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. RedTeam

    This rally was not about liberal, conservative, Republican or Democrat. It was about how nothing is working and in our government, the 24 hour new cycle is a problem (FOX AND CNN).

    November 1, 2010 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Terrie

      I whole heartedly agree!

      November 1, 2010 at 7:03 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Suz

    You know who would have been a great guest at the rally? Tim Russert. (I miss that guy.)

    November 1, 2010 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Beavertown

      You are so right! Meet the Press just isn't the same 🙁
      I think Tim Russert would've loved this.

      November 1, 2010 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • martin c

      I just realized that today. His passing left a void that is not yet filled. He was special.

      November 2, 2010 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Towanda

    I didn't go – but wanted to. I watched it all on TV – twice. I enjoyed it. While it didn't change my mind about my core values or feeling – it did (to take a line – sort of – from the movie AS GOOD AS IT GETS) – make me "want to be a better person" and to be a "kinder, gentler person" – at least once a day. Thank you Stewart and Colbert.

    November 1, 2010 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  4. gtsmoker

    The political "insanity" rhetoric only seems to be offensive to the people who are losing power.
    Be that as it may I find it more enlightening than returning to the insanity of advertisements that awaits me bombarding me with what cell phone I should buy and who has the best feminine hygiene products available.

    November 1, 2010 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
  5. B Parker

    That's the funny part about the Left... Selective memory. I keep hearing that the Repubs drove the country into an economic disaster – let's look at that a little closer, shall we?

    Since JFK took office 49yrs ago, the Democrats have held the majority in Congress for 37yrs (75.5% of the time).
    Since FDR took office 78yrs ago, the Democrats have held the majority in Congress for 61yrs (78% of the time).

    History proves your assessment wrong – besides, both parties acknowledge who is responsible for passing the piles of welfare programs that are slowly bankrupting the country... FDR, JFK, Carter, Clinton and our newest favorite – Obama. FACTS STAND ON THEIR OWN.

    November 1, 2010 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • lance corporal

      I had a statistics prof who said, figures don't lie but liars figure, your stats are meaningless on their own, your leaving out YOUR conclusion, that those years led directly to the most recent trouble, you conveniently don't state it ..... but outside of some form of frame ALL you are saying is the USA has more often voted dem since FDR, your time sample is to large to be applied to the current issues, you could try going from the last surplus/strong economy but then it wouldn't give the answer you want, you could look at the party in power leading up to the last couple recessions but again that wouldn't give you the answer you want..... so you way something intentionally obfuscated and say it in that snide fashion so popular on the ideological extreme as if anyone who doesn't agree with you is a complete idiot when in reality there is nothing to agree with because you didn't really say anything oh and THE FACTS ARE: it is NOT welfare that has almost bankrupted this country and any imbecile with a cursory knowledge of the issues knows that!!

      November 1, 2010 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Deb

      While you may be correct about the percentage of time each party has spent in office, you are misrepresenting the facts. The welfare programs are not the programs that are bankrupting our country. Also, many of the policies that led to the current situation were put in place by Republicans. Let's not forget that when Clinton left office , we had a budget surplus. He worked very hard to get it that way. Shortly after Bush came into office, he led us to a war. A gigantic chunk of our national budget goes to the military. When Clinton was in office, there was no need to put a large amount of money into the military, because we were not in any wars and Clinton had great foreign policy. When Bush came into office, we found ourselves quickly being shoved into two wars, which took a lot of money to fund. That's the facts. It's amazing how people who try to make the points you did, you tend to have the same selective memory that you accuse the other side of having. We all need to recognize that all of the politicians had a hand in this, after all, they were all voting. Unfortunately, like Stewart has tried to convey, everyone was to just be crazy and blame everyone else, and amplify everyone else's mistakes.

      November 1, 2010 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • B Parker

      Lance, it would be easier to point at this year's policies and the destruction they're sure to cause, but I figured everyone was bored talking about how spending money to get out of a deficit makes no sense whatsoever. As for the sample size, trim it to whatever you like – I posted my opinion and supported it with some facts (all of them would require several hundred pages of text). You can debase them if you like, but your retort is wide-reaching and without any specifics.

      Deb – everyone knows that Clinton left office with a surplus THANKS TO A REPUBLICAN CONGRESS. He didn't walk into office with a surplus despite the financially-conservative (tongue-in-cheek) Dems being in charge for the previous 32yrs. Folks with a basic understanding of the American Gov't understand that the President doesn't make law, or spend tax dollars. Bush's decision to head into Iraq might seem contrary until you remember that Congress approved the funds...

      November 1, 2010 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Deb

      I'm sorry, but wasn't the the first Bush a Republican? I'm not an idiot, I know that Congress is the one that approves all spending, however, the President usually proposes it to Congress. You act like Democrats caused everything, and the Republicans were standing there saying, "No. Please. Don't." That was in fact not the case. As I said, everyone need to accept partial blame. Everyone contributed and all policies culminated together to create this situation. However, some things and some people contributed more than others.

      November 1, 2010 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • lance corporal

      ahhh a republican troll not up for real discourse, no surprise, no problem keep posting your unamerican TEAM politics in every subject regardless of if it is related to the topic, this TEAM only mentality is the problem, YOU are the problem, it's OK we're moving forward regardless

      November 1, 2010 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • B Parker

      Lance said... "We're moving forward regardless.

      That's exactly why I've gotten involved in politics, friend. Senators who don't want you to read a bill before it's passed, pork spending, politicians that decide against the electorate... All because a small minority of people, who happen to hold a majority of Congress, are changing the country in a way I don't like. And as you'll see tomorrow – most Americans agree with me.

      Thank goodness.

      November 1, 2010 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Missed the Point

      I'll start with saying that I am a registered Republican, but I find it slightly ironic that you posted a comment that is pointing fingers at one party or another on this article. The entire point of this rally was to stop the finger pointing and work together to get problems solved (a VERY good idea). Perhaps you could learn a lesson or two from the points made at the rally instead of blaming the current state of the country on one political party. It took help from both sides to get where it is today.

      November 1, 2010 at 6:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Neal

      Nice thread...B Parker...I am a repub but i think you are WAY off base saying "its all the dems fault"...when you REALLY want to think about it UNLESS you can bring charges against the politicians for doing something illegal (and i really think you can not) the American people as a whole have to be reaponsible.

      You don't like the politicians then don't vote for them, give $$ to somebody else, campaign for them, start your own party and run for office yourself!

      This habit business of "blaming" and taking no responsibility is pretty lame...don't you think?

      Cheers,
      Neal

      November 1, 2010 at 6:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • mjs18331

      I'm a registered Democrat, but I agree 100% with Missed the Point - the whole point of the rally was to ask people to stop thinking solely along party lines. Too bad B Parker can't see that

      November 1, 2010 at 6:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jack Waldron

      @Lance,

      Not only is your memory selective, it's faulty. JFK was assassinated in 1963. The welfare packages you speak of were voted in in 1964 after JFK was already dead. It was Lyndon Johnson's Guns and Butter policy (post 1964) that you're thinking of. If you're going to spout political whose to blame posts at least get your facts right. do a little research before you post. Maybe take a US History 101 college class.

      November 1, 2010 at 8:53 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Zip in SC

    Yes, amazing how it takes two comedians to point out just how out of bounds our news is getting. Just a little more sensational, and it will be able to be delegated to the role of reality T.V. alongside The batchorlette, and Big Brother.

    November 1, 2010 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
  7. lance corporal

    after watching the rally I stopped taking my meds, it's only been 3 days but so far I'm doing great, thank you jon stewart for restoring my sanity

    November 1, 2010 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
  8. R. Kershaw

    It is still amazing that so many can misunderstand this rally. Why they cannot understand that if I have a mustache, that does not mean I am Hitler, that if I do not find many views to the left or right OK. that does not mean that I am a right wing nut, a liberal or a socialist.
    We are all constantly reminded about free speech, yet these fringe try to suppress that right.
    No matter who wins in these elections, They better remember, that Americans, are not formed by the fringes but by the middle, And if they don't want to see a real response to the fringes, they better keep it cool.

    November 1, 2010 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
  9. tired of it all

    Watched it on CNN, it was great..............I think the main message was to THINK FOR YOURSELVES, don't listen to the Becks, Limbaughs, Palins etc. etc. etc.............the world is not coming to an end and if it does there is not much we can do about it BUT we can vote based on our own decisions and beliefs. This rally also made the statement that a 2 party system just does not work in this complicated world and politically a 2 party system is not a vote for the people of this country. It all comes down to putting some effort into real research, listen to all rational opinions, try to stay moderate until you make your final decision.............................THINK FOR YOURSELF !!

    November 1, 2010 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • B Parker

      Well, your underlying point was solid (consider all points before making a decision), but it's surrounded by garbage.

      Your disdain for the Right is so original it has also been touted by CNN, ABC, NBC, MSNBC, C-Span and most every printed publication nationwide for about six years now. The truth is that I HAVE been thinking for myself, and it led me to my conservative principles. It wasn't until the birth of the Tea Parties that I found thousands of others quietly thinking the way that I do. Men like Glenn Beck simply stepped up to the podium in support of those ideals.

      That's the beauty of this – there isn't any "organization" behind it. Every event is hosted by a different group of people, every speaker comes from his own background. I went to my first event as a skeptic worried about being labelled a "nutjob." But I instantly found comfort knowing there were SO MANY others like me... I look around and see all demographics and political perspectives represented. This is a good thing that has happened and I'm glad I'm part of it.

      I have a friend who insisted that we were racists, hate-mongers, etc. And he held that view until he attended with me – it was nothing like he expected. There was none of the stuff he'd seen on television. He still disagrees with the solutions they profess, but even he doesn't think they're crazy anymore.

      November 1, 2010 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Margret

      Glenn Beck is merely a man??? Oh my goodness! I thought he was the Second Son of God....at least that's what he seems to consider himself.

      November 1, 2010 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • B Parker

      You apparently haven't ever stopped to listen to his words. That's just what you've considered him – and I assume that's why you feel threatened.

      November 1, 2010 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • lance corporal

      and thank god raving maniacs step up to the podium other wise who else would we laugh at???

      November 1, 2010 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Hope - Tucson Arizona

    My mother, who is 84 and I, age 64, watched the entire rally on Comedy Central and loved very minute of it. Talking to several of her friends, 70 + and mine 55+, afterwards, we found out they watched it also. Everyone loved it, and found the show entertaining and enlightening. My granddaughters 10 & 22 watched with us and enjoyed the show also. It made for entertaining and enlightening conversation within the family – the guys watched football, but did occationally peek in to see some of the rally and had great comments also. Let's do it again next year!!!!!

    November 1, 2010 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Paul

    God forbid! The rally didnn't fit into the partisan media debate! What, how, where, can this even be understood? Can't people just say they're fed up with how partisan we've become? Isn't that enough?

    November 1, 2010 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Deb

    While I was walking around D.C. before and after the rally, I saw many great signs. People used the same satire that Stewart uses to point out the ridiculousness of our media and society. One of the best signs I saw there said, "I disagree with your opinions, but I do not think you're Hitler." I couldn't say it better myself. And that's what the rally was all about, showing that even though you may disagree and have your differences, you might understand why they think the way they do, and you do not hate them for thinking that way. We don't need to call people nasty names or accuse them of being something they are not. Another great sign was, "Palin and Pelosi: both nice ladies." The people at this event showed that there still is reason in America and that we can get along.

    Thank you Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert for giving me a renewed hope for the American people.

    November 1, 2010 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
  13. CarolO

    I watched it on TV but was impressed by such a huge crowd all coming together like we all did after 9-11 when we actually liked and support each other. I was also happy to see no Marxist, Communist, Hilter signs waving. No monkey signs, no hangmans noose and no guns strapped on peoples sides. This campaign has been the dirtiest campaign I've seen in my 67 years.

    November 1, 2010 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Dan McGarry

    We attended and were amazed to see the size of the crowd, yet everyone remained calm and was friendly. We observed and also interacted with others. We met people from Indiana, Arizona, Connecticut and California. Most wanted to "give change a chance." I hope this energy toward sanity continues.

    November 1, 2010 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
  15. blf83

    I wanted to be there, but watched it all on TV. Jon's speech at the end was deeply moving – even profound. Let's hope that people heard.

    November 1, 2010 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
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