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Jon Stewart's 'Rally to Restore Sanity' energizes expats from Paris to Prague

Jon Stewart's 'Rally to Restore Sanity' may have compelled some Americans living abroad to cast votes in a mid-term election they may have otherwise ignored.

By Staff Writer / October 29, 2010


Jon Stewart's "Rally to Restore Sanity" in Washington has sparked more than 1,160 mini-rallies in 84 countries, morphing into something of a global political happening.

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The last time a political rally in America gained such international traction was during the 2003 protests against the Iraq war, says Timothy Patrick McCarthy, director of the Human Rights and Social Movements Program at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

"I have been surprised by the proliferation of rallies worldwide," says Dr. McCarthy. "But I’m not sure what it means. I don’t know if this is just an outlet for people who share frustrations to come together for some cathartic exercise of political relief. But one of the things I think is interesting is there is a lot of anger and disaffection across the political spectrum."

Both American expatriates and foreign fans of "The Daily Show" and its host, Mr. Stewart, are organizing meet-ups Saturday – everywhere from London to Tel Aviv to Seoul – to concur with the rally on the Washington Mall.

While many criticize Stewart's gathering as lacking a clear focus, some Americans living abroad say it has inspired them to take part in next week's election. Mr. Stewart organized his rally in reaction to Glenn Beck's Aug. 28 gathering at the Lincoln Memorial.

"I feel like this year, more than previous years, people here are talking about how can you download a ballot, how can you vote early," says Kathryn Brown, a registered voter in Colorado who lives with her family in Paris. "There is much more of a grassroots effort to disseminate info on how to vote."

Ms. Brown is organizing a mini-rally at The Thistle Pub in Paris. At least 80 American expatriates and French nationals are expected to participate. "The French are addicted to politics. So anything that smells of political intrigue – they just love that stuff," she says.