Stewart, Colbert to host D.C. rally on 10/30

STEWART, COLBERT TO HOST D.C. RALLY ON 10/30…. A couple of weeks ago, when Jon Stewart said on “The Daily Show” that he was planning some kind of announcement, I thought he was kidding. It sounded like a joke: “I, Jon Stewart, am announcing that I will have an announcement sometime.”

As it turns out, he was serious. Last night, Stewart announced he will host the “Rally To Restore Sanity” on the Washington Mall on October 30. The central message of the event, which Stewart also characterized as the “Million Moderate March,” will be “Take It Down A Notch — For America.” Featured signs will include reasonable maxims, such as, “I Disagree With You, But I’m Pretty Sure You’re Not Hitler.”

Shortly thereafter, Stephen Colbert announced he, too, would hold a rally at the same place at the same time. Keeping with his on-air persona, Colbert labeled his event the “March To Keep Fear Alive.”

It sounds like fun, and if I had to guess, I’d say turnout should be pretty strong. Watching Stewart and Colbert, it didn’t seem as if any kind of specific agenda would be pushed — only the notion that the American mainstream shouldn’t be drowned out by extremists.

For what it’s worth, my only concern here is one that I often hear in the media — the notion that the left and right are equally crazy, and the fringes are driving their respective parties’ agendas. That strikes me as a mistaken assumption. Republicans really have moved sharply to the far-right and allowed extremists to call the shots, while Truthers and Code Pink have no meaningful influence whatsoever in Democratic politics.

But by all appearances, this has nothing to do with partisanship, and everything to do with restoring some sense of sanity to our public discourse. It’s a notion I heartily endorse, and hope desperately is successful.

It’s also worth noting, of course, that the event will be held on Oct. 30, which just so happens to be a few days before the midterms. Ideally, those hoping to elect sensible, reasonable officials to key public offices would be spending that Saturday canvassing and working in support of mainstream candidates’ campaigns. That said, a rally like this one, especially if it’s well attended, will likely get sane voters’ attention, spark some excitement among younger voters (who often don’t vote in midterms), and encourage more reasonable folks to care about what’s at stake three days later.

As for turnout, Glenn Beck’s shindig drew 87,000 people. I’d be surprised if Comedy Central went to great lengths to coordinate efforts to boost attendance (organizing buses, for example), but here’s guessing Stewart and Colbert can generate an even bigger audidence.