Liberals rally in Washington: Will it help Democrats?

The 'One Nation Working Together' rally was meant to get beyond the party infighting, rouse the troops, and reverse current trends showing congressional losses just a few weeks from now.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Activists gather at the Lincoln Memorial to participate in the "One Nation Working Together" rally to promote job creation, diversity, and tolerance Saturday in Washington.

The Democratic base gathered in Washington Saturday, seeking to rouse their party in the face of likely losses in the midterm elections just a month from now.

Comparisons to Fox News commentator Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally at the same Lincoln Memorial site five weeks ago were obvious. National Park Service police stopped counting crowds years ago, and although tens of thousands (at least) gathered at Saturday’s “One Nation Working Together” rally it likely did not match the tea party crowd who flocked to see Beck and Sarah Palin.

The full title of the event was “One Nation Working Together For Jobs, Justice and Education for All” – which covers just about everybody under the Democratic Party’s big tent, as well as its current effort to highlight differences with Republicans.

Sponsoring and participating organizations – some 400 in all – ranged from steelworkers and public employees unions to environmental groups, gay rights advocates, Hispanic organizations, and peace groups.

While Beck’s rally was more religious than overtly political, Saturday’s “One Nation” event focused specifically on next month’s elections.

"Today we march, tomorrow we vote,” the Rev. Jesse Jackson told the crowd.

Getting out that vote is a challenge.

“What's clear to me is that getting ourselves to the poll is truly up to us,” NAACP president Benjamin Jealous told NPR’s Steve Inskeep on Thursday. “A lot of folks who have invested in encouraging massive voter turnout – black voters, brown voters, students, working class whites – for whatever reason are not investing in it right now.”

From the top of the Democratic Party on down, leaders are trying to stir that base, particularly since many polls show Republicans – not to mention their tea party allies – much more enthusiastic about the upcoming elections.

“We have to get folks off the sidelines,” President Obama said in a recent interview with Rolling Stone magazine. “People need to shake off this lethargy, people need to buck up.”

At a political fund-raiser in New Hampshire Monday, Vice President Joe Biden said Democrats must “remind our base constituency to stop whining.”

From the beginning, the White House has frequently found itself at odds with liberal activists pushing for a more progressive agenda – a public option as part of universal health care, for example. In August, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs famously complained about the “professional left.”

Such comments have brought some pushback.

“I can't for the life of me understand what the White House thinks it gains by continually poking the base – the people who actually vote in mid-term elections – only five weeks before the election,” wrote blogger John Aravosis. “Are they trying to convince the rest of Democrats – you know, the people who don't vote in mid-terms – that if they did vote, they should vote for Democrats because the people concerned about the state of the party, and the nation, are ‘whiners’?”

Saturday’s rally was an attempt to get beyond the party’s intramural squabbling, rouse the troops, focus on what’s politically doable, and reverse current trends showing congressional losses just a few weeks from now.

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