D.C. Rally Promotes Jobs, Justice, Schools -- And the Midterms


Peter W. Fulham

WASHINGTON -- Huge crowds gathered along the national Mall Saturday afternoon for a rally intended to re-energize liberal voters before the midterm elections next month. Attendees enjoyed clear skies while listening to an array of speakers from civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton to television pundit and host Ed Schultz.

The collection of more than 400 liberal groups' goal was to attract tens of thousands of supporters in an effort to stir interest in what may be a tough midterm Election Day for Democrats.
"We hope that everyone who comes to the rally is committed to jobs, justice, and quality public education and is committed to going out to the polls on November 2 and voting for candidates who want to help shift our national priorities to these issues," said Denise Gray-Felder, communications director for the event, dubbed "One Nation Working Together,"
Organizers were still working Friday afternoon to coordinate bus transportation for supporters around the country. The clear day helped their optimism about the number of attendees. Pre-rally estimates were as high as 250,000.

The event comes slightly over a month after Glenn Beck, the conservative radio and television host, held a rally on the same site, which attracted a huge crowd.

Sponsors of the "One Nation" event say they hope to reclaim enthusiasm from conservatives, who have helped Tea Party candidates upset establishment favorites in several primaries.
"Our people are working very hard on the ground, and they know what they're doing," said Michael Mitchell, the executive director of the National Stonewall Democrats, a network of gay and lesbian Democratic clubs and individuals. "We're seeing a lot in the press that there's going to be this huge Republican wave, but our people are doing some of the best get-out-the-vote stuff we've seen in a long time."

The groups supporting the rally represent diverse constituencies, and in some cases, their positions clash. Human Rights Campaign, the gay rights organization, for instance, will march with the National Baptist Convention, which forbids clergy from officiating at same-sex marriage ceremonies. But representatives of the event's sponsoring organizations indicated the theme of the day would be the core issues that unite liberal voters.

"We lose separately, and absent of a strategy to work together, we will continue to lose," Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, chief executive of Green for All, an environmental group supporting the event, told The Washington Post. "We have to be able to take critical action on all of the issues facing this country. We're at a critical moment in history, and we have the opportunity to move forward in a really significant way."

As one organizer explained, rally sponsors are also attempting to reach a broader demographic than the Beck event. "It was not as representative as it could have been in terms of different walks on life being present," Carmen Berkley, a field director with the NAACP, said of Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally. "People will really feel like they can come down to this march. They will see other people who look like them. They won't feel bad if they're a different kind of person or if they come from a different background or sexuality."

"One Nation Working Together" is the first major liberal rally in Washington this fall. The second, "The Rally to Restore Sanity," will take place on October 30 and is sponsored by Jon Stewart, who hosts "The Daily Show" on Comedy Central.