Only one true winner will emerge from the upcoming comedic battle between fear and sanity: our democracy.
The Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert rally held this Saturday, October 30th, will serve not only as the country's largest public service announcement for the November 2nd midterm elections, but also provide young people with a forum - an outlet to express their hopes and frustrations about today's political process.
The frustrations of this generation are understandable. In 2008, politicians made sure young people got an invitation to the party, but since then they've been left off the guest list. While it is heartening to see leaders like President Obama once again reaching out to young people, as he will on The Daily Show tonight, it may be too little for this generation that is looking for candidates to stop the bickering and start leading. In our recent young voter poll, two-thirds of young people indicated that they feel more cynical about politics now than they did two years ago. Politicians seem to be reinforcing that cynicism with partisan bickering and endless attack ads this election cycle, so young people are turning to their peers and comedians like Stewart and Colbert to engage with our political process.
The fact that young people identify with Stewart and Colbert's ironic tone doesn't mean they've given up on civic engagement. As they demonstrated in 2008, young people are hungry to be a part of something larger than themselves. Our recent young voter poll also showed that while young people may be more cynical about politics, an overwhelming majority of 83% believes their generation has the power to change this country. That belief will be manifested in the rally, where young people will come together on the National Mall and at dozens of satellite rallies around the country regardless of party affiliation.
Yes, there will be clever signs, ridiculous costumes, and of course, a comedy show from Stewart and Colbert. Yet, the hosts' brand of political satire can only succeed with an audience informed enough to understand the reality behind the humor. Young people know very well what is at stake in the upcoming midterm elections, and they are anything but apathetic. They are among those suffering worst from high unemployment, and many are worrying how they will pay their student loans. They understand that elections affect these issues and others they care about, and the rally provides a space to engage with their peers about such shared experiences. Perhaps not everyone will get close enough to really hear Stewart and Colbert, but the audience will be listening to each other.
While the rally will raise money for noble causes, it is also important we take stock of its symbolic significance. Thousands of young people will gather together to celebrate sanity and make a mockery of fear. The rally will serve as the unified voice of a generation, one telling politicians and others who doubt their political power that they are still here and they will not be taken lightly. They will show everyone they are unafraid and we will support them by offering a pledge to Vote Fearlessly on November 2nd. Like Stewart and Colbert, we will give them a platform from which to speak - but it is their voice that will shape our country's future.