I’m back in New York today, rallying to restore lost sleep after one of the more exhausting weekends I’ve had — and trying to wrap my head around around the politically inspired Halloween-themed media critique that was Saturday’s Colbert/Stewart event. I’ve been to Washington, DC countless times but the crowd the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear drew on Saturday completely transformed the city. Cellphones become unusable; the Metro shut down (the DC transit authority reported 825,000 trips, more than double its usual load); the crowd stretched on as far as the eye could see. Subversive but anodyne, “cool” but family-friendly, it was really more of a polite, ironic spectacle than a politically charged rally.
Because I was on assignment, I missed most of the live speeches and performances (I caught up online late last night). But working my way through the crowds to shoot photos, I got a good feel for the sideshow. And what an civil, reasonable sideshow it was — the outlandish costumes and pithy slogans couldn’t mask an underlying earnestness. When I finally watched Jon’s main speech, what stood out to me was its guilelessness:
Most Americans don’t live their lives solely as Democrats, Republicans, liberals or conservatives. Americans live their lives more as people that are just a little bit late for something they have to do. Often something they do not want to do! But they do it. Impossible things, every day, that are only made possible through the little, reasonable compromises we all make.
It would be disingenuous to overlook the fact that Stewart/Colbert fans are overwhelmingly Democratic. But a celebration of “little reasonable compromises” isn’t exactly what one would expect as a party rallying cry on the eve of midterm elections. Coming from a political satirist, the talk of compromise and rationality was especially disarming. Capturing votes (and legislative seats) takes — and creates — one kind of power. But capturing a national mood and moment has a power of its own.
photo by me: soundbites suck! at the Rally to Restore Sanity