WASHINGTON, D.C. — If the quarter of a million people who showed up on the National Mall for Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert's "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear" on Saturday is any indication, Americans have noticed that the political climate leading up to Tuesday's midterm elections has been rather ... insane. And many believe that the constant bickering, blaming and name-calling among candidates, pundits and anyone with a microphone is only detrimental to the political process.
"We have a tendency to take sides and not really attack issues," William Bell, a recent college graduate from Atlanta, told MTV News at the Comedy Central-organized event. Bell, who said that he does not align himself with any political party but tends to "lean toward the left," wished that as a nation we could "approach things in a logical manner." In this election, he hoped that "there's a restoration towards the center. I think that to have any kind of extreme, either to the right or to the left, would be unhelpful to us, and it will just lead to further disarray."
Catherine Unthank, who lives in D.C., paraphrased our first president when she lamented the current antagonistic atmosphere. "I think, like George Washington said, political parties are going to be the end of this country, the death of it. People need to stop being so polarized and start to actually work on issues, rather than just attacking each other. ... Hopefully, we can try to work toward something rather than just fighting all the time."
Christina Smith from Dallas said, "I just hope that people will vote with reason and listen to facts and not be swayed by rhetoric and demagogues."
The bit of hope expressed on the Mall was often outweighed by apprehension. Travis Murrah and Meghan Fowler from Knoxville, Tennessee, were both concerned about the outcome of the elections. "I fear that the Republicans are going to take over and we're going to lose a lot of the leverage that Obama has," Fowler said. "We want him to be able to move things along and I just fear that they're going to keep things at a standstill."
Murrah added, "Nothing will be able to get done that needs to get done."
The issues of concern for those who attended the rally included immigration, education, gay rights and climate change. Not surprisingly, most of the people who spoke with MTV News identified themselves as Democrats. "We actually think that government can do good things, that the people that are governing should actually believe in the government," D.C. resident Nathan Kauffman said. "I'm not seeing that out of a lot of Republican candidates."
Regardless of their political affiliation, however, everyone at the rally knew that there is a lot at stake on Tuesday. "If there's any chance of passing any legislation," said Kauffman, "[whether it's] liberal, conservative or down the middle, I just don't see anything happening with a split Congress."