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. deb

    The ACTUAL politicians are the comics.....I don't have a good feeling about any of them.

    November 1, 2010 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
  2. M

    I am voting Tuesday because of this rally and was not planning on it before all of this went down. Thank you Jon.

    November 1, 2010 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Can't believe it

      Me too! I also wasn't planning on voting because all the candidates seem like iodiots. But after seeing the rally and thinking about it some more I have decided to vote tomorrow. I have to at least try to bring about the outcome I want. And even though all the candidates are still idiots at least I know I have done my part not to get us back where we were.

      About the rally: At first I couldn't figure out what the purpose was supposed to be. But after watching it all I think it mostly was about tolerance. Perhaps there wouldn't be so much insanity if more people were tolerant of others.

      November 1, 2010 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • MrsFizzy

      Yeah!! Good for you guys! I guess that some people are so turned off by the insanity of American politics that they just stay away from it – and the rally said maybe it doesn't have to be this way. 🙂

      November 1, 2010 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  3. keelee

    Is America all about show-biz, or maybe in essence, clowns?
    Do some real job!

    November 1, 2010 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
  4. bailoutsos

    I think anything that raises awareness about issues should be welcomed. Be it Beck or Stewart.

    November 1, 2010 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cleareye

      Good point, but Beck does not actually raise "awareness," he prevents it.

      November 1, 2010 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • David Warangel

      Cleareye: your comment typifies the "Debate." Just because you don't like Beck's views does not mean he doesn't add to the discussion. Beck is clearly biased AND MAKES NO ATTEMPT to hide where he is coming from. So people have to use their brain to decide what stuff is accurate or needs to be considered and what isn't. Just like Michael Moore, there is truth in what they present or at least points that one should explore more and decide ... it's not all lies or trivial. I listen to both Moore and Beck. The problem are those that just utterly dismiss one side and only listen to those that keep with the "ideology" they want to here. There is nothing "progressive" or "enlightened" about that. The other problem or those that are not honest about their biases/what they lean to.

      November 1, 2010 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Andrea

    Ok "frank" as an older American who hates being taken care and hates radical liberal policies, I expect you to send back all those nasty social security checks to the big brother government and I assume you won't be signing up for medicare. Or will you instead keep thinking that you 'earned' your social security and that all that money has been in a little tiny account with 'frank' on it for all these years?

    November 1, 2010 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Scott

    If Democrats are the fuel, and Republicans are the fire, then the media is the wind that feeds it. Think about it. Morons like Palin, blowhards like Obama, and fear-mongers like Beck wouldn't be where they are if not for their ability to play to their respective media outlets deisires. Its a never-ending cycle of one feeding off the other and this will never end until the public decides to just say "STOP!", "We're tired of you people!" and that was the point of the rally.

    The whole point was to do something that our elected officials, and media outlets have been unwilling or unable to do. Put the brakes on, sit down, and think carefully about what they do and what they say. To stop bickering and fighting just for the sake of "the conflict" and work togther for the betterment of Americans as a nation UNITED!

    Our politicians are always talking about what our founding fathers wanted and I can assure you.... this is NOT it!

    November 1, 2010 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
  7. MMcC1013

    The message from the rally should have been: Turn off the TV and read. Read a legitimate newspaper (supermarket tabloids DO NOT COUNT). Read a book (not the Bible, because it should not form the foundation of your political views). Read something, anything, that provides you information, but not opinion, that you did not know before. Educate yourself, because the media is doing a terrible job of doing it for you.

    And, as far as reading goes, the internet DOES NOT COUNT either. As much as I like to have my opinions read... and liked... and commented on, my opinion is formed by an incomplete knowledge of the facts and truths and should only encourage you to build your own interest to educate yourself enough to refute or support my ideas. The internet media is worse than print or TV media, because they must move quicker and be flashier, forsaking facts and truth for "clicks". If you can tell me how many Facebook friends you have but cannot recall the last book you read, you are a part of the problem that plagues America.

    The more you read, the wiser you become. And, frankly, everyone could use a good dose of wisdom. So read.

    November 1, 2010 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Howard Markowitz

      Agree whole-heartedly!

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

      Agreed! I usually recommend National Geographic.

      November 1, 2010 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
  8. zgomer

    Just a couple of morons who aren't funny any more trying to be serious...get lost you clowns.

    November 1, 2010 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • EdShaw

      Somebody obviously missed the point.......But then, it's hard to see the balance when your sitting in one of the pans.

      November 1, 2010 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
  9. RU Serious

    Are you kidding people??? These guys are comedians not leaders for cying out loud. We are really going down the tubes ie Beck, Olbermann and the rest of the rabid dogs and now we have people who take their lead from Colbert and Stewart and actually compare them to MARK TWAIN? Huh???? Dumb down of America is just about complete...

    November 1, 2010 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Howard Markowitz

      What's wrong with comparing them with Mark Twain? Good satire is good satire.

      November 1, 2010 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • MrsFizzy

      RUSerious: Huh???? And do you think Right-leaning people loved it when for example, MARK TWAIN used a po-white-trash boy whose best friend was an escaped slave as a narrator to show up hypocrisy??

      November 1, 2010 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
  10. KSTTS

    The rally was a mixed group of different ages/races coming to gether in the hope of restoring civilized debate in place of childish name calling. Basing our decisions on facts in place of faith would also be nice.

    November 1, 2010 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Alex

    To think tea parties are conservatives, once again, you are missing it all. Any educated person would tell you that tea parties only agree on one thing...small government. If you believe otherwise, the you are being influenced by the extreme right and/or extreme left.

    Also, one thing I heard in this rally is to stop the "fear mongering" that the Tea Party are trying to create.

    Yet, we have high unemployment rate, small business are struggling, a bomb almost went of in NYC, bombs were being shipped on planes to the USA, etc...

    ...and look at this while you are at it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7KSHy34zyY

    November 1, 2010 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Alana

    I'm amazed at the hate spewing from the right about this rally. It just goes to show that so many people simply missed the point (if they even watched the rally at all). Both liberals and conservatives were slammed by Stewart and Colbert. Geeze people! Use those critical thinking skills you learned in middle school!

    The thing about satire is that most people don't get it. You have to be intelligent and open-minded to understand it. That's one reason there is no right-wing satire.

    November 1, 2010 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
  13. DP

    There's nothing diverse about Americans' political views. That's what makes the extreme rhetoric ridiculous. If we were arguing about what's really at stake instead of whose side gets more face time with Barbara Walters, THAT might be worth some stronger words.

    November 1, 2010 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
  14. acolt4you

    Oh my. It looks like Jon was right. If you watched the rally or were there, you would have heard Jon say that he was afraid this rally would change nothing. The righties would still be right, the lefties would still be left, and he would be skewered in whatever way suited a talking head's point of view. Maybe we should use a draft board to pick our congress and executive branch – at least then we could be fairly certain we would be represented equally. Also, if you don't vote – you do not have the right to complain!

    November 1, 2010 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • ts3513

      You would be incorrect. You CAN complain even if you don't vote. If you pay taxes you have a right to complain.

      November 1, 2010 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Haha

    America: the only place where your comedians can make your politicians look like clowns.

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

      Actually, this kind of thing has been going on for centuries. It's a well-established tradition in countries with some semblance of freedom of speech. See: Jonathan Swift

      November 1, 2010 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • MMcC1013

      Or Alexander Pope.

      November 1, 2010 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
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