The day has finally come for the Rally to Restore Sanity sponsored by Jon Stewart of ‘The Daily Show’ and/or Fear sponsored by Stephen Colbert of ‘The Colbert Report.’ It is 10/30/10, and as I type this, the stage is set up in front of the U.S. Capitol, the massive video screens are being tested and the port-a-potties have been lined up on both sides. There’s a smart-phone app available for it, and we know from some leaked info that Jeff Tweedy of Wilco will be playing with Mavis Staples, as well as Sheryl Crow and The Roots, and Eddie Izzard has tweeted about showing up as well. But no matter what happens on stage, what’s going to make or break the event is the people that have pledged to show up.
There are over 200,000 sign-ups on Facebook, but there’s no telling if that includes the local broadcast events being held in other cities or not. It’s illegal for anyone to camp out overnight for the show, but after the sun set over Washington D.C., people were showing up to take pictures of the stage as its set up was being finished. I hobnobbed around the folks there and asked about what drew them out to the nation’s capital for this, and there was certainly some diversity of perspectives coming together in this plea for a national chill pill.
“The small minority in this country are given so much press,” one woman – an avowed Democrat – told me. “Sarah Palin does a tweet, it’s freakin’ national news. So, after a while, you watch this enough, you start to think ‘god, is this really what is happening? Am I the minority?’ An event like this when Jon Stewart’s saying ‘you know what, we’re going to represent 80 percent of this country,’ it really brings back how much more say we have than we’re being brainwashed into thinking we don’t. We’re being talked down.”
That’s not to say there isn’t a little partisanship floating around, as she also quoted an unidentified Kennedy as saying “a Republican is an uneducated Democrat.” A quick bit of Google searching has been unable to confirm that as a quote anyone has said.
Another woman who described herself as “pretty conservative” told me “I came out because I honestly think this is going to be a really fascinating event seeing all these people come together. I’m from Boston, and my flight came in today and I was talking with a woman and her daughter-in-law, and they’re radically different women from myself from Ohio, and the fact that we can see eye to eye on this is kind of intense. People from all sorts of strains are being brought together on one level playing field called the rally. I’m digging that.”
A woman from Poland by way of New Jersey said she was a big fan of the shows. “I watch the programs, both of them, religiously. It’s my news source – I also watch BBC and that’s about it. I don’t watch American newscasts. I think they talk about issues that American programs don’t talk about. I just think it’s an amazing thing that all these people that think kind of like us are here and it’s just going to be a cool place to be to show support for maybe a little normalcy, you know?”
Some folks cited some spite for Glenn Beck’s rally as one of the factors. A young man from Canada joked that he was more for Colbert’s ‘Fear’ angle on the rally, saying “I’m more interested in American politics than Canadian politics, just because it’s more divisive and more interesting. Seriously, I heard Jon Stewart was holding a rally, and I had my ticket booked. I’m a huge fan, and I”m not a fan of Glenn Beck holding massive rallies.”
“I want to outdraw Glenn Beck,” another guy told me. “I also thought that the concept of a rally for moderates was a really, really interesting concept and idea. I’m from Florida and we get a lot of the left and the right fighting. It took me a while to figure out if it was a joke or not, but either way I wanted to be part of it.”
One man told me he came out from Washington state to be here out of frustration. “I personally needed to see a bunch of people who are rational. My work takes me all over the country, I’ve worked in a lot of different states and I’ve seen a lot of crazy people, and I find myself amongst them a lot. The idea of a gathering of rational, sensible people just needs to happen. I needed it. I needed it!”
One woman came up from Atlanta, citing how much the two hosts have done for keeping people interested in what’s going on in their country. “I think Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have revived interest in politics today through the youth. We couldn’t come here for Obama’s inauguration so this was the next best thing.”
Another woman who had never been to any kind of rally before said the concept was what brought her out. “Honestly, just the concept of restoring sanity. I’m semi-into politics – not that I’d want to run for office, but just watching it and understanding what’s happening in my country. It seems like the news is dominated by people with these radical points of view running around claiming that they speak for all of America, and they don’t. I feel that because of this rhetoric, we can’t have an intelligent discourse on doing constructive things for the future of our country. It’s about partisanship, but what’s the right thing to do? You should do the right thing regardless of your party, and I think that’s what we’ve gotten away from. So I’m hoping that this rally makes a statement – let’s stop all the crap and get back to real work and doing real things.”
Her friend echoed her sentiment, although admitted she barely ever even watches either ‘The Daily Show’ or ‘The Colbert Report,’ which is a great sign for the overall theme of the rally. “It’s okay for everybody to have differences of opinion. That’s what makes America great, but it’s just become really, really nasty. It’s become insane. What are we teaching kids? Just how to belittle each other? Differences are good and ideas are great. That’s what we’re about. Hopefully, most Americans are sane. For the most part, we’re honest, working people who want the best, but sometimes certain people who are the loudest get more attention. Hopefully this shows that hey, most of us just want to make the country a better place – and the world, for that matter.”