A veritable rainbow coalition of thousands recently gathered at the Lincoln Memorial as part of the “One Nation Working Togetherâ€ rally designed to energize liberals and progressives to turn out in November for the mid-term elections. The organizers sought to muster up the same level of enthusiasm that Tea Party activists and establishment Republicans have demonstrated in recent months in reaction to current polls suggesting that the Democratic Party may lose several key seats during the Nov. 2 elections–and perhaps even its majority in Congress.
Demonstrators from more than 200 organizations, led by the NAACP and including organizations like the AFL-CIO and National Council of La Raza, came from across the nation and carried signs advocating a range of positions from job creation to ending the war in Afghanistan.
“We need America to deal with the issue of jobs. We bailed out the banks. We bailed out the insurance companies and now it is time to bail out the American people,â€ the Rev. Al Sharpton, president of the civil rights group National Action Network, said in his remarks. “We need to rebuild the infrastructure and provide jobs and training for the American people.â€
Speaking to reporters later, Sharpton said that while the protestors may have varying views on the Obama administration’s job creation policies, he maintained that if Democrats aren’t in charge and able to continue such efforts the results would be disastrous. That’s why, he added, it’s critical that Democrats turn out en masse in November.
“I think that some people may differ, but all of us know that if this administration is not there we don’t have a chance if Palin and that crowd is in,â€ he said. “So we may all debate on tactics but none of us are debating on direction. We’ve got to come out in four weeks and we’ve got to vote.â€
Van Jones, a former special adviser to the Obama White House, promoted green economy jobs, stating that he’d never heard of “a wind slick or a sun spill,â€ and that farmers, for example, could use their land to grow energy crops or develop wind turbines.
“If you want to see the future, look up. Look at the sun, look at the Saudi Arabia of solar power we have beaming down on us that can help to power America. If you want to see the future, look up at the wind and sky,â€ he said. “The most important work we have is to repower America in a clean way. Let’s connect the people who most need work with the work that most needs to be done.â€
Cassandra Maafoh and Natalie Skeiky, pre-med sophomores at Duke University who traveled from North Carolina to Washington, will be first-time voters this fall. Still, they understand the power of the ballot.
“America is a democratic society and, in order for people to get things done, people first have to ask for it, demand it; and the way we get what we want is by voting, ” said Skeiky. “Otherwise, how are our representatives going to get into office and know what we want and how to execute it to give us what we want?â€ Maafoh agreed, adding that too many people prefer to complain rather than exercise their voting power.
Of course, the inevitable comparisons to the Beck rally held on August 25 were made. According to Associated Press new reports, “Saturday’s crowds were less dense and didn’t reach as far to the edges as they did during Beck’s rally. The National Park Service stopped providing official crowd estimates in the 1990s.â€
In a press release, the event’s organizer’s estimated that the crowd numbered more than 175,000.
“It’s inspiring to look out and see so many people — even more than we even expected — from so many different places, coming together as one nation in support of jobs, justice, and public education,â€ said Leah Daughtry, national campaign director of One Nation Working Together.Â “This is an important moment in the progressive movement–as each person returns home and continues to rally our fellow Americans as we head to the ballot box in November and re-commit ourselves to our common future.â€