I’m a fan don’t get me wrong. Jon Stewart’s and Stephen Colbert’s political takedowns through satiric jiu-jitsu have not just been rip-roaring but somewhat mission critical for many liberals and progressives. But I also think their planned Rally to Restore Sanity for this Saturday in DC requires all-too-little expectation adjustment. The fatal blind spot in Stewart’s Rally is not, as Timothy Noah from Slate fears, that it is too political (for Noah, the event potentially incurs a Tea Tantrum reaction from the right,) but rather that it shines blatantly of simulated politics. The event will simply be, in more Baudrillardean lingo, a “non-event” of mass proportions. It will gain media attention, of course. But it will more likely only confirm the political anemia afflicting thousands of activists who can somehow occasionally manage to muster up the energy and wherewithal to mobilize “the grassroots” only to articulate vague, sophomoric, and ultimately cowardly platitudes. (“I MAY DISAGREE WITH YOU BUT I’M PRETTY SURE YOU’RE NOT HITLER!”) As Daniel Denvir wrote last month,
“the Rally to Restore Sanity repeats the liberal establishment’s greatest error: when Republicans go on attack — either at home with lies or abroad with bombs — hunker down somewhere in the middle and plead for civility.”
Needless to say, it also repeats the flawed Hopeful strategy of Obama and the Democrats who have over the last two years conceded too much, too early, while foregoing more combative stances in policy and rhetoric against the GOP. (Prolly just a coincidence, you know the whole thing, something for the DVD extras.)
Leaving aside the obvious question whether the planned turnout this Saturday could have been mobilized in a more politically effective way, say, on Wall St., (just think, “The Rally to Restore Responsibility,”) there is also the more glaring fallacy of false equivalencies which the rally is predicated on. As Rizvi Qureshi asks,
“Are partisan pundits, tea partiers, leftist activists, members of the House, and architects of GOP politics all equally lacking in sanity? These actors are all so disparate in their nature, power, and aspirations that Stewart's attempt to dub them all as a threat to the stability of the nation is puzzling, and appears to be more a product of his fatigue with American politics than a compelling grievance.”
Of course, one could imagine that the absolutely heee-larious “million moderate march” on Washington may help Democrats at the polls despite Stewart’s and Colbert’s silence on this explicitly partisan issue. But, as already reported, the rally may actually come to hurt the Democrats on election day by being a distraction. (Who knew!) More importantly, it must be said that what Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity will certainly not demonstrate to liberals and progressives is that a little mob rule, if coordinated and voiced the right way, can actually go a long way.