Stewart-Colbert Rally: Could There Be Long-Term Political Implications?

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No. Wait, maybe? Probably not?

Someday, years from now, when NewsFeed is old and graying we will bounce our children upon our knee and tell them a story about how back in 2010, long before they were born, thousands of people showed up to a march on Washington held by two TV comedians to protest, well, to protest nothing and everything all at once. They will maybe not believe us, because we will not be able to explain how exactly it came to this, how a former stand-up comic and a former improv actor became two of the most respected public figures in the country. (This will be the future, assume we don’t have any back-issues of New York magazine around.) But yes, we will assure our children, that was a thing that actually happened, because people were annoyed at how other people were outrageously pissed off all the time. (Oh, and also because there was a thing called Reddit.)

The reason we will be explaining the event as a funny “did they really do that?” sideshow, and not as an important historical event with plenty of far-reaching political consequences is because there probably won’t be any. The Rally to Restore Sanity/Keep Fear Alive will probably not lead to a third party of moderates, or even a Tea Party-style grassroots movement against extremism. It will probably not shame the media into behaving better; if anything we’re going to focus too much on the “pox on both their houses” aspect of Stewart’s announcement speech and less on the “don’t feed the trolls” argument. It will probably not make being an independent “cool,” because being an independent has always been cool. (Ask anyone who is trying to be cool what political party they belong to: They will always say “I’m basically an independent.”)

But (and NewsFeed doesn’t often fancy ourselves Cassandras but it’s a lazy Friday afternoon) we like to hope there could be some short-term cultural implications to the rally. For one thing, perhaps it could bring thoughtfulness back — and not the kind of fake hipster thoughtfulness found in Williamsburg bars near closing time, but actual considered and considerate debate. And maybe, the sense of occasion will shock Stewart out of his last crutch, the “hey, but I’m only a comedian!” excuse that he sometimes falls back on in the middle of spirited discussion to avoid dealing with thorny questions.

Or maybe, the event will just be a way of thanking people who raised a lot of money for charity. Who knows?

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