Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear airs live Saturday on Comedy Central, but that hasn’t stopped thousands of die-hard fans from jumping on planes, trains, buses, and even bicycles to get to Washington’s National Mall.
They hail from as far away as San Diego; Lansing Mich.; and Worcester, Mass. And it’s not just the progressive faithful or college kids. Boomers, Gen X-ers, Libertarians, and Republicans all are laying out cash and spending time to show up in person on Saturday.
Fresh off a red-eye flight from the West Coast, high school teacher Suzie Knapp says this trip was something she had to do, because “it gets pretty lonely for Democrats in San Diego sometimes.” She contends, “It’s a pretty conservative place,” adding that she is looking forward “to the camaraderie at the rally.”
Ms. Knapp’s D.C. contact, Michael Tacelosky, lives in Dupont Circle, a 10-minute bicycle ride from the rally site. He says he hopes the rally will inspire people. “It’s all about the idea that gridlock is not acceptable, and that’s critical right now,” he says.
Some taking the Greyhound option are preparing for a long night in a bus seat before they spend mere hours on the National Mall Saturday and then head home the same evening. One such rallygoer, Libertarian Anna Daugherty – a Lansing, Mich., public-relations professional – is boarding a bus from Royal Oak to Washington on Friday night. She says she likes the fact that the event is not strictly for one political party.
“I am going to the Rally to Restore Sanity not because I think it’ll be some revelation for changing political discourse,” she says. “I just want to show my support and solidarity to those who find that the people who are running in and even winning elections, who are obviously radical wackos, don’t have a place in my ideal view of politics.”
Ms. Daugherty supports candidates who, although they might have strong views and opinions, “are open-minded and willing to work across party lines to get things done in the best interests of the people and not just their specific and often narrow constituency.”
She likes Mr. Stewart and appreciates his satire, but for her, the message of this rally is, “go vote.”
New Yorker Alex Féthière is an independent voter who says he is part Haitian, part Irish and grew up in Arizona. He has signed onto the Manhattan caravan of buses sponsored by The Huffington Post founder.
“I'm going to join the young left that's usually hidden behind computers,” he says. “Hopefully, I can canvass positions and ideas at the rally, because most of my friends are too apolitical to know, let alone go.”
A self-described Gen X-er, Mr. Féthière hopes to get a better sense of young voters. That’s been challenging because, he says, the left's political dialogue is framed and driven by boomers, with a couple of exceptions like Rachel Maddow.
While he freely admits he expects the event to be humorous, there is serious purpose behind the satire, he says. “Stewart is right to say that we must ‘Restore Sanity,’ ” he says.
Of course, the event will be fully stocked with the demographic most widely associated with the Stewart/Colbert appeal: college students. Caitlyn Bates, a Texas native and Clark University freshman in Worcester, Mass., plans to snooze her way on a bus ride to the nation’s capital Friday night. She will take a train home.
She says she just finished voting her absentee ballot, “mostly Republican and Libertarian,” but is looking forward to the bipartisan tone of the rally. Stewart “will get people who might not have been as optimistic about the future to get more involved,” she says. “And maybe even get more people to vote.”