Comedian Jon Stewart's "Restoring Sanity" rally pokes fun at overzealous political activism, but it's hard not to see how it doesn't attack the Right more than it attacks the Left. After all, "Restoring Sanity" is a direct play on Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" event just a few weeks ago, and the format of Stewart's event is taken directly from the tea party rallies held over the past year or so.
Should tea-partying conservatives actually take offense?
It depends who you talk to.
“What these guys are about isn’t so different than what we are about,” said Adam Brandon, vice president of communications for FreedomWorks, which was responsible for organizing the 9/12 rally as well as helping mobilize for Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” event. “I would guess if you polled these guys, they’re not that excited about higher taxes or bigger government. So even if there’s some anti-tea party stuff there, perhaps there are some commonalities.”
That opinion is quite different than the one expressed by Sally Oljar, a national coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots, a limited-government grassroots activist group that has assisted with several events over the past year.
“I am reminded of Gandhi's advice: ‘First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win.’ Mr. Stewart and Mr. Colbert are comics and do not address issues substantively,” said Oljar. “Mockery is a tactic, not an answer. They are desperate to stop the change that's coming – the showdown, so to speak.”
The event on October 30 is expected to draw upwards of 60,000 people, and will feature a counter-rally from comedy host Stephen Colbert, who is spoofing Stewart’s spoof with his own “Restoring Fear” campaign. Stewart has suggested signs such as "9/11 Was An Outside Job,” and "I'm Not Afraid of Muslims, Tea Partiers, Socialists, Immigrants, Gun Owners or Gays, But I am Kind of Scared of Spiders."
Those sorts of signs didn’t really hit Seton Motley’s funny bone. Motley is the President of Less Government, a nonprofit group in D.C.
“One of the premises of this Jon Stewart-Stephen Colbert pseudo-Woodstock is to denigrate to the tea party movement and conservatives,” said Motley. “Their calling it a rally to ‘restore’ sanity implies that the TEA Party and Glenn Beck rallies have been un-sane.”
Other conservatives insisted that there was nothing to be afraid of – that the event was simply capitalizing on something for raw economic benefit.
“People will show up for a free show anytime there is a celebrity involved. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert figured out how much the Restore Honor rally boosted Glenn Beck and figure they could do the same thing,” said Judson Phelps, head of Tea Party Nation, who has held various tea party activist events throughout the year. “I think it is more of a joke than a political rally, but whatever floats their boat!”
Dean Nelson, head of the Fredrick Douglass Foundation, took an approach similar to Colbert’s when giving his take on “Restoring Sanity” – that is, he combined skepticism with humor.
“I am proud to live in a country that could produce or attract comedians as clever and entertaining as Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert,” said Nelson. “Although I personally plan to be involved with get out the vote efforts, I can think of no better way for liberals to spend the weekend before the election than attending this fine event."