Comedy Central funnymen Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert recently unveiled their plans for dueling, satirical Washington rallies on October 30. But October 30 is the Saturday before midterm elections! Shouldn't America's wiseasses be campaigning for Democrats, instead of attending this?
Some Democratic operatives are worried that the possible 100,000+ attendees to Stewart's "March to Restore Sanity" and Colbert's "March to Keep Fear Alive" could distract these young ironists from doing what they'd supposedly be doing otherwise: helping Democrats win elections, with get-out-the-vote volunteering in tough districts! The weekend before elections is, quite obviously, "get-out-the-vote weekend." But now all of these kids might be going to see the comedy show in Washington instead!
Ben Smith talks to one such operative:
"Midterm elections are about turnout and as has widely been reported, there is an intensity gap in this election, with the Republican base more motivated than the Democrats'. Some of that gap can be closed with an aggressive ground campaign — we can make up 2-3% in a given race by talking to people at their doors and on their phones," emails veteran labor Democratic consultant Steve Rosenthal. "I love Jon Stewart — rarely miss the show, but to the extent that some people who will attend his rally would otherwise be involved in GOTV efforts this is not helpful."
Of course! Because it's Jon Stewart's job to help the Democrats with field operations. Perhaps he didn't read this segment of his contract?
Other Democrats are irritated that the Stewart/Colbert rallies are getting publicized as the major response to Glenn Beck's boring "Restoring Honor" rally, when labor and other Democratic institutions had already planned a response for October 2, called the One America rally. These are people rallying about actual concerns, after all, such as jobs or health care or education. Wouldn't you be annoyed if your earnest plan for political protest was now being overshadowed by a couple of satirists and their droves of college kids?
This isn't Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert's problem. But as the Nation's Chris Hayes tells Ben Smith, the fact that left-leaning young people can get more excited about satirical rallies this year instead of real ones about real political concerns seems problematic:
First: It's hard to imagine lots of democratic politicians showing up to a left equivalent of Glenn Beck's rally (and I wonder how many will be at the *actual* progressive march on October 2nd), but more than that is puts our current ideological predicament in stark terms. On the right, a large, well-funded, organized, ideologically zealous movement dedicated to a genuinely reactionary vision of America. On the other side? A very gifted satirist calling for everyone to just chill. If I landed here from Mars and took this in and was asked to bet on who's going to have more political success, it would be a no-brainer.
The Mars alien would just have to look at the 10% unemployment rate and the party in power to reach this no-brainer conclusion, though. The preference among many young Democrat-supporting voters for ironic activism over realistic activism speaks to that.