The left rallies ‘One Nation’

THE LEFT RALLIES ‘ONE NATION’…. It may not have had the celebrity draws of Glenn Beck’s event in August or the “Rally To Restore Sanity” later this month, but activists from the left rallied on the Washington Mall yesterday, and if nothing else, showed that conservatives aren’t the only ones bringing some enthusiasm to the election season.

Tens of thousands of union members, environmentalists and peace activists rallied at the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday, seeking to carry on the message of jobs and justice that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. trumpeted at a rally at the same site 47 years ago.

More than 300 groups organized Saturday’s march to build momentum for progressive causes like increased job-creation programs and to mobilize liberal voters to flock to the polls next month.

The rally’s sponsors, including the N.A.A.C.P., the A.F.L.-C.I.O., the Sierra Club and the National Council of La Raza, said they also hoped to demonstrate that they, not the Tea Party, represented the nation’s majority.

Organizers called the march “One Nation Working Together,” saying they hoped it would be an answer and antidote to what they called the divisiveness of the Tea Party.

The event was not a response to any one far-right gathering — the effort was launched in April, before anyone had heard about Beck’s rally, for example — though organizers hoped a strong turnout would counter the notion that the left is dormant this year. I haven’t seen any scientific head-counts, but the Washington Post reported that organizers believed the event “drew a crowd of 175,000 people — about what they expected.”

I was not on hand, but in talking to several attendees, one of the points that was emphasized again and again was the diversity of the crowd. Comparing the right’s D.C. rallies with what we saw yesterday is, in many respects, evidence of a larger truth — conservative events feature a lot of folks who look, act, and think alike, and have a whole lot in common. If homogeneity were currency, Tea Partiers would all be as wealthy as the far-right fat cats financing their movement.

Yesterday offered a different landscape, with a crowd as diverse as the country. “This march was inclusive,” said NAACP President Benjamin Jealous, one of the lead organizers. “We have seen cabdrivers come down from New York, truck drivers from Oklahoma. This is about moving the country with the spirit of unity and hope, and getting the country beyond the divisiveness.”

If the effort can translate into votes on November 2, Democrats just might surprise the political world.