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For liberal groups, "Daily Show" rally on Mall, not just for laughs
"This is basically the anti-tea party rally. It's saying, These people are absolutely crazy and we can't have them in the government," said Emma Ellman-Golan, president of the Democratic club at the University of Pennsylvania. The group is offering bus rides from Philadelphia to the rally for $15 apiece, but is providing $5 discounts to anyone who signs up to volunteer for Democratic campaigns in the state on Sunday.
Democratic candidates themselves have said little about the event. But at a roundtable in Richmond last month, Obama said he was amused by the idea of Stewart's rally, adding that it was "really important" for people who expect common sense and courtesy in their daily interactions to have a rally where their voices can be heard.
To brink of seriousness
Stewart is an acknowledged liberal, but he has said that his first allegiance is to comedy. He has said emphatically in interviews that the rally is not a political event, but rather a comedy show for those everyday Americans who are either too busy with their lives or too sensible to get overheated about politics. However, as he does with many of his jokes, he is taking this one to the very brink of seriousness.
When announcing the rally on his show last month, he said it was aimed at the "70 to 80 percent of Americans" who do not believe that "Obama is a secret Muslim planning a socialist takeover of America so he can force his radical black liberation Christianity down our throats. Or that Bush let 9/11 happen to help pad Dick Cheney's Halliburton stock portfolio."
On public radio's Fresh Air last month, Stewart sought to play down suggestions that the event was planned as a take-down of the tea party movement and of Fox personality Glenn Beck, who in August held his Restoring Honor rally on the Mall.
Stewart drew a sharp contrast between his goal and that of liberal groups, which at the time were worried that his event could overshadow the One Nation Working Together rally they held early this month.
"I have no obligation to the Democrats or progressives or unions," he told host Terry Gross. "We're not warriors in their cause, and if they're upset, they should have thought of that the last couple of years before they lost the momentum that they gained."
His efforts to shape expectations of the rally have been overshadowed by figures such as Huffington and Oprah Winfrey, an Obama ally who is also paying for hundreds of people to attend the rally. And many tea party activists remain convinced that they will be the butt of most of Stewart's jokes.
"Jon Stewart always tries to make it seem like he rises above it all, and that's not the case," said Jamie Radtke, a leading tea party organizer in Virginia. "He certainly has a point of view that's fairly strident."