What if it turns out to be just a rally?
After weeks of build-up, speculation and sober political and social analysis, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert will host their "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear" on the National Mall today, expected to draw at least tens of thousands to a comedic event with an undeniably pre-midterm upshot.
Slated to kick off at 1 p.m., after three hours of warm-up events, the rally starts with the national anthem, followed by a welcome from Stewart and then a presumably grandiose Colbert entrance, according to a rundown of the event posted Friday on the Gawker website.
The Roots, Sheryl Crow, and Jeff Tweedy and Mavis Staples are expected to play, although organizers have been loath to disclose details of the rally.
Comedy Central has been airing from Washington all week, building expectations with send-ups of Beltway culture and featuring a bus trip to the capital mocking the country’s polarization.
Encountered Wednesday night by a National Journal reporter in Washington’s Penn Quarter, Stewart admitted he didn’t even have a ballpark estimate of attendance.
“Oh, God. No one knows,” Stewart said. “We don’t have an infrastructure to measure that sort of thing.”
In a winningly ironic twist, Stewart fans have implored him not to hold the rally, worrying that it would strip him of the stand-up street cred he’s cultivated even as The Daily Show has evolved into an electoral factor. There has been agonizing criticism, and criticism of that criticism.
And, predictably, the event has become imbued with the politics of the moment, widely seen as a net gain for Democrats, who would presumably benefit from a set of young voters acquiring a sense of the midterm elections' imminence. That might compel them to vote in higher numbers than they otherwise would. And on Thursday, the AFL-CIO shot out a voter mobilization press release loaded with efforts to link labor to the rally.
Colbert used a segment Thursday to ridicule the analysis, questioning whether the next week's planned return of the fabled McRib would quell GOP turnout.
It’s Comedy Central’s second major foray inside the Beltway, following Colbert’s congressional testimony last month. On Wednesday, Stewart interviewed President Obama, needling him over whether his legislative actions had been too “timid” -- a decidedly progressive point of view and a common tack in his interviews of politicians.