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 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 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. alice

    Wondering what Yusef Islam aka Cat Stevens was doing there . . . After he publicly supported c=killing Salmon Rushdie, I would not classify him as a moderate . . . Even if he did sing Peace train . . . .

    November 1, 2010 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jake

      Agreed, I found that strange and problematic as well.

      November 1, 2010 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • MrsFizzy

      Hmm yeah... actually I think Stewart had him on the Daily Show at one point...I'm tempted now to try to look it up & see if that was addressed. He seems to have stopped using "Islam" as part of his name so you know, maybe he's changed some of his views?! It's possible...

      November 1, 2010 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • extreme

      Cat Stevens vs Iron maiden was/is the most iconic seperation in music over the years. Iron Maiden was a profound "devil worshipper" that was banned from most places in the 80's (now he has a show on some network), Cat stevens was a hippy turned "terrorist" in the 80's. Jon's ability to book those two an a single stage with the whitehouse in the background says volumes. Imagine (for those of us who can) what that would have been like in 1984. How many protesters would be there, and now there are just peaceful people. Again I think it speaks volumes... Amazing.

      November 1, 2010 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Buster Bloodvessel

      He didn't say he supported it, just that the Quran does actually say that. The Bible indicates we ought to burn Christine O'Donnell.

      November 1, 2010 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • MrsFizzy

      extreme, Ozzy was in Black Sabbath but yes it's funny how things come around... 🙂

      November 1, 2010 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Buster Bloodvessel

      Ozzy was never in Iron Maiden, that's a wild rumor. His wife used to lock him IN an iron maiden when he got too wild, but that was in the Sixties. He was never a real devil worshiper either. You don't seem to know what you are talking about.

      November 1, 2010 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Harvey

    I watched it on TV. I must admit that it leaned towards pointing out the fake, exagerated, emotional dog and pony show of the far right and how the media eats it up and just loves to sensationalise. But then they were basically just telling everyone what most "thinking" people already knew. Those of you that didn't bother to go or to even watch it on TV....just go away. Your comments are pretty irrrelevant.

    November 1, 2010 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Ted


    November 1, 2010 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • go_figure

      Seriously, Ted? Do you really believe that God, the Creator of all mankind, loves those of us in the US more than His children in less blessed countries?

      If we're the "favorite child," maybe it's time we grow up and take on some responsibility. Now, wouldn't that make God proud?

      November 1, 2010 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cory

      It must have killed you to put in that one lower-case letter.

      November 1, 2010 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • morgino

      I dont believe in God, guess I should just leave then

      November 1, 2010 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Top of the bell curve

      If a Muslim made the same statement you just made your head would explode. In theory your God and my God are the same God (I'm Methodist so I hope they're the same). One of us missed some Sunday School classes along the way. Peace be with you.

      November 1, 2010 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • This is what scares me....

      Rather than take personal initiative to change this country, you bestow your hope in an omnipotent deity. Then you make half chalked threats and jaded generalizations, saying "WE WILL CONTINUE TO DECLINE...OR WORSE...PRAY FOR OUR LEADERS AND PEOPLE..." I've got news for you, and all people like you... There are other people on this planet that may not share the same god as you do, but that does not make them in anyway less human or valued. You can't look at the word as us and them anymore, we are all the same we are all equal. Oh and you god isn't saving anyone.

      November 1, 2010 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cleareye

      Ted had better pray, it's the only chance he has of accomplishing anything reasonable.

      November 1, 2010 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |


      November 1, 2010 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • SkinnerMan

      Osama Bin Laden agrees! ... we must all return to god! You share much in common... you both have magic books, too!

      November 1, 2010 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • soxphan

      And this comment is the epitome of what is wrong with our country. Government run based on a bedtime story from 2000 years ago. Good Grief.

      November 1, 2010 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jake

    frank – I am glad you guys are old. That means hopefully we won't have to deal with your nonsense and stupidity for much longer.

    November 1, 2010 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Debbie


      November 1, 2010 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • jimbob mcgee


      November 1, 2010 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Top of the bell curve

      Only problem with that hope is the ignorant breed faster and home school.

      November 1, 2010 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • pjchooch

      I see we are commencing just the sort of us vs them ranting that was being pointed out by the rally in the first place...

      November 1, 2010 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |


      November 1, 2010 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
  5. joesmom

    We went to this rally and what we got out of it is that there are a LOT of Americans who don't vote party line, who vote on issues important to them and who want intelligent people in power. Most didn't care if candidates were Democrat or Republican, as long as they were willing to walk across the aisle and TALK. If these parties don't start talking to each other instead of trying to destroy each other, this country is doomed. That is what we heard over and over in the crowd.

    November 1, 2010 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Oh please

      the only issue: I have money in my pockets now and a check coming in 2weeks!

      November 1, 2010 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Obama#1

    I have a lot of Tea, lets party..anyone?

    November 1, 2010 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
  7. dictionary

    Liberal. Apply liberally. So we have a far reaching, deeply penetrating 'whatever'. Milk comes to mind, or water. Something that every should have in equal measure. Whatever it is to be liberal has to very simplistic in nature and never fought over, but shared equally, and acknowledged as thus.
    Therefore, we all have a liberal point of view, but liberal is not a political party, it's the punch bowl.
    If as a political movement, liberal is socialist. As a beginning we should collectively declare a bottom line. Then build a republic on top of that which requires the practical allignment of 1000's of workable religions, or patterns. And then life can begin.

    November 1, 2010 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Katryn

      Huh? Did you write that in another language and use an online translator?

      November 1, 2010 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |


    November 1, 2010 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
  9. elenore

    Jon Stewart rally LAME.Most people don't watch Cable news,all of them combined is what less than 5% of U.S. populations Jon Stewart is weak look at the interview with Obama, Oprah would have asked tougher questions.This Rally was nothing more than a bunch of people tricked into the College caste system to mock and make fun of other Americans by trying to put them down as being ignorant and wonder why they won't and aren't supporting Liberals because their over priced piece of paper proves they are Smart.BTW Teabaggers aren't a big portion of the U.S. population either.But Democrats will blame them for losing.

    November 1, 2010 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • kickstand

      If you'd been there, you'd think differently. It wasn't as you characterize it at all. Negativity doesn't work. Being angry will never make you happy. Truly communicating – that's how the solutions will emerge. Stop being so scared of the future, and contribute to making it better for everyone.

      November 1, 2010 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lara

      Did you watch?

      November 1, 2010 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • LMAO

      OMG what is with people these days trying to put you down for being educated? Does our education and going to college make you feel like we think you're dumb, because we don't spend much time thinking about you until you try to run the country. You just sound insecure when you cast out a general insult of all those who are college educated. Hell, I guarantee all of the politicians you support went to college...all of your teachers and doctors probably went to college. What is your issue with education? And I think if you're going to make a lot of noise about liberal elitists, you should take the time to spell things correctly on your signs. That's why people went to such great lengths to create witty signs that everyone would enjoy. Quit crying about someone else's degree, if you didn't want one, that's fine, but you sound like an idiot.

      November 1, 2010 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cleareye

      A bit sensitive about your lack of education I think.

      November 1, 2010 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • jimbob mcgee

      Um, elenore John Stewart isn't really a reporter or journalist. He's a comedian. It's not his job to hold anyone's feet to the fire. That's the news media's job. Though he does hold most people to the fire more so than the actual journalists. Also, Why is it that the "liberal elites" are so attacked by some when those very liberal elites actually fully embrace capitalism and technology and innovation? The east and west coast "elites" regions of the US have been the least effected by this downturn b/c they are innovative and embrace capitalism and the technologies of tomorrow today. MIT, Stanford, Silicone Valley, Portland, Seattle, Boston, NY. New England :hot bed of liberalism" has the lowest unemployment as a region in the country AND the most Ivy league schools. Coincidence? I doubt it. Just because these same successful innovative researchers, product developers, scientists, etc also choose to use their tax money to help raise up those who are less advantaged instead of using same tax dollars to send those less advantaged to war as cannon fodder does not make them elitist, it makes them smart, thoughtful, compassionate, giving, and, hey, literally more christian in spirit than some other folks who are all me me me.

      November 1, 2010 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tweety

      Wow there are ALL kinds of things wrong with yourpost. You are grossly misinformed. So you're casting blame & responsibility on a Political Satirist? See, that "overpriced piece of paper" you speak of, teaches you how to gather information by yourself to make an informed EDUCATED decision. Casting YOUR (false) beliefs as fact? Yeah. Good luck with that.

      November 1, 2010 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Buster Bloodvessel

      So apparently being mocked for your uneducated stupidity is a hot-button issue for you? Get a clue, and by the way, I think I WILL have fries with that.

      November 1, 2010 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Eibhlin

    I had great expectations for it, and I felt pretty deflated afterwards. It was too much music, not much in the way of sharp wit or political commentary. The comedy was stagey, like a high-school production. The reference to Chilean miners was in poor taste. The only real value of it was Stewart's sermon in the last 15 minutes. The medals for reasonableness were OK, certainly better than the comedy. I'm a big JS fan and I felt let down. The rally overpromised and underdelivered.

    November 1, 2010 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • MrsFizzy

      I didn't go – I felt like I'd have loved to have been there when it was announced. But that feeling wasn't based on what specifically would happen there and actually we had no idea what the event would consist of, just that it was an assembly of like-minded people, of all kinds. It was almost like the coming together to make a statement was the whole point of it.

      November 1, 2010 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • kickstand

      Sorry it wasn't what you expected. As a foreigner who was there, I can tell you it changed my view of Americans. You aren't the always-shouting, rabidly confrontational and petty bigots your media portrays you as. I have a new love of America, a nation I used to despise. Reject the rabid partisan confrontationists and insist on rational, resonable debate. Somehow you have to tell politicians that their angry routines don't inspire trust. Imagine if firefighters tried to solve problems the way your politicians do. They'd be having fistfights on the street while your house burns down. Think about it.

      November 1, 2010 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paqrat137

      Kickstand: Thank you. As a matter of fact in the 18th and 19th century, at least in New York, fire companies did fight over who would put ou the fire as the buildings burned down. That led to aunified fire fighting saved more buildings by cooperating than fighting. We need to save our building, and Stewratt/Colbert was just trying to reinforce that message. Thank you for "getting it."

      November 1, 2010 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Attender

      I'm curious, were you there in person, or did you just watch the rally on TV. To me, the time I spent on the National Mall after the rally was over was more meaningful in many ways than the rally itself. The thousands of people who did not immediately disperse and stayed hours after the rally ended provided a true glimpse of how far reaching the impact of the rally really was. There were people of every race/age/you name it and they were there together with a sense of camaraderie. Stewart brought everyone together, but I think it's the people who attended and not the people on the stage that really made the rally great!

      November 1, 2010 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Erika

    The comments made that just now we are turning to comedians for sanity or political information is untrue. We have had political satirists for years and years. The structure of their comedy has changed, yes. But the idea that we are just now turning to these forms is not reality. Not only have we always been turning to comedians but also musicians and several other forms of entertainment. And not just the liberals! The idea of turning to these various forms represents the need for a different approach, and the tiredness we feel in seeing the 24 hour one sided news circuit filled with depression and anger. Sometimes, even if it may not be your view, you just need to laugh. The rally was about that and it was nice to see something done for the masses in that way.

    November 1, 2010 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Rick in L.A.

    Elenore, time to go back to school, sweetheart.
    Call us when you get your GED.

    November 1, 2010 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  13. phoenix

    hope my buddy jesus the God is coming with oBUMa the jive shucking minstrel and the 2 ol white boy mimes selling their snake oilllll . they like to hear themselves talk with the worse holiday season since the great depression coming up.

    November 1, 2010 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • conoclast

      No racism at work in YOUR subconscious, hmm? Vote tea-bag, do you? Or do you just lay in bed naked with your guns? Get back on your meds, dude!

      November 1, 2010 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
  14. elenore

    To say it wasn't a liberal rally,one Word -Huffington.Look at the guest lists. and organizers of the rally.It just shows once again Liberals are weak.Man I wish the liberals wouldn't have killed off the labor Democrats from the party.

    November 1, 2010 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • LMAO

      Because Huffington supported the rally, liberals are weak...? Sound logic there...

      November 1, 2010 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • MrsFizzy

      LMAO you'd better stop using your "liberal elite" words like "sound logic" with this one...

      November 1, 2010 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Buster Bloodvessel

      el, have you been smoking the koolaid again? You are supposed to drink it.

      November 1, 2010 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Chickenhawk

    Thanks Forest4trees. Looks like you're one of the few who actually got the point of the rally. CNN has a great opportunity to serve as the voice of reason, and instead, it panders for attention rather than actually cover the news. At least MSNBC and FoxNews are overt in their goals. You actually get more news watching The Daily Show than you can get in an entire day at CNN. But nobody beats one story to death better than they do.

    November 1, 2010 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
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