ON THE AGENDA | SEPTEMBER 23RD, 2010 | Scott Bittle

It's Funny Because It's True: Jon Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity

The first thing to remember about Jon Stewart and his proposed Rally to Restore Sanity is that he's a comedian.

The first thing to remember about Jon Stewart and his proposed Rally to Restore Sanity is that he's a comedian.

And that means the Daily Show's rally will essentially use the National Mall as the set for large-scale sketch comedy, a piece of performance art, should the actual permit come through. (If there's any doubt that that this is primarily about comedy, the presence of Stephen Colbert's rival March to Keep Fear Alive should put that to rest). Lots of people are taking this way too seriously, as a threat to Democratic get out the vote efforts or a riposte to other media personalities like Glenn Beck.

Yet, it would be wrong to suggest that Stewart hasn't hit a nerve here, with many in the public and, honestly, with many at Public Agenda. Stewart, from his mostly liberal vantage point, has been a consistent critic of our polarized, overheated political discourse, and so have we, looking at things from our own, nonpartisan point of view. When he says there's a majority of Americans who would support pragmatic solutions to many problems, we would say our own surveys and engagement work shows that to be true. Really, is anyone satisfied with the state of America's political dialogue? Does anyone think this is the way things are supposed to be?

We'd add a few additional points. The media and the political system donít do a good job of laying out choices and alternatives. Compromise seems out of fashion. The public gets very little help in moving along its learning curve on complex issues Ė and the political system oversimplifies those issues anyway.

We'd do better, as a nation, if we got past the anger and started thinking about how we're actually going to do all the things that need to be done: get the economy on track, improve our schools, change our energy future, secure the country against terrorism, get the federal budget on a sustainable course.

Maybe comedy is the best approach. We in the deliberative democracy world, and the public policy world overall, tend to be very sober, terribly sincere, and, to put it bluntly, wonky. But you can't be angry and laughing at the same time. Nor can the overheated rhetoric continue to expand if we pop a few bubbles occasionally.

So, yes, "Take it Down a Notch for America" seems like a pretty appealing slogan right now. A little irreverence can be a powerful thing.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Rally to Restore Sanity
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