Will Wilkinson writes that Peter Beinart’s critique of Jon Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity “cuts deep…when he observes that the focus on ‘sanity’ is demeaning to the tea-party movement and its sympathisers, and reflects the left’s failure to engage broad swathes of the electorate by arguing for the liberal agenda in terms of liberty.”
(As a side note, this reminds me of Ned Resnikoff’s post on this very subject of reclaiming the language of liberty from the right.)
Side-stepping the larger debate about liberty and the left (I think this is largely a failure of language rather than policy, at least here in the US of A), I would simply point out that Stewart’s rally was intentionally ironic, and that extends to the title of the rally itself which Beinart finds so arrogant. Stewart’s closing speech takes pains to point out that actually most people aren’t raving lunatics, that so much of the insanity we read about or hear about is simply a concoction of a media which promotes a portrait of America as constantly in conflict, hyperbolic and afraid and ready at any point to boil over, an elaborate reality show carefully edited to present an illusion of craziness that simply doesn’t exist (at least to that extent) in most of the population.
I only watched that speech, but as far as I could tell the rally wasn’t attempting to somehow juxtapose itself with the Tea Party and show how sane and rational Daily Show liberals are in comparison to their crazy Tea Party counterparts. I could be wrong, but I think the main focus of Stewart’s animus was, as usual, the media itself rather than any grassroots conservatives.
Whether or not Beinart and Wilkinson are right about the failure of the left to engage their agenda within the framework of liberty, that’s not really the point of the Stewart rally to begin with, and quite frankly it would have been sort of weird to hear Jon Stewart waxing poetic about liberty and freedom and such*. Now Colbert, on the other hand…
*(They could have called it The Rally to Restore Liberty and Tyranny.)