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. 101stAfganVet

    You don't think they were funny? That had some funny stuff in there. And calling them morons while Glenn Beck the biggest idiot and fake out there is probably your hero? Maybe you should invest in one of those underground bunkers he sells for the apocalypse. I will tell you who is funny; Beck fans. Thanks for giving us something to laugh at!

    November 1, 2010 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Rick in L.A.

    Why aren't all of you people at work?
    Just asking....

    November 1, 2010 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • MMcC1013

      I am at work. Being at work should not exclude me from engaging in political or social discourse.

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

      Multi-tasking?? Lunch breaks?? And do you ask that on every article comment board?

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

      Why aren't YOU at work?

      November 1, 2010 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Patriots2010

    I think it is great that they were able to have the rally and bring a little humor back to politics in this country. They should have added one other skit though. The one where the President of the United States says "Punish your Enemies" about any Americans that do not follow his agenda. That would have been funny, right?

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

      Which President would that be..? I can only think of one who said "You're either with us, or against us".

      November 1, 2010 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Lisa Pilot

    CNN: News source or bogus mouthpiece of the right wing gestapo?

    Seriously, what kind of headline is that?

    November 1, 2010 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Dave

    Sanity will not be restored until conservatives stop acting insane.

    November 1, 2010 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • generatrix

      Sanity will not be restored until *everyone* stops acting insane.

      (Note: I'm an extremely left wing Canadian)

      November 1, 2010 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Glenn Fat Beck

      Then stay out of our politics, Canadian. Don't you know that you've got it all wrong up there, with your public health care, reasoned arguments, and (gasp!) affordable prescription drugs?? Let both wings run us into the ground...it makes for better television.

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

      Sigh..you Canadians are just so smug, aren't you?? ;0)

      November 1, 2010 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • EdShaw

      *sigh* Universal Health care......God forbid we should be as civilized as the Canadians.

      November 1, 2010 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Stargazer

    I don't think this was intended to influence voters either way, but to let politicians, pundits, etc. know that there are a whole lot of folks out there who are sick and tired of hearing crap rather than a serious discussion of issues.

    November 1, 2010 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tweety

      THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS! I cannot agree more. THIS!

      November 1, 2010 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Brian

    What a pair of clowns

    November 1, 2010 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • MMcC1013

      Unless you're a history buff, you're probably unaware that clowns, namely court jesters, have been a respected part of political culture throughout history. It was Oliver Cromwell, a conservative, religious tyrant, who put an end to the tradition, because he would not stand to have himself or his policies mocked. I think we all know how well that went.

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

      @MMcC1013 – These people don't even know American history, what makes you think they would know anything at all about British history?

      November 1, 2010 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Nikki

    I don't think that Stewart's intent was to pull people into voting for Democrats. I think the intention was to let people who are politically moderate show that they care too. I think that being a moderate is hard because you have screaming on either side of you and don't know what to do sometimes. Just because I disagree with your politics, doesn't mean that I have to hate your guts. I watched the rally and thought it was great!

    November 1, 2010 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Taylor

    I went to the rally with some family and friends, and the people I met and talked with over the course of the day made driving 8 hours from SC absolutely worth it. The crowd of people I met were courteous, playful, and not so much angry or disillusioned as understanding that we've reached a time where poking fun at politics is just as powerful as participating in it.

    November 1, 2010 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
  10. jimbob mcgee

    We all act as though the sky is falling, or has fallen. In all honesty, while times are fairly tough, they are not horrible. Reagan had 11% unemployment and the steel belt went under under his watch. PA, OH, And other "rust belt" states faced 15% unemployment. Overall, 91% of people in the US still have jobs. It took Reagan two terms to get us out of his funk, and then George Bush I put us right back. Recall his term ended with, guess what, another recession and Iraq War as a Republican left office. Overall, we're still doing fine as a country, still have honor an integrity, though I wish GW had NOT gotten us trillion sin hawk to the Chinese over a war he left our grandkids to pay for instead of the current generations.

    November 1, 2010 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
  11. jimbob mcgee

    We all act as though the sky is falling or has fallen. In all honesty, while times are fairly tough, they are not horrible. Reagan had 11% unemployment and the steel belt went under under his watch. PA, OH, And other "rust belt" states faced 15% unemployment. Overall, 91% of people in the US still have jobs. It took Reagan two terms to get us out of his funk, and then George Bush I put us right back. Recall his term ended with, guess what, another recession and Iraq War as a Republican left office. Overall, we're still doing fine as a country, still have honor an integrity, though I wish GW had NOT gotten us trillion sin hawk to the Chinese over a war he left our grandkids to pay for instead of the current generations.

    November 1, 2010 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paqrat137

      Here's a funny anecdote with a baseball analogy, with apologies to WWDTM:

      The Texas Rangers have made it to the Worlds Series for the first time in franchise history, and they face the Giants. A former owner of the Ranges, until 1998, was George W. Bush. So now we know...it take 12 years to recover from George Bush, and if the Rangers can do it, with a bit more time, so can we. Just a little humor.

      And yes, it has been a lot worse and we have overcome it then, and we can overcome it now...just be reasonable in your expectations and in your rhetoric.

      November 1, 2010 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Very Satisfied

    I went to the rally just to see if it would provide any political information or just entertainment. I was very pleased by the outcome. I've attended many 'rally' type events for both major parties (I'm a republican, but like to stay informed), and I have to say, the crowd at this weekend's rally was the most polite group of people I have ever seen at this type of function. The rally provided great entertainment, musically and comedic, but more importantly it delivered a message that we need to be REASONABLE. Stewart's closing remarks at the ceremony were insightful and while not political, delivered a much needed societal lesson.

    Thank you to Stewart and Colbert for providing some much needed comic relief during turbulent times and serving as a reminder that no matter what party one belongs to, we must work together to accomplish things.

    November 1, 2010 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nerd2

      Totally agree. I went just to stand up for what I most want – civility. The politics were not the important part to me. I was surprised not to here "get out and vote" at first but after reflection I realized that it wasn't about politics at all. It was about reminding each other – in Jon's closing remarks and by meeting each other – that there are reasonable people all over the US and that what we see on TV is not America but rather the squeaky-wheel minority. I came out of the event with faith restored in the overall goodness of America and with hope that it is possible to make things better.

      November 1, 2010 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Rick in L.A.

    Lisa Pilot; Please marry me!
    Oops, wrong forum.... sorry.

    November 1, 2010 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
  14. MikeBell

    It was an extention of the work they do already.
    The push is for another 'show'. I doubt anything seriously sain is going to come of it.

    November 1, 2010 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
  15. riomarcos

    I was at the rally, there were a solid 215,000 people there according to CBS, although the Washington Post called this number ridiculoulsy low and that the real number is over 250,000, there were only 87,000 at Beck's weird anti-MLK "honor" rally. DC Metro ridership beat their record for any Saturday, ever. Fox is reporting that there were only ten thousand people there and that they were all union workers or government employees. That would be funny, except for the morons that actually believe it... and vote.

    November 1, 2010 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tweety

      825,437 people attended.

      November 1, 2010 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
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