About 1,500 miles away from Austin, political satirists and Comedy Central show hosts Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert held their Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. Although the rally took place on the National Mall in Washington D.C., Austinites had a front row seat to the day’s events.
More than 6,000 people of different races, ages and political affiliations came together at the Capitol to watch a satellite projection of the rally and to advocate civility in politics. They carried signs with sayings like “Pro-sanity, not profanity,” “Friends don’t let friends teabag” and “I have a different opinion than you, but you aren’t Hitler.”
State Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin; State Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin; Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell and City Councilman Mike Martinez spoke at the rally.
“We are rallying for a change in tone, a new process in getting things done,” Watson said. “We want a Texas that aspires, even as it achieves. We want leaders who are more interested in fixing things than fighting them.”
Instead of focusing on the upcoming Nov. 2 elections, the speakers addressed the need for respectful resolution of political conflicts.
“Our political discourse in this country has become a race to the bottom,” Leffingwell said. “We need to be civil, especially when we disagree.”
Local artists such as Dave Madden and Sticks and Stones played on the Capitol’s steps.
The audience watched as Stewart and Colbert presented mock awards for reasonableness and spreading fear and sang a song about how great it is to be an American. Although the rally was lighthearted and fun, it ended on a somber note when Stewart talked about the need for American unity.
“We hear every damn day about how fragile our country is, on the brink of catastrophe, torn by polarizing hate, and how it is a shame we can’t work together to get things done,” Stewart said during the speech. “The truth is, we do. We work together to get things done every damn day.”
Dallas native Sandra Richards said she was pleased with Stewart’s critique of the media.
“Jon Stewart made it clear to me that the media does not chose what it covers very well,” Richards said. “Journalists tend to focus on inconsequential things and let important things go by unnoticed. This is unfair to the public who trusts them.”
Austin resident Morgan Cook said he is glad someone is standing up for what should change in politics.
“Although they are comedians, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have a lot of power,” Cook said. “Someone needs to let politicians know that what is going on is not right, and I think they have done a good job of it.”
But he isn’t sure how much good a rally will do, he said.
“A mass amount of change needs to happen for D.C. to become reasonable,” Cook said.