“Interviews with some of the tens of thousands of people expected to attend suggest that they want a message, not a simple comedy show

“‘To me, Stewart is almost saying, it’s so ludicrous that Glenn Beck has done this on the same spot as Martin Luther King that I can show how ludicrous it is by getting people to come from all over the country to watch me tell some jokes,’ said Joe Cutbirth, an assistant professor of journalism at the University of British Columbia (who, like Ms. Feldman, is traveling to Washington for the rally).”

***
“There may be no clear message and few details about what exactly is supposed to happen, but with tens of thousands of people expected to attend Saturday’s Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert rally, progressive groups are piggybacking on the action.

“Abortion-rights supporters, marijuana fans, environmental activists, government watchdogs and the Democratic National Committee all will be cruising the Mall and spreading their messages in the hopes of winning hearts, minds and votes three days before Election Day.”

***
“The dynamic duo of Comedy Central seem to have a similar Woodstocky vibe in mind — with fun and music — but they are also entering uncharted territory by seeming to elevate ironic detachment to the level of a political manifesto. One danger is that a rally that doesn’t meet the sky-high expectations of 200,000 attendees could undercut the hard-won reputations of both Stewart and Colbert for using comedy to speak truth to power in a way that traditional journalism has failed to do over the last decade. But a bigger issue is treating the challenges of 2010 — from rising poverty to unending war in Afghanistan to global warming, which are every bit as serious as those confronted on the National Mall in 1894 or 1963 or 1969 — with little more than humor and intellectual distance.

“When King and his fellow marchers returned home from the Mall to the Deep South 47 years ago, they knew they faced nightsticks or worse on the rocky road toward the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Today, the challenge facing rallygoers is, as Stewart suggests, asking ‘the sitter if she can stay a few extra hours, just this once.’

“Ultimately, it will be those kids at home who learn the history of whether 2010 was just an autumn of harmless entertainment or the throes of a nation amusing itself to death.”

***
“For all their iconoclasm, Stewart and his sidekick-in-sanity, Stephen Colbert, calculate to honor mainstream liberal pieties. Daily, Stewart shores up caustically the conventional wisdom of a moderate-left orthodoxy, scolding what are perceived to be the extremes, almost invariably of the right, in a fiesta of self-congratulation.

“Stewart’s overt message is that those who embrace his Daily Show orthodoxy are part of a tribe that transcends the idiocies of our age, a tribe that is lucid, cool, and discerning—in a word, ‘sane.’ Joy Behar is, by this token, sane. Most Republicans, by definition, are not. As for Americans who espouse the Tea Party in any way: Why, they’re overwrought, moonstruck psychos; in a word, insane…

“All of this, of course, could give rise to a novel explanation on November 3, after the results of the elections are in. I look forward to Stewart saying, on his show, that the Democrats lost in large numbers because ‘America is insane.’ And then he, and others like him, can take elegant consolation in their sanity.”

***
“We found out our neighbor was, a gentleman who was upset he hadn’t been to Woodstock, and wanted to make up for lost time.

“As people began to realize the plane was filled with nothing but rally goers, no joke, we all cheered, spontaneously. The flight had much more energy than usual – loads of people chatting about Jon Stewart, politics, etc. It seemed most people on the flight were baby boomers. After all, who else is going to have the time and money to fly themselves in from Minnesota?

“When we landed, a woman shouted, ‘Sanity has just landed in DC!’ and we all burst out in cheers and applause.”

***
Click the image to listen.