A too-political rally?

With a week to go before the midterm elections, both parties are looking to motivate their supporters to turn out. For Democrats, this has meant reaching out especially for the young voters who made such a difference in their 2008 efforts. But young voters aren’t responding to their efforts, with low expected turnout rates.

Conversely, the Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert rally planned for this upcoming weekend is getting a lot of attention and excitement: a search of Facebook events reveals over 500 using the phrase “rally to restore sanity” and sparking hundreds of sister rallies around the world. And while I’m really excited about the event – in fact, we’re even considering the 16-hour road trip to see the rally – I wonder if Slate’s Timothy Noah has a point – that the rally is too political and risks hurting a cause that Stewart & Colbert would support: youth turnout.

The comedians scoff at these criticisms, pointing out that they are trying to do what they do best: political satire/comedy. However, the response from political groups remain mixed, from liberal fears that the rally may prevent youth from volunteering to other groups are sending buses there in exchange for volunteers. But whether or not it’s a rallying point for liberals, Noah fears that it will anger the already-frustrated conservatives by a show of “elitism” into even more passionate support for their candidates.

The rally is largely an unknown at this point, from how many will actually attend to what will happen at the rally. And while I’m the first to admit excitement, Noah may be right. It certainly raises some interesting questions: With the Time poll last year suggesting Stewart is the nation’s most trusted newscaster (whether that’s a good or bad thing is worth a whole post itself!), should Stewart be looking to remain credible? Is hosting a pseudo-event of this magnitude two days before the midterm elections irresponsible? Might it sway the outcome of the elections – and in what direction? What does it say about the role of these late-night political comedy programs? Is this just an extension of their influence – as a trusted source of news for many?

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