It's "Fear!" v. "Simmer Down." Satirists Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert will hold competing and complimentary marches on Washington just days before the November elections, breaking the fourth wall and inserting themselves directly into the political debate in a way that might influence the November elections.
Appearing on each other's shows tonight, the two men portrayed the 10/30 marches as representing the true divide in American politics: Stewart's march is for people who want to "take it down a notch for America." Colbert's march is about "freaking out for fear," he said, because there are a lot of things to fear. Although Stewart's politics are left of center, his video montage of fear-mongers included Democrats who believe that President Bush was Hitler-esque and radical leftists who believe that 9/11 was an inside job.
Stewart and Colbert have disclaimed any interest in participating in politics. But the timing, and message, are undeniably political -- and not helpful to conservatives. Audiences for both shows tend to be younger and more liberal than the older, conservative independents who watch Fox News. The events were conceived as a response of sorts to Glenn Beck's recent "Restoring Honor" rally, which drew as much as 100,000 conservatives to the Washington mall on the anniversary of Marlin Luther King's historical speech. I'd imagine that these rallies will draw counter-rallies, and that smart conservative folks will try to incorporate them in a way that helps Republicans as well.
Depending on how the media covers the run-up to these rallies, Stewart and Colbert could generate interest and enthusiasm among the type of voters who have so far been turned off by the independent conservative resurgence.
Stewart's web site includes this essay:
"I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore!"
Who among us has not wanted to open their window and shout that at the top of their lungs?
Because we're looking for those people. We're looking for the people who think shouting is annoying, counterproductive, and terrible for your throat; who feel that the loudest voices shouldn't be the only ones that get heard; and who believe that the only time it's appropriate to draw a Hitler mustache on someone is when that person is actually Hitler. Or Charlie Chaplin in certain roles.
Are you one of those people? Excellent. Then we'd like you to join us in Washington, DC on October 30 -- a date of no significance whatsoever -- at the Daily Show's "Rally to Restore Sanity." Ours is a rally for the people who've been too busy to go to rallies, who actually have lives and families and jobs (or are looking for jobs) -- not so much the Silent Majority as the Busy Majority. If we had to sum up the political view of our participants in a single sentence... we couldn't. That's sort of the point.
Colbert, in his tongue-in-cheek-Fox News-y fear-mongering mode, describes his rally this way:
America, the Greatest Country God ever gave Man, was built on three bedrock principles: Freedom. Liberty. And Fear -- that someone might take our Freedom and Liberty. But now, there are dark, optimistic forces trying to take away our Fear -- forces with salt and pepper hair and way more Emmys than they need. They want to replace our Fear with reason. But never forget -- "Reason" is just one letter away from "Treason." Coincidence? Reasonable people would say it is, but America can't afford to take that chance.