Glenn Beck and much of the mainstream media flattered itself that the One Nation Working Together Rally in Washington D.C. was staged as an answer, no a reaction, to Beck's phony counterinsurgent, badly misnamed Restoring Honor rally that insulted the name, memory and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It was no such thing. The One Nation rally was planned long before Beck dreamed up his tawdry publicity stunt. Unlike Beck's charade, the One Nation rally was the perfect blend of grassroots local and national planning and organizing by civil rights, civil liberties and progressive groups. And unlike Beck's unabashed, shameless media play spectacle, it had a serious purpose. That was to reinforce the defined and specified goal of more and better jobs, justice and public education.
This also presents a special challenge. The challenge is to keep the troops fired up for November, and beyond. The last thing that's needed is another big feel-good gathering where thousands blow off steam, and then go home and do nothing. There's a solid model to insure that doesn't happen, and that's the model that One Nation proudly patterned itself after; the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Justice. The march drew a quarter million plus and it was an in Washington and the nation's face rally to put mass pressure on the Kennedy administration and Congress to pass the stalled civil rights bill and a raft of other labor oriented legislation. Civil rights and labor organizations bombarded the White House, Congress, and local officials with with letters, petitions, and mounted local actions to get action back then. March leaders, and grassroots organizers held strategy meetings, mini-conferences, and continued to march and demonstrate with their feet to force change. This was pure, sustained, and focused political activism in its best form.
There's another model that's proven effective in inspiring legions and forcing political change, Tea Party activism. Before Beck, Tea Party locals translated their loathe of big government, Obama, and the latent racial bigotry of many whites into quiet, active, focused planning, organizing, fundraising and result driven action. Their parade of bloggers, websites, and shrill rightwing talk show gabbers has relentlessly used the internet and airwaves to inflame and organize, and mobilize in the streets their base. Their sustained organizing toppled a few mainstream GOP stalwarts, and sent shocked tremors through the GOP mainstream and Democrats.
One Nation Working Together can do the same. The stakes have never been greater. Nearly a half century ago, the March on Washington leaders realized that a mass rally is great but to really mean anything it must not be feel-good theater. It must be a springboard for patient, sustained and when needed noisy, in your face organizing to achieve tangible results. Tea Party leaders have also figured that simple truism out.
Beck and company and the Tea Party have laid down the challenge. The 1963 March on Washington showed how to answer the challenge of reaction. The One Nation rally is a partial answer to that challenge. The final answer is the follow-up organizing and mobilizing, and continued follow-up organizing and mobilizing for change.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He hosts a nationally broadcast political affairs radio talk show on Pacifica and KTYM Radio Los Angeles.
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