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Jon Stewart’s ‘Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear’ was a wasted opportunity for liberals

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Jon Stewart speaks during the “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear.” (Kris Connor/Getty Images)

I am an Earthling
So we probably have other things in common too.

—Sign seen on the National Mall last weekend.

“Revolutionaries-for-a-weekend should never get hangovers,” wrote Norman Mailer in Armies of the Night. No doubt a few over-eager attendees at Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s Saturday rally on the National Mall in Washington conceived of themselves as latter-day Pentagon-levitators—the anti-Vietnam War activists of Mailer’s armies—much as one over-eager columnist conceived of herself and her generation (which is to say, my generation) as going down to our very own Yasgur’s Farm. But I am here to tell you that the operative word in the “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear” was “and/or.” The event could have been whatever you wanted it to be, which meant that it was nothing at all. It’s not exactly what a Mall rally the weekend before the midterms called for.

At least Mailer’s point about the hangover remained applicable. After a too-long trip for coffee—nobody, not the coffee shops or the Metro Authority (which hauled a record-for-a-Saturday 825,437 passengers) or the organizers themselves guessed the event would draw remotely so many people—a few of us took the bus south down 11th Street toward the Mall. One imagines L’Enfant designed the city for just these sorts of days: a bright, warm fall afternoon, when the denizens of the jagged, swampy hills of the north would pour into the sunken, flat expanse of the Mall, with its undeniable symmetry and open access, and engage in some imagined future ritual of democracy.

But the rush of people met a dam just north of the Mall, where an hourglass effect and an ill-placed row of Porta-Potties made things unpleasantly impenetrable. The next 45 minutes were a slow slog eastward toward the Capitol through a three-dimensional, fluid wall of people, emerging behind the stage, where people with press passes and people who knew people with press passes mingled in an almost pastoral setting with passersby and Human Rights Campaign volunteers.

It was here that the actor Sam Waterston, driving past, took a sneak picture of me.

I knew that Waterston had already spoken not because I could hear him—the audio was truly terrible, which no doubt helped cause the mass exodus that began well before the event was through—but because I could make out his show’s trademark chung-chung sound, which bracketed what I now know was Waterston’s stentorian, deadpan reading of a Colbert-penned ode to fear. (“Did you hear that? No? You’re probably going deaf./ It’s your kids back home cooking up some crystal meth.”) But I admit I was surprised when Waterston, sitting alone in the back of a black Town Car that inched away from behind the stage, snapped the picture of me—me in my corduroy sport coat, earnestly striving to look professional on the theory that maybe there would actually be something to cover—backed by the rest of the crowd. He had a giddy, grandfatherly smile on his face, which confirmed my sense that I was at the rally less to stand for a certain set of principles (there was no set of principles) or to be entertained (as I said, you couldn’t hear a thing), but to be an extra in the cast of exactly the sort of non-event alchemized by warm, young bodies and media hype into Great American Spectacle—exactly the sort of non-event, in other words, that Jon Stewart, in his more pious moods, gets a kick out of shaking his head at with a fake non-grin on his face.

Having a grandfatherly television actor appropriate my youthful mojo for his iPhone collection was merely the most focused part of the spectacle, which tried to package itself as irony but was actually something much more depressing and wrong. The rallygoers’ signs—like that from the above-mentioned Earthling—seemed more dedicated to showing off the makers’ wit than anything else. And the hosts’ fundamental message, too—despite Stewart’s celebrated appeal to media decency toward the event’s end—was one of irony made impotent by context: that the best way to beat back the extremists storming the gates of the mainstream is to laugh at them. Stewart had up to 250,000 people watching him, depending on the estimate. But, as Stalin said of the pope, how many divisions has he got?

This is the back of my sign.

While the rally’s opportunity cost was arguably great—a liberal could plausibly see it as a gigantic missed chance—it was basically a poorly run party that confirmed Stewart’s downward trajectory from exciting comedian to, at times, important political spokesperson to, now, the second and no doubt lesser coming of Al Franken. Stewart’s somber, deeply boring speech, which lectured the press that it ought to “hold its magnifying glass up to our problems, bringing them into focus, illuminating issues heretofore unseen,” was so trite and bland that it cannot be taken seriously even by not-serious people. It was as though Stewart were determined to be for the mushy middle what Colbert is for the Fox News right: a parody. And even this character was undercut every step of the way by Stewart’s need to be the comedian, the better to excuse himself for not taking a stronger stand. “The press is our immune system,” he declared. “If we overreact to everything we actually get sicker, and perhaps eczema.” Chuckles.

When I first heard that Jon Stewart was going to hold a rally in favor of moderation, I smelled a rat. Moderation is neither good nor bad: Certain people are right about things, and certain other people are wrong about those things, and how moderate they are has zero bearing on how right or wrong they are. Moreover, Stewart’s moderation happens to be particularly false and damaging, because, say what you will about the demerits of the fringe left and the fringe right, the fringe left is, well, on the fringe, while the fringe right is about to unseat the majority leader of the Senate, win several other Senate and House races, collect hundreds of millions of dollars in donations and book royalties and speaking fees, and have a big impact on the selection of the Republican Party’s standard-bearer for 2012 and what he or she will stand for.

Jon Stewart speaks at least in part as a man with a job dependent on ratings. He is paid to get high ratings by a corporation. Stewart’s a smart guy, and so his corporate interests would naturally make him afraid of actual liberalism—the perfect explanation for his adoption of anti-liberal moderation. Those ratings, meanwhile, are about to face their greatest threat yet, as the one talk-show host with similarly strong cred with the young’uns, Conan O’Brien, has a new show that just happens to start at the same time as Stewart’s and just happens to debut next Monday. And, hey, didn’t Stewart’s crew just publish a new book?

I was upset that so much of my generational cohort failed to see this, that so many would even be able to have a good time. I felt betrayed. I became obsessed; one late night, I found myself adapting Allen Ginsberg’s poem “America” and emailing a few friends:

Are you going to let our emotional life be run by Jon Stewart?
I’m obsessed by Jon Stewart.
I watch him every day.
His show stares at me every time I slink past the corner candystore.
I watch it in the basement of the Berkeley Public Library.
It’s always telling me about responsibility.
Everybody’s serious but me.

As it turns out, I was much more serious than the event demanded. Stewart will never have the influence of Ginsberg’s totem of irresistible and rotten Americana: midcentury Time magazine.

Everything will probably be OK.

Incidentally, if you’ve read David Brooks, you’ll know that my generation’s Woodstock will be not this but some networking get-together. Whatever this was, though, I arrived on Friday night via Greenbelt, Md., near where Interstate 95 dead-ends into the Capitol Beltway. The buses from New York to downtown D.C. had sold out over a week before, no doubt because of the rally; mine stopped first in Baltimore and then deposited me and about a dozen others, many of whom, I gathered, were headed for a homecoming weekend of tailgating in College Park (Maryland would crush Wake Forest, 62-14), at a half-empty parking lot abutted by an office park and the terminus of the Washington Metro’s Green Line.
My goal at the rally was to meet up with representatives of J Street and/or the New Israel Fund, two groups of the left that had set up tables at the rally to make their presence felt (“Sanity, Sanity Shalt Thou Pursue,” crowed NIF’s website), but with the crowds and concomitant shutdown of cell-phone service, that was a lost cause. (“The rally clearly tapped into a deep well of frustration with the polarization and vitriol that so often dominates the political debate,” J Street’s Amy Spitalnick emailed me afterward. “Restoring sanity to that debate when it comes to Israel and the Mideast is part of the reason J Street was founded.”) Next was a sweep to the south side of the Mall, where I tried and failed to find the Government Doesn’t Suck rally of federal employees near the Air and Space Museum—as the son of a man who put in 35 years at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, I am sympathetic to their desire not to be grouped in with elected politicians.

You have read in news reports about Colbert’s onstage antics; the sanity awards, which went to, among others, near-perfect Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga; and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s complicity in being demonstrated as an actual example of a non-scary Muslim. The only performances I recognized were various musical numbers: Ozzy Osbourne singing “Crazy Train”; Sheryl Crow and Kid Rock crooning their country duet, presumably so that the organizers could cite the presence of Red-America culture; and a closing rendition of “I’ll Take You There,” with the glorious Mavis Staples. But because technicians were ill-prepared for the throngs, only a small percentage of the thousands—the tens, the hundreds of thousands—who schlepped to the Mall could have followed along.

A little before 3 in the afternoon, a companion and I ducked into the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. In the basement, a few dozen rallygoers sat on benches and against the wall in an unlit room with black walls and viewed a film, Flooded McDonald’s, by Superflex, a Danish art group. In real time, we watched a McDonald’s get flooded with water from an unknown source, spilling everywhere and then rising. Images of Golden Arches slowly covered in water were punctuated by gross close-ups of ketchup. A plastic statue of Ronald McDonald, smiling and waving his right hand, bobbed on the currents until, in the film’s most traumatic moment, he toppled over. I left as the deluge was about to submerge the counter.

I need a stimulus.

If you wish to see an early inkling of the contradictions that, on Saturday, Stewart heightened to the shark-jumping point, rewatch his famous Crossfire appearance from just before the 2004 elections (which was also the previous time he had a book to sell). You probably remember Stewart ranting that Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson were “partisan hacks,” and you probably remember Carlson being a smug asshole. But what you forgot was Stewart trying to play it both ways: to be the funnyman who is simultaneously above and below partisan discourse, in a way that magically gives him supreme authority and plucks him out of all accountability.

In the clip, Stewart is not using humor to reveal deeper truths, like a Shakespearean fool; he is using humor to deflect and duck ripostes to his arguments, which he cares about, even as he denies the very existence of arguments of his own, while still hoping that those arguments, about the destructiveness of political hackery and the media-industrial complex, carry the day. “Right now you’re with the politicians and the corporations,” the Viacom employee told the Time Warner employees. He continued: “Well, we have civilized discourse,” comparing his show with Crossfire—while, in the next breath, lecturing Carlson on how he was not allowed to compare Crossfire to his show: “I didn’t realize that news organizations look to Comedy Central for their cues on integrity.” (Well, only when you tell them to, Jon.)

We let Stewart get away with that staggering and blatant hypocrisy because there was a close presidential election a few days away, and because Carlson was a smug asshole (Stewart’s greatest talent is his choosing of enemies), and because, during a time of right-wing dominance, Stewart’s attack on the partisan hackery of both sides was, as the Leninists would say, objectively useful—pro-Democratic in effect, and very likely in intent, too.

Stewart wisely spent the following six years as a ninja assassin: ducking in the shadows, shooting fat targets from long range, never exposing himself. He was a very valuable assassin! But when you are standing on a stage in front of the Capitol in front of hundreds of thousands of people, it can be difficult to find a place to hide. Your hypocrisy is going to leave you exposed. On Saturday, Stewart kept the bullshit “I’m just the comedian” stance—What, me make you worry?—but dropped even the implication of liberalism. Instead, he stood for moderation: moderation as its own good, moderation as the philosophy—that government governs best which governs closest to whatever that moment’s middle is, never mind where the middle should be. It was the worst sort of sanctimony, because it was not even coming from someone who has done the dirty work of politics and then announced that he has wasted much of his life doing the work of the gutter. It was coming from a comedian who has sat behind an anchor desk for nearly 12 years and who tells us what to do while claiming that desk protects him from our responses.

Oh, and one other thing: It’s really all the media’s fault, he announced, finally. Incredibly, four days before elections, Stewart snatched agency away from the hundreds of thousands of attendees and millions of viewers. “The country’s 24-hour political pundit perpetual panic conflictinator did not cause our problems, but its existence makes solving them that much harder,” he said, not bothering to name what actually may have caused those problems, or what those problems may actually be. “There are terrorists and racists and Stalinists and theocrats, but those are titles that must be earned,” he continued. “Not being able to distinguish between real racists and Tea Partiers or real bigots and Juan Williams and Rick Sanchez is an insult.” As David Carr of the New York Times pointed out, leaving aside how many people in the country have even heard of Williams and Sanchez (who, in case you are among the majority who has not, were fired from NPR and CNN over matters of political correctness), this is a stunning false equivalence. You can believe that the Tea Partiers’ mass belief that President Barack Obama is advancing a socialist agenda and NPR’s and CNN’s decisions are equally wrong—they’re not, but you can think they are—and still recognize the far larger threat to the republic posed by the Tea Party’s mainstreaming of malevolent silliness. You can, but then you’ve chosen a “side,” and Stewart, as a comedian, is the Switzerland of the punditocracy.

The penultimate paragraph of Stewart’s keynote went like this: “If you want to know why I’m here and what I want from you, I can only assure you this: You have already given it to me. Your presence was what I wanted.” This was very funny, if unintentionally. (We’re here for you, Jon.) But it was also depressing: Was he sure there was nothing else he could bother to ask of us?

Stewart was asked at the post-rally press conference, “Do you guys think people should vote?” He answered: “I think people should do what moves them.” Read that again. Then clip and save for whenever somebody tells you that Jon Stewart’s brand of moderation really tilts toward the left, or that he is actually sending dog-whistles to the liberal crowd. Go vote? Stewart the entertainer had become the mirror image of his once-favorite political foil, who in the face of an existential threat was afraid to ask for anything more of his people than that they go shopping.

Sane people don’t scream.
We use our “inside voices,” inside the voting booth.

In Among the Believers, V.S. Naipaul recounts his travels through post-revolutionary Iran, a place suffused with belief and its “emotional charge.” He travels with a young man named Behzad, who was raised a Marxist and initially welcomed the ayatollahs but soon realized a disparity between them and him and then didn’t know quite what to think. Behzad’s tragedy is that he was duped into supporting something that he should have opposed. “Behzad was neutral because he was confused,” Naipaul explains. “He was a revolutionary and he welcomed the overthrow of the Shah; but the religious revolution that had come to Iran was not the revolution that Behzad wanted.”

I wonder how many people Stewart—or perhaps someone better situated—could have drawn to the Mall for a rally against the Tea Party that looked, walked, talked, and acted like a rally against the Tea Party. I know I would have gone, and it would not have been as a cynic on a measly expense account. The antidote to Glenn Beck isn’t “sanity,” it is a powerful, rational, and clear argument for why Glenn Beck is insane.

And I wonder whose fault it is that, four days before the Democrats will lose the House of Representatives, the most powerful statement liberalism had to make was a humorous shrug. To echo a favorite campaign phrase of the current president, whose own compromises serve as a useful template for mapping Stewart’s: Stewart was not the one we were waiting for.

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Steven Rosenberg says:

Did you miss the point? Taking a partisan tone would have made him a hypocrite. His only point was less shouting, more listening, and don;t trust corporate news.

Noah Wolfe says:

I want to second what Steven said. The focus of Stewart’s speech was that people have different political points of view yet still work together everyday everywhere but in Washington. To take a partisan tone at the rally would have undermined his intention.

Steve and Noah,

I think you both miss the point. Marc isn’t about moderation or bipartisanship. To him, politics is a zero-sum game. If the Dems win I win, if the Nazis’, no I mean if the Republicans win, then I lose. Why do you think Marc was so disappointed with the rally. Of course it had its liberal overtones b/c Stewart is a liberal through and through. And unless you are blind (I was there and saw the type of people that came to the rally) you would know this rally was liberal love fest where it was a gathering of the sane liberals against the crazy conservatives. But what annoyed Marc is seems was Stewart’s speech at the end where he humanized the other side. You seee, Stewart’s closing speech does not fit into Marc’s worldview where anyone to the right of him is a racist crypto-Nazi.

Marc R says:

I think Marc T got the point, he just thinks it’s pointless. What has “sanity” in the form of moderation ever really accomplished.

As Mr. Lyme said in The Third Man, Europe had hundreds of years of war and produced the Renaissance. Switzerland has had hundreds of years of peace and has produced a cuckoo clock.

J street probably came to see the Jew Baiter Yusaf Isalm (Cat Stevens) who was also invited to the rally.

riain george says:

Republican Jews make me ill & ashamed of their existence!

M Lite says:

I think the point was that there wasn’t really necessarily a point. For the last two years Fox (with the “liberal” media in tow) has been endlessly covering any gathering of more than a dozen Tea Partiers and proclaiming them the vox populi. The big joke of this rally was that you could bring out an even larger crowd with no truly coherent purpose except reasonableness. Of course, except for finger wagging like Marc’s, the media completely missed it, so I don’t know if it will have as much effect. It was fun though.

“Stewart’s somber, deeply boring speech, which lectured the press that it ought to ‘hold its magnifying glass up to our problems, bringing them into focus, illuminating issues heretofore unseen,’ was so trite and bland that it cannot be taken seriously even by not-serious people.”

So we ought not to take Mr. Stewart’s statement at all seriously, Mr. Tracy, but we should value your above polemic with all the respect of the Torah?

Son, on what do you base your rather intriguing postulate? And, secondly, what sort of weed had you been inhaling prior to and/or during the writing of this rather illogical piece?

Lotta John P. Normanson in you, kid, and it’s not pretty.

riain george says:

“Republican Jews make me ill & ashamed of their existence!”

This sort of hatred is appalling.

It is certainly not in the Jewish religious tradition – though the left seems to have created a new standard of political correctness, or maybe it is just the reappearance of Stalinism.

Please remember that in the US Bill of Rights we are all guaranteed freedom of speech and association.

Rebecca C says:

Great piece, Marc. Somebody had to rain on their parade. Congratulating yourself in witty ways for not being insane–which the vast majority of these ralliers would conflate with “not being Republican”–serves no other purpose than amuse one’s self and one’s friends. I like witty signs as much as the next person, but politics takes more grit than wit (see, I like this stuff too :) It’s rarely a “feel-good” affair. I have lots of friends who went to this, and I don’t think less of them for it, but this was not some great moment of political responsibility. If you went to have a good time and you had a good time, that’s swell, but this was for kicks.

Disappointing review, Marc. Of course, you went to cover the rally hoping to be disappointed. I, on the other hand, went to the Rally because the polarization of Americans makes me fear for my children’s future.
I met people from all over the country who felt the same way. And we were all rabid Democrats.

Stewart’s closing remarks about the incendiary nature of 24/7 cable news were magnificent. You probably did not hear it first hand as you left for the museum.

And nobody left early where I was sitting……

Joseph Rones says:

Marketing, marketing, marketing. The liberal/progressive movement has not discovered the catchy phrases that get the masses on their side. The arguments are too long and complicated. Second, the Obama administration has been unsuccessful in marketing its legislative successes. And, since it failed to get the “public option” enacted, the health care legislation will cost more. Hopefully, they’ll make some hay in the next year and a half. Otherwise, its back to the barbarians.

riain george

I guess sanity and moderation and tolerance are things you don’t believe in. Congratulation on proving my point. Libs like yourself are the least tolerant people out there.

Hi. I’m the Earthling. Thanks for noticing! I’m sorry you thought I was just trying to be witty. In fact, I was looking to state, as clearly as possible, my sincere belief that understanding the humanity of other people — a practice that seems to be simple yet surprisingly hard — is good for ourselves, for them, and for the overall us.

Gilbert klein says:

I just saw this magazine. I am Jewish and conservative. I hope this in not a partisan publication. If so, why such a biased main article. I find Jon Stewart extremely stupid and uninformed. Someone with deep issues relating to sociopathological behavior and narcissism. I would welcome something professional, jornalistic, inteligent. Should such an important topic receive a liberal back-room-discussion approach? Should I look forward to come back to or move on? (.org, put intended…)


Maayan says:

I was really looking forward to seeing coverage of the rally – but I was dissapointed like Marc. I didn’t think it would be just a party, with a weak speach to end it off, and it’s too bad that it was. If Stewart is just a comedian, sitting abouve the fray and lecturing the ‘bad’ pundits while poking fun at the actual content of America’s problems, he should stay in his studio. If he’s planning and producing mass rallies he needs to first, take himself more seriously, and second, connect to all these people with SOMETHING more than sanctimony, self-congratulation, jokes, and a whiney “why can’t we all get along”.
It’s a wierd position he put himself in: he want to take a stand, but he wants to cover his ass. He wants to be funny, but also wants to be influential. Wants to get the democratic vote out, but be completely bipartisan in public. Obviously this hedginess (or as Marc’s stronger term, hypocricy) actually rings hollow. Stewart, and people in my age group (cynical, liberal-ish, turtle-like, apolitical, post-whatever) need to remember that the political sphere is still very important – and not be afraid to articulate why, in which direction, and how we’ll make it happen.

M. Brukhes says:

I was at the rally and I’m glad I attended. What I think Marc Tracy fails to appreciate is the fact that the rally was really two events: as a “meta-textual post-modern media event,” it was conceived by television performers to be seen on television; we were the backdrop to a 3-hour long version of their nightly programs, amplified by a magnitude of 200. If all you came for was Stewart and Colbert’s jokes, you really would have been better off staying at home and watching it on TV. But at the same time, on the audience’s level, it was a great medieval pageant, and its theme was Hope Conquers Fear. That theme, incidentally, is the great narrative of American politics. If you fail to appreciate the multiplicity of the event–if you come only to see your own expectations satisfied–you missed the point completely.

Randall Mecham says:

I went to the rally and I knew going in that Stewart was not going to host an effective political event – that would threaten his ratings. So, my expectations were more “let’s enjoy a day on the Mall, and let Stewart use us for his ratings.” Nonetheless, I did expect a decent program – after all , it was only 2 1/2 hours. But – – It was Boring. Fun? Not so much. Humor? Sometimes, but rare. Entertainers? Third tier. Rally attendees? Some creative signs. Many folks appeared pretty bored. Logistics? Seen better at much-less-well-funded rallies on the Mall. Overall – – Stewart and Colbert benefitted more from this than did those attending or, for that matter, than did US politics generally.

Alexander Diamond says:

I nominate Marc Tracy for the Drivel Of The Year Award. Rarely do I see so many words strung together signifying nothing.

Less is more??? I want to enter dialogues inspired by the internet and its blog/article/essay potential, but can’t seem to make it past the stream of consciousness lack of editing. As I a poet, I’m an advocate of the creed, “best words, best order.” I think the meaning and message too often get lost in the verbiage, as was the case for me with Marc’s piece.

M Lite says:

The pundits seem to agree that the President has a “communications problem” and that there is a lot of misinformation; for example people think that taxes have gone up when in fact most working Americans received tax cuts as part of the stimulus (but didn’t notice because it was given paycheck by paycheck to increase spending power rather than in one lump sum). Maybe if the “traditional” media hadn’t spent the last two years so terrified of being called “liberal” that they parroted any insanity Fox News could concoct, hadn’t spent the last year and a half making out out the 20% Tea Party as the as the “voice of the people,” and spent a few hours of the precious 24-hour news cycle just reporting on President Obama’s dozens of speeches, town hall meetings, radio address and those of his administration, then he wouldn’t seem so elitist and out of touch. Maybe, if instead of focusing minute-by-minute on the legislative wrangling over healthcare, instead of giving credence to “death panels” and “NAZI SOCIALISM!!! and birth certificates, they had reported what sane analysts, the CBO, and Democrats were saying about healthcare, financial reform, and unfortunate but necessary bailouts and stimulus…maybe then the people who actually watch cable news would have a more fair and balanced perception. We don’t need an MSNBC Liberal alternative, but just straight reporting that doesn’t require a point-counterpoint for statements of fact (such as on the tax cut issue).

Really, this was the main message that Stewart chose to deliver to the crowd, and obviously the media doesn’t want to hear it. The “conservative” media refuses to report anything reflecting positively on the President, and the rest of the media is dancing to it’s tune. Absent a giant loudspeaker reaching all Americans, is this a failure to communicate by the President, or a failure of the Third Estate to actually report what matters, and for treating every issue as if it has two valid sides?

A.L. Bell says:

I went to the rally, and I think it was a lot of fun just to be part of a giant performance/conceptual art piece showing the hate mongers that we’re tired of them being hate mongers. Did it work? Probably not, but at least we said something.

I was also at the “rally” and agree that it could have been something more. Stewart stayed away from pulling punches, he avoided his typical Jewish references, and he refused to attack Fox News for fear of sound-bites. But let’s not be overly cynical.

First of all, most people could hear fine. More people turned out than expected and the sound was not adequate to reach the extra people.

Second, even if the rally wasn’t outstanding, it was still a “feel-good event” for those in attendance.

Third, it may be too soon to claim that the rally didn’t achieve anything. Jon Stewart is not a political figure- just a media figure who is frustrated with the extreme political rhetoric which is polarizing our system at a time when we truly can’t afford bickering. The US is engaged in two wars, a huge economic crisis, and decreasing global power. Our candidates are a retired mailman, prostitutes, witches, and businessmen without legislative experience. The political rhetoric has also spiraled out of control.

Stewart tried to raise awareness of this issue and bring the focus back to placating folks in the middle. His efforts were too late to impact the 2010 elections, but by assembling so large a crowd and taking the media focus off of the Tea Party for a few days, he highlighted a constituency which politicians in the soon-to-begin 2012 elections can now appeal to. He created facts on the ground. It is the job of the 2012 candidates to gain favor in the eyes of people like me who made the trek to Washington and stood on the mall for hours listening to a comedian speak more sensibly then our politicians.

Dorothy Wachsstock says:

Democrat Jews make me sick and ashamed of their inability to learn as the years have gone by. They put themselves in the position of when they grew up poor..but poor today is rich compared to other countrys.

I saw a new apt house apartment on NY 1 or some other station in New York for people on Welfare, and wish I could have had that place when we were poor. Now we give televisions, dishwasher, w/d to people on welfare plus 3 meals a day for their children and food stamps and if they are not working. they get 99 weeks of unemployment and earning income under a certain amount.

I am for helping the disabled, elderly and those that really try to work but 99 weeks of unemployment and we work and get taxed..why work?

I didn’t watch the rally..turned it on and Stewart was screaming and that was enough for me…it was only a large free comedic non comedy rally instead of holding our government to task for spending so much money that our children will have to pay off.

Liberal is no longer a decent word..for those who make comments that he did not make Jewish remarks..having never watched his program…glad he didn’t shame us conservative Jews more than elected Jews have done in the democrat party with the young Elmer Gantry (Pres. obama) running around the country and making speeches that are not true.

No honest reporters around anymore to call him on it. If the tea party doesn’t wake up the republicans now..they will disappear like the Twig party. Last chance, guys. Give us back our not tell us what to eat, when to wear a sweater, use certain dangerous bulbs and take back those small toilets that have to be flushed more than the old ones or we will flush you all down the drain.

Let’s hear it for the new America returning to values and common sense.

First, the essay was way too long for an electronic media; second, it had too many insider illusions to fights I know nothing about; and third, its cynical tone will lead nowhere, man, except to more cyncism.

My son went to it and had a great time. True, I was on those very marches in the 60s to Washington and the Pentagon, etc. Yes, we were more “ideological” then–maybe more focused; more angry at the war, poverty and racism plus we encountered as well police brutality.

Still, for my son’s and my daughter’s generation this was it. Could it have been better. Yea. Should you have had Howard Zinn, Abby Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Lee Weiner, and the Chicago 8 there–yea but they’re all dead except Lee.

You need your own leaders, young people, and your own way. I was proud of my son and at least parts of his generation of Xers (he’s 27), very proud. we had to stand up and oppose the Boehners, Hannitys, the Palins and Becks and Rands, et al and we did and we out drew them 4 to 1.

Less cynacism, Chuckles, please.

Jack Nusan Porter, Newton, Mass.

While I don’t agree with Tracy’s politics, I do agree that the Rally was a lost opportunity to motivate an entire generation of Americans to truly invest themselves in the political process and the future of our nation.

I do find it extremely funny, however, that Marc chose to rip apart Stewart’s brand of “hide behind my desk” humor while referring to the Tea Party as the group guilty of “mainstreaming malevolent silliness.”

Didn’t you just spend an entire article ripping on Stewart for doing exactly that?

Perhaps liberals need to stop blaming everyone else for their own faults, and take a good look in the mirror and ask themselves some hard questions like, “What motivates me, really?” When you can answer that, and the answer doesn’t involve blaming someone else for your problems or expecting someone else to come up with solutions for the quandaries we face as individuals and as a nation, perhaps then liberals will be able to go from a group of disorganized and disenchanted technocrats to an organized group of motivated individuals devoted to an actual cause.

But that’s only my own conservative opinion.

OF8562 says:

Hes a comedian. Patting himself on the back is what he does for a living. Get over yourselves.

Ken Besig, Israel says:

I find Jon Stewart to be tedious and repetitive. Much if not all of his supposed humor is confined to ridiculing people, practically always conservative politicians or religious leaders, and worse, much of his alleged humor is coarse, tasteless, and mean spirited. I am disturbed that some of his more grotesque and really sick attacks on Sarah Palin and her family actually result in laughter from his audience. I have to ask myself what sort of sick cretins get joy or pleasure from Stewart’s twisted ridicule a young girls out of wedlock pregnancy or a Down’s Syndrome child. As a Jew I am embarrassed by Jon Stewart and very concerned that the greater non Jewish American public might take Jon as some sort of poster child for Judaism, which I can assure you he definitely is not!

taylorco says:

mr besig..most folk simply look at stewart for what he is, just another side show barker trying to get the passerbys to come inside to where the oddities perform.

Ken Besig, Israel says:

Taylorco, good point!

Cynthia says:

All you middle-income conservatives will not see your lot improved under the Republicans, who don’t need you anymore–they’ve got the 1% of the population who own 24% of the national income and still want more to support. Their agenda includes extending the Bush tax cuts to the wealthiest 2% of Americans. While the richest would get $61,000 in cuts from Obama, they will get $350,000 from the Republicans–good going teabaggers! And rich people don’t have to spend their money, so it does not provide a stimulus to the economy. Companies are buying back their stock to increase its value, instead of hiring people, when they can. Congratulations! While the President is trying to get India to buy American-made goods to increase employment here, the corporations continue to move overseas!

I am grateful to Jon Stewart for making it at all possible for me to find some humor and hope and compassion in the current state of affairs. I think the rally was perfect. A breath of sanity. If only our political leaders would learn from it. The bigger quandry is how could the American electorate forget what got us into this mess and vote them all back in again? Even Jon Stewart can’t explain that

DCmenina says:

thanks Marc for the most sane take I’ve seen so far on the rally. You hit the nail on the head – I’ve been deeply irritated/disappointed/annoyed with the rally since it was announced – moderation is not a useful goal if you care about social change. And I can’t believe what he said about voting – although I guess I shouldn’t be surprised since the man did decide to hold a rally the weekend before midterms with the message that basically being politically active is tres unhip.

As a new reader of Tablet, and if Marc Tracy’s View of Jon Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity, is A New Read on Jewish Life, his article “Chuckles” made me CRY. For me Jon Stewart’s summation was a call for unity, and not the Fear so many liberals now exhibit.

If anyone from Tablet Magazine or mostly Marc Tracy wrote a review of Glenn Becks call from GOD, at his revival meeting, I would know the position of Tablet. Please any reader tell me the Tablet issue to find Beck’s BS.REVIEW !
Sy, Fort Lee NJ

Fear was liberals

Marc Tracy |

Kevin MN says:

I have to laugh every time someone equates the Republicans with the Nazis, as several above have done.

The word NAZI is an abbreviation of the German word Nationalsozialismus, the German National Socialist Movement. A Marxist, or Leftist dogma. The brown-shirts were not right-wingers at all. They were closer to their Russian brethren, the Communists, than the Capitalistic Americans.

So, if you’re going to resort to name-calling, at least get it right.

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Jon Stewart’s ‘Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear’ was a wasted opportunity for liberals