Amy Gehrt: Liberals fight back with One Nation rally
For months, conservatives have been trying to capitalize on Americans’ anger to win votes. Now, liberals are fighting back with their own brand of fiery rhetoric.
Over the weekend, a crowd of 175,000 marched in our nation’s capital at the One Nation Working Together rally on the National Mall. Over 400 civil rights and progressive groups — including labor unions, gay rights groups, environmental organizations and faith-based organizations — joined forces for the four-hour event, which aimed to re-energize their political base.
Unlike conservative commentator Glenn Beck’s self-congratulatory rally last month, urging attendees to embrace “traditional values”, the One Nation rally espoused unity and equality for all — regardless of age, race, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, faith and ability.
“We believe that by working together we can build abundance to lift up everyone,” said Bob King, president of the United Auto Workers. “We can’t do that through divisiveness. We believe that we have to rebuild a social movement in America.”
Of course, actions speak louder than words, and it is sometimes far easier to talk about inclusiveness and the need to cross party lines for the good of the country than it is to actually do it.
However, One Nation did follow through on its own mission statement by practicing what it preaches. Many participants were Democratic-leaning, but the Green Party also endorsed the rally. In fact, national co-chair Theresa El-Amin served on the One Nation steering committee. NAACP President Ben Jealous said he even invited a well-known conservative to speak at the rally.
There was also more substance to this event, which organizers say they had planned well before they learned of Beck’s rally. Gay rights, immigration reform and the need for additional education funding were all addressed. But, with millions of Americans still out of work, the main focus was on jobs.
“Behind the voices of fear and hatred that have risen to dominate our national conversation are the forces of greed, the moneyed powers that put us in the economic mess we’re in today. And we’ve got a lot of work to do to repair the damage that greed did to our country,” Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, said. “We come together today because America needs jobs. Good jobs, jobs that support families — all families. Jobs that give our young people paths of opportunity, not obstacles. Jobs that allow people to retire with dignity.”
Some of those most affected by the issues being discussed also got a chance to share their stories. Testimonials from unemployed Americans, vets, Native Americans and immigrants helped bolster the day’s themes, as did historical readings and performances.
Speakers also helped fire up the crowd, such as MSNBC’s Ed Schultz, one of the event’s masters of ceremonies, whose speech took aim at conservatives and the tea party movement.
“They talk about the Constitution, but they don’t want to live by it,” he said to wild applause. “They talk about the forefathers, but they practice discrimination. They want to change this country.”
But while the crowd’s enthusiasm was evident, only time will tell if it was enough to help reverse the gains made by the GOP. The real test will come in November, when voters make their voices heard in the voting booth.
Amy Gehrt may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the newspaper.