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Is Jon Stewart Good for the GOP?

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Is Jon Stewart good for the Republicans?

Anyone who doesn't live in a house with rotary phones and no cable knows that the host of "The Daily Show" is organizing a Rally to Restore Sanity in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 30. (The day before Halloween -- a coincidence? I think not.) Stewart's battle cry is simple: "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." Though he doesn't call it such, this demonstration is a response to angry Tea Party gatherings of the past year or so and Glenn Beck's whatever-it-was in Washington on Aug. 28. And as part of the joke -- I mean, strategic plan -- Stephen Colbert will be holding a "Keep Fear Alive" counter-march on the same day.

Without one foot yet hitting the National Mall, Stewart's plan is a whopping success. As of Sunday night, over 186,000 people had signed up to attend on the rally's Facebook site. Another 100,000 said "maybe." (Perhaps they're waiting to see who the guests are going to be.) The Facebook page is full of notes from enthusiastic Stewartites readying for their trip to D.C. Washington hotels report bookings for that weekend are way up. And Oprah has endorsed the rally, tweeting to her followers, "I think Jon Stewart's on to something. . . . Would you consider going?" (To which the rally's Twitter feed responded, "@Oprah we are trying to remain reasonable, rational and clam. But it is very tough when you mention our rally.") And Stewart, who had arranged to do a week of shows from D.C. at the end of October before announcing the rally, is guaranteed a ratings whopper before the event kicks off.

Stewart is a comic genius and one of the most sharp-eyed political satirists and news media critics in decades. (Ditto, ditto, and ditto for Colbert) If Stewart can draw 200,000-plus people to D.C. (with or without Colbert), this will be a significant cultural moment. ("Think of our event as Woodstock, but with the nudity and drugs replaced by respectful disagreement," the march's call says.) It will further twist, blur, or emulsify the lines that supposedly distinguish real media from faux media, and real politics from for-show politics. ("America Is a Joke," was the title of a recent New York magazine profile of Stewart.) But though Stewart's rally could end up a valuable moment by presenting a potent counter to Beckism, let me suggest another concurrent possibility: It could be useful for Republicans.

Stewartpalooza is happening the weekend before the critical congressional elections. It will suck up plenty of media attention -- and resources. Think of all the people who will be coming -- and the time and money it will take them to plan the trip and to travel to and from the nation's capital. These folks are likely to be more sympathetic to Democrats than Republicans, despite Stewart's skewer-'em-all approach. So if the pro-sanity crowd is packing bags and heading to Washington on the last weekend prior to the elections, these people won't be knocking on doors or making phone calls to get out the vote for Democratic candidates.

Certainly, if many of moderate-as-hell demonstrators hail from congressional districts where the Democratic candidates are likely to win (say, anywhere in Manhattan), there's no real harm done. But if Stewart draws bodies from toss-up districts -- and provides an outlet for citizens who might otherwise be persuaded to do grassroots political work at home -- Republican strategists will be delighted. Moreover, one can expect President Obama to be barnstorming that last weekend and promoting a forceful case against the Republicans. Stewartstock will compete for precious media time with the president. And what will the rally's overall message be? Something like "Enough already"? As much as that might resonate with many Americans, such a call might not do much to motivate voters to hit the polls the following Tuesday. Stewart obviously is a progressive-minded fellow, but how far can he go in pushing a message -- after all, this is comedy, right? -- that helps the Democrats at the last minute?

When Colbert testified before Congress recently, he was masterful -- as a postmodern (or post-O'Reilly) reality-curving humorist. His appearance was a rather sophisticated send-up of American politics. At the same time, he attempted to register a sincere point about the plight of immigrant workers. Ultimately, Colbert the comic ended up competing with Colbert the advocate. Yes, he did bring attention to a subcommittee hearing that was otherwise destined for no notice. But that attention focused on whether Colbert as "Colbert" had brought the right sort of attention to the hearing.

The dynamics of the Stewart/Colbert rallies could be similar. With this event, Stewart is using satire to advance a serious case, but he has to play it for laughs. Come the end of October, the Democrats will be doing everything they can to hold on to the House and beat back an anti-incumbent surge beneficial to the Republicans. Anything that distracts or gets in the way could hamper that effort. And the Republicans end up laughing the most.

But no matter what happens, everyone attending the Rally to Restore Sanity is invited to my house afterward for coffee and cake.

By the way, David Corn has never been a guest on "The Daily Show" . . . and he doubts this column will earn him a booking. But you can follow his postings and media appearances via

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Mr. Corn,Your comments though accurate are totally inconsequential.Check history.1776 revolution.. 1812 spanish war..1861 Civil war.1898 spanish and 1960 war of civil rights.Every 60 years or so..we have a War on our turff this cycle was birth..expansion..identity.. expansion identity..not a foreign war but right here..and we are do again in 2018 plus or minus 5 yrs..since this cycle makes a nice circle..The next war will be a revolutionary war again a rebirth if you will....The people taking america away from the power structures..the corporations and its puppets in Washington."Let them eat cake" comes to mind.This means the Republicans will most likely take office pass all thier tax cuts for the rich and deregulate everything in sight and basically turn this country into a two class system.Those that have everything and those that have nothing.So start polishing your guiotine.

November 06 2010 at 2:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I don't have a rotary phone and I do have cable TV, and, I have canceled my newspaper. I have never watched Jon Stewart,Oprah,Letterman,CBS,ABC, or NBC. I get my news from reliable internet sources and read politics daily to find out what the talking points the democrat's are using today and try and find an objective report enumerating the virtues of the present administration. So far the effort has been fruitless. Hope and change isn't working for me.

October 14 2010 at 11:20 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
dc walker

I remember when the president of Mexico came to the Congress and called Americans racist and the Democrats stood up to applaud. I saw our president file suit against the peoples of Arizona when they tried to protect THEIR homeland and then turn around and filed a complaint with the United Nations commission on human rights against Arizona. A complaint that will be viewed by the countries of Cuba, No. Korea, Iran and Venezuela and I decided that although the Republicans have had their problems the actions of this administration in bribes and suits makes me sick.

October 10 2010 at 7:45 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply

Once again Mr.Corn makes me think and appreciate his point of view. Perhaps I will take my cane, and go out for a little bit, on behalf of the American right to self determination. Granny takes on the corperate voice? I am not a Clampet, nor am I alone. LOL Again thank you Politics Daily for hosting Mr. Corn, and Mr. Corn always a pleasure.

October 08 2010 at 10:58 PM Report abuse -5 rate up rate down Reply

I think this will end up being a very productive, significant event. Sure, it'll be fun, and full of satire! But it won't be ALL fun and games-- Stewart is eloquent and insightful when speaking seriously, and I think the rally will be a good platform to encourage more civility and attention to facts in the public discourse.

October 07 2010 at 3:57 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

After reading through some of the comments, I realize that alot of people are "missing the point" when it comes to Stewerts rally. Key word here is SANITY !!!!! Which is something you NEVER hear come out of the Tea Party's rather like a contest to see which one can sound the most insane, or define the meaning of the word "idiot". I would be embarrassed to even "think" about voting for any one of these pathetic losers.

October 07 2010 at 12:14 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

Will Rogers, Sam Clemens...ring a bell?..didn't think so...That's what comes from getting your history lessons from glen beck..Stewart is in the mold of the great political satirists and so is Colbert..He stood up to george and laura and confronted them about the disaster/mission accomplished in Iraq...Wonder what happened to our economy? Trillion blown in the wrong war..Keep laughing folks... but crack a book, turn off fox, rupert ,roger and their Saudi Prince/owner..or watch'em and roar at the imbecility like me..

October 06 2010 at 11:38 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

Angry Tea Party gatherings????? Wonder why everyone isnt pissed this country is going to HELL!!! Wake up people before we are living like Venazuala!!! Are you not watching what Hugo is doing to that country, you better get pissed real fast before we are no longer a FREE NATION!!!! Keep up the sincere good work Glen Beck and the Tea Party!!!! Long live America the home of the Brave, not the blind followers!!!

October 06 2010 at 9:29 AM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Lisa's comment

Hmmmm I haven't noticed that the US is no longer a free nation. Without sound bites and unproven generalizations, I don't think most people feel we have given up our "freedoms". Seems like more and more with the financial and logistical support of the tea party by big business, they are the ones that have lost their freedom to speak of the real issues that they are concerned about. Those issues have become lost to the billionares that are pushing the agenda their way.

October 07 2010 at 11:48 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

BULLONEY. The Tea Partiers had their rally; and from the footage I saw of it, no tanks, troops or police confronted it. No secret police took pictures of the people there, to identify them for death squads; and no one "disappeared" several days later into an abandoned mine shaft, or the Atlantic or Pacific, or into the Great Lakes. Unlike in countries where conservatives took over, viz. Argentina, South Korea and Chile under the generals, apartheid South Africa, Guatemala, etc. In November this country has a choice: Between Hope And Change and NO Hope And Business As Usual. But no matter how the vote goes it'll be decided by the ballot, not the bullet, unlike in the above named. LOL "Venazuala". Two words: SPELL CHECK.

October 10 2010 at 1:31 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

It's a sad state of affairs when an entertainer presumes to speak to people about important issues, and even more disturbing that anyone would actually take him seriously. Beck presents an argument that people can check for themselves and verify. He calls people to get active, get involved, and try to make a difference, which is at least constructive. Stewart has no credibility because his whole comedy routine is critical, negative, and insulting. There's nothing "genius" about being a self-righteous armchair critic - any talking head can do that. He just adds to the negativity. We don't need that.

October 06 2010 at 8:01 AM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
5 replies to stz66's comment

Does anyone realize that the reason, (Americans from every walk of life), the, "Tea Party", even exists? They are average citizens that are alarmed at the over spending, over taxing and disregard of the Constitution that the present administration is doing. This includes mostly Democrats but a fair share of Republicans in Congress as well. If a citizen of this country can't comprehend that our country can not sustain the current rate of debt without going bankrupt in the next 10 years, they are just not facing reality. I think that we all would like to be able to provide all the needs of everyone but there are names for that type of government which are Communism and Socialism. These two types of government have failed everytime that they have been tried. They usually evolve into a dictatorship as witnessed by Venezula and Cuba. It all boils down to what you want for the future of our county. If you will take off your "Idealistic" glasses and consentrate on cause and effect along with a little world history you will realize the direction that we are presently headed. Once again, thank you AOL for posting the view points from only one side which shows where your allegence lies.

October 06 2010 at 7:13 AM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to wcfla55's comment
Alyssa McCarthy

You do realize that your veiled insinuation that people like me who don't agree with you don't critically think about the state of the world affairs or know historical facts is vastly insulting and very unlikely to get me to consider your opinion as the truth?

October 08 2010 at 10:26 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

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