longer.

    November 1, 2010 at 7:40 pm | Report abuse |
  7. dayton capri

    B Parker – it seems that you thrive on the diatribe. Others of opposing views are here to help you, and are indeed your partners in the process. I'll just watch the insanity as you and your cohorts continue your antics. I am a little confused, though, which one of you is Hitler?

    November 1, 2010 at 8:02 pm | Report abuse |
  8. AJ Williams

    I was there; it was a great time. I think Stewart's point was clear: it's ok to disagree but be reasonable about it.

    November 1, 2010 at 8:42 pm | Report abuse |
  9. catherine jerome

    I attended the rally from CT..( 60, grandmother of 2 ,teacher) to be counted in the "Moderate Majority" to respectfully ask
    our leaders, media and elected officials to "take it down a notch" and remember our good manners
    .I woud like all adults to LEAD BY EXAMPLE...we teach our.children to be respectful, tolerant, and not bully and yet that bad behavior and language is accepted and encouraged by our leaders, media and elected officials.There is no need for profanity, name-calling, shouting to make a point. It speaks volumes to one's character and how inarticulate one is to convey one's opinion. For me, this was the purpose of the rally...and a valuable lesson to learn and remember.

    November 1, 2010 at 9:08 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Saphira

    I was there, from GA, and it was awesome. There were so many people, and we were packed shoulder-to-shoulder, and I was back near 7th street, so I couldn't see one of the Jumbotrons. But it was great to be able to hear bits of it. I loved that musical debate- Peace train vs. the Crazy train, and Ozzy/Stephen totally won that one. It was also awesome to see all the other fans, see their funny costumes and signs, and discuss the Rally, and why we're fans.

    During the Rally, I was trying to move closer to the stage, so I could see something, and the people in the crowd were nice enough to try to move enough to let me through, even though they couldn't see the stage, either. I was expecting some of them to refuse to let me through, but everyone was so polite, and content to just listen intently and hear what Jon, Stephen, and their guests were saying.

    Overall, the Rally was fun, the music was great, Stephen was epic & hilarious, and Jon really proved his point. His point was that America can work together, and we're not as divided and different as the media paints us. That's all. His closing speech was amazing (I just caught up with it online), his metaphor with the cars in NJ traffic was perfect, and he was truly sincere. An amazing Rally, and I respect Jon and Stephen even more for all they've done for us.

    November 1, 2010 at 9:21 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Dylan from Pennsylvania

    As an active participant, I can say it was a good day. There weren't arguments, complaints, shouting opposing political views. There were just people. No, there were just American citizens. Some were there for the comedy, some were there for a political statement, others still were there to be a part of what they thought would be a historic moment in our history. Regardless of reason, we were all there as Americans. THAT is power. That is the American ideal at it's best. Whatever our beliefs, there was something good for everyone present to take away from this rally. It's my hope and proof that the core of America is still alive and that the principles of our founding fathers have not disappeared from this country or Earth.

    November 2, 2010 at 12:07 am | Report abuse |
  12. mustard and relish

    Knock knock..who's there? My thumb up yur ass that's who.

    November 2, 2010 at 3:33 am | Report abuse |
  13. Diane Lent

    Photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/greenelent/sets/72157625292492008/

    November 2, 2010 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
  14. Holden Caulfield

    The media's treatment of Stewart and Colbert's rally underscores just how timely its message really is. The media seems to be laughing off the rally as either pure entertainment or criticizing the rally for its lack of a galvanizing/clear/partisan message. The fact that it wasn't just about comedy is obvious. As for its message, can a rally centered on moderateness and civility resemble in any way a Glenn Beck rally? No ... which is kinda the whole point.

    November 2, 2010 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
  15. ninacolada

    I was there and had a great time! Couldn't see or hear everything at all times, but the message was sent... I hope it was also received. It was an historic event with a joyous, peaceful crowd. I don't know if I'll ever get to hang with so many cool people at one time ever again, but here's hoping!!!

    November 2, 2010 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
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