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Published on October 31st, 2010 | by Rosa S
Image © Jon Stewart's rally this week brought out hundreds of thousands of people onto the street in protest, but what was it that they were actually rallying for, or rather, against? Officially, it was a rally for "sanity" and a reaction against Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honour" protest. So let's take a look at what a rally for sanity is, and what "sanity" in this sense means for our politicians. The official meaning, as much as there was one, was that the rally for sanity was for "political moderation". Jon Stewart's blog claims that the rally was for people tired of "yelling" about politics. "Political moderation" seems to be to some extent the same idea as the "new politics" which we've been hearing about in the UK: what Stewart and his supporters are saying is that their bored of the theatrics and extremes in politics and political reporting. [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Rally to restore sanity - from Kate Gardiner on flickr"]Rally to restore sanity[/caption] Its an important message- and one which was implicitly supported by Obama for good reason. Politics in a democracy is usually considered to be "for the people", and if its going to be for them then it needs to be presented in a way which is palatable for them. And sword clashing, shouting and hyperbole isn't palatable for Stewart's supporters, so they turned up en masse to demonstrate against it. Granted, it is a bit curious to host a mass-rally against extreme political behaviour, but it has allowed people to make a serious point fun. And after all, the rally was hosted by comedy central so let's cut them a bit of slack on ideological coherence. It's an interesting coincidence that the rally for "sanity" (that being political moderation) is in the same week that David Cameron laid into Ed Miliband for having a stylistic plan for PMQs. Having come across a labour memo which advised the leader of the opposition in how to appear strong during questions, Cameron delighted in reading it to the Commons. Now the point that Cameron was making would have been reasonable and in tune with Stewart's, had its delivery not been quite so ironic. Yes, it is a shame that our leaders are briefed on how to appear rather than just on what issues to raise, and it's a shame that this tends to lead to theatre and a lack of discussion about what we actually care about. But this point was completely undermined by Cameron's self-congratulatory cheer-raising style when it came to reading the memo; this might have been greeted with applause from his back-benchers, but to the onlooker his performance and message were painfully paradoxical. The trouble is that Cameron isn't a comedian, he's our prime minister, and I'm not left laughing by his contradictory and light-hearted attitude towards being sensible in political debates. Perhaps American politicians and journalists will be more receptive to the point being made by Stewart's followers. Maybe we will stop hearing shouts of "socialist" when ever Obama opens his mouth about health care reform, and we will be able to welcome to a new era of "sane" politics. But with the realistic possibility of a divided government after the midterms, I think I'll make the moderate prediction that it seems unlikely.

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Marching for sanity: what Jon Stewart’s telling us about politics

Jon Stewart’s rally this week brought out hundreds of thousands of people onto the street in protest, but what was it that they were actually rallying for, or rather, against? Officially, it was a rally for “sanity” and a reaction against Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honour” protest. So let’s take a look at what a rally for sanity is, and what “sanity” in this sense means for our politicians.

The official meaning, as much as there was one, was that the rally for sanity was for “political moderation”. Jon Stewart’s blog claims that the rally was for people tired of “yelling” about politics. “Political moderation” seems to be to some extent the same idea as the “new politics” which we’ve been hearing about in the UK: what Stewart and his supporters are saying is that their bored of the theatrics and extremes in politics and political reporting.

Rally to restore sanity

Rally to restore sanity – from Kate Gardiner on flickr

Its an important message- and one which was implicitly supported by Obama for good reason. Politics in a democracy is usually considered to be “for the people”, and if its going to be for them then it needs to be presented in a way which is palatable for them. And sword clashing, shouting and hyperbole isn’t palatable for Stewart’s supporters, so they turned up en masse to demonstrate against it. Granted, it is a bit curious to host a mass-rally against extreme political behaviour, but it has allowed people to make a serious point fun. And after all, the rally was hosted by comedy central so let’s cut them a bit of slack on ideological coherence.

It’s an interesting coincidence that the rally for “sanity” (that being political moderation) is in the same week that David Cameron laid into Ed Miliband for having a stylistic plan for PMQs. Having come across a labour memo which advised the leader of the opposition in how to appear strong during questions, Cameron delighted in reading it to the Commons. Now the point that Cameron was making would have been reasonable and in tune with Stewart’s, had its delivery not been quite so ironic. Yes, it is a shame that our leaders are briefed on how to appear rather than just on what issues to raise, and it’s a shame that this tends to lead to theatre and a lack of discussion about what we actually care about. But this point was completely undermined by Cameron’s self-congratulatory cheer-raising style when it came to reading the memo; this might have been greeted with applause from his back-benchers, but to the onlooker his performance and message were painfully paradoxical. The trouble is that Cameron isn’t a comedian, he’s our prime minister, and I’m not left laughing by his contradictory and light-hearted attitude towards being sensible in political debates.

Perhaps American politicians and journalists will be more receptive to the point being made by Stewart’s followers. Maybe we will stop hearing shouts of “socialist” when ever Obama opens his mouth about health care reform, and we will be able to welcome to a new era of “sane” politics. But with the realistic possibility of a divided government after the midterms, I think I’ll make the moderate prediction that it seems unlikely.

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