Gimlet Eyes just got back from the Rally To Restore Sanity in Washington, DC (did you see me? I was right in the middle! With a sign!) and now I’m fired up and ready to go.
First things first.
The rally was incredible. No, it wasn’t partisan. In fact, it really wasn’t political: Stewart didn’t even ask his attendees to vote, let alone to vote for a particular candidate or party. But it was not vague or unfocused. Stewart’s message was simple, beautiful, and smart: disagree with passion, but treat our fellow human beings with compassion. Think intelligently about political choices. And don’t believe everything in the media – particalarly the over-wrought, over-blown under-baked rhetoric.
No, I don’t know how many people were there (though reliable estimates range from 200,000-250,000), but it was probably exactly eleventy billion. Gimelt Eyes gave up on taking the metro out of there, and restaurants from China Town to 9th St were jammed (waiting times of 2 hours and more) for hours after. But it was a beautiful day, the crowd was friendly and respectful, and I did manage to squeeze into a pub for some post-rally nosh and libation.
Was the rally the best 3 hours of Stewart’s and Colbert’s career? No. But it was often funny, sometimes charming, and always smart. (And the Peace Train/Crazy Train/Love Train battle was pure genius.)
But what was the point of the rally? I think Arianna Huffington sumarized it brilliantly today on CNN’s Reliable Sources:
HUFFINGTON: Not at all. Because they [attendees who rode the HuffPo buses to the rally]wanted to have that sense of community and connection. And that was really what you observed all around the rally when you walked around. It wasn't just what was happening on stage, it was what was happening among people there.
HUFFINGTON: Oh, you can go on shows and disagree with Republicans, or disagree with Democrats. And I do both. The question is, is what you are saying based on fact?
Then, in a moment of unintentional serendipity, Howard Kurtz made Stewart’s point about the stupidity of the media for him with this exchange:
KURTZ: But let's be candid. I mean, Jon Stewart appeals to you because he comes at his comedy and satire and criticism from a liberal point of view.
HUFFINGTON: Well, actually, if you watched his interview with the president, that was a tough interview.
KURTZ: We're going to play that later, but most --
HUFFINGTON: But he exposed the Achilles heel of the president. That's not a cheerleader interviewing the president.
KURTZ: Well, now, but it was somebody -- he came off as a disappointed liberal. But let's leave that interview aside. When I see clips of "The Daily Show" on "The Huffington Post," it's often securing Republican targets. You like that.
HUFFINGTON: Well, that's not at all actually what makes Jon Stewart special. What makes him and Colbert special is the fact that they use satire to speak truth to power. Whether that power is liberal, conservative, in the media, in politics, that's where the power comes from. And people will continue to see this sort of left- leaning show completely missing its appeal.
KURTZ: All right. I think I disagree with that.
Of course you do, Howard.
Ms Huffington also had this to say:
HUFFINGTON: However passionately you may express it, is it based on facts? That is really the key distinction that we need to make. And also, in the progress, are you disagreeing with your opponents or are you demonizing them?
KURTZ: For you it's about the tone?
HUFFINGTON: For me it's about -- first of all, it's about facts. Is it factual? That's key.
KURTZ: Right, but conservatives who disagree with you certainly think they are being factual.
HUFFINGTON: No. They can't possibly think they are being factual when they say that Barack Obama wasn't born here, or when they are saying that Barack Obama is taking us down a communist path. These clearly are not factual statements, and that is really the first distinction.
I mean, really. There are facts, and there are flaming sacks of dog poop. Most of us can tell the
difference. Why does Kurtz seem to find it so difficult?
Here’s an example:
“On Fox Business’ Varney and Company, Monica Crowley did her best to discredit the,Stewart/Colbert rally by claiming that union members were being bused in at gunpoint to the rally. She said, ‘Well, but there are a lot of union members who are actually being bused in at gunpoint by their union leadership.’ When Varney countered not at gunpoint, Crowley said, ‘In some cases yes at gunpoint.’”
What do you think? Facts? Or verbal flaming dog poop? Yeah. Flaming dog poop is pretty easy to spot.
Of course, Howard Kurtz wasn’t the only “news” person who really didn’t get it.
Oh, Fox. Your skewed perspective is showing.
Fortunately, people noticed.
(But, wouldn’t you rather hang out with stoned hippies than foaming evangelicals anyway?)
So. Did the rally accomplish anything?
Let’s ask the twenty four-hour political pundit panic conflictinator:
Or, read/watch this, and answer it yourself:
My answer is an unequivical Yes.
The rally restored my faith in America as a nation of basically decent, basically intelligent, basically reasonable people. Despite what the verbal flaming dog poop flingers would suggest.
Do I think Stewart’s rally will sway the election?
No. I get it, he was preaching to the choir. People who honestly believe Obama is a secret Muslim or a Nazi Communist will not suddenly vote Democractic in 2 days. And the crazies are more excited about voting than the rational people this time arounnd.
I don’t think the public is as TEA-bagger happy as the media would have us believe. And I don’t think there is going to be a “Republican revolution” come Wednesday. (But then, I didn’t believe the GOP was “finished” in 2008 either.) Yes, some very unfortunate candidates will win on Tuesday (Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, perhaps Pat Toomey or Sharron Angle), but in other places, people seem to be coming to their senses.
I also keep the faith that, if the GOP manages to take control of the House - they won’t get the Senate - they will have to dial back their crazy no matter how many seats they win.
But, I’m actually not convinced Tuesday is going to be GOP-victory bloodbath that the media keeps telling me it will be. I think the Democratic base is not as suicidal as the media insists they are. I think Independents are not as distractable as the media thinks. And I feel in my heart that people are more reasonable than the media gives them credit for.
In any case, whether he meant to or not, Stewart’s rally inspired me. I’m excited to go to the polls on Tuesday. I’m fired up and ready to go. And I’ll be doing what I can in these final hours to convince my fellow voters to vote rationally. I’m betting there are some 200,000+ people like me who will do likewise.
Thank you, Jon Stewart.
Veni, Vidi, Voting.