With the massive One Nation rally in DC over, the post-game analyses have been flying furiously around the media and Webosphere. It was clearly a successful event that served to energize progressive activists and demonstrate that the left is not cowering under the national basement.
However, most of the press is making the mistake of comparing One Nation to Glenn Beck’s Acute Paranoia Holy Rollover Revue. This is typical of the horse race mindset of the media that is incapable of putting information in context and making relevant evaluations.
Let me make this crystal clear: The purpose of One Nation was NOT to draw more people than BeckFest. That would have been a shallow and unproductive goal. The purpose was to motivate the activists and organizers who attended, as well as those who watched from afar, so that they would be more effective and engaged in these crucial final weeks before the midterm elections. It was also intended to demonstrate the commitment of progressives to maintaining the course of the past couple of election cycles and to show the media that not everyone out there is a Tea Bagger. There were several reasons why attendance was never meant to be the yardstick by which this event would be measured.
First of all, One Nation did not have the benefit of the highest rated cable “news” network (Fox News) pumping out promotions for the event day in and day out for six months. They didn’t even have the second highest rated cable news network (MSNBC). Only Ed Schultz made much of an effort to promote One Nation. And while he is a popular radio and TV talk show host, recent surveys show that 70% of the country have never heard of him. It would be absurd to suggest that he would have the same impact on marketing that Glenn Beck, Inc. would have (despite what Ed says about himself).
Secondly, the demographics of the audiences are not remotely similar. Beck’s audience is a much older and more affluent crowd. In fact, he has one of the oldest skewing programs in all of cable news, including a high percentage of retirees. That’s partially how he manages to produce such high ratings in the middle of the day when normal people are at work. His viewers as a group are far better able to afford a trip to the nation’s capitol. They also are more likely to have the spare time available for outings like these. The folks attending One Nation are more likely to be working people who cannot just take time off from their jobs and their families, and sink scarce funds into traveling.
Thirdly, the incentive to attend a rally often hinges on the celebrity star power of the event. While the speakers at One Nation were all fine people who are dedicated to positive change, there was no one with the fan base of Glenn Beck. His devotees regard him as a prophet whom they must follow with unquestioning allegiance. Plus he had help from the Queen Tea, Sarah Palin, who has her own bevy of believers. Can anyone honestly say that 8/28 would have drawn more than a handful of garden-clubbers in a Dodge Caravan if someone like Newt Gingrich was the headliner? For evidence of this look no further than the second annual 9/12 rally a couple of weeks ago that featured teen idols Dick Armey and Andrew Breitbart. They drew a crowd that barely exceed a triple-a ballgame, and far fewer than One Nation.
On a side note, Beck’s fabled popularity may have peaked. A report from New Jersey yesterday reveals that his appearance at the first of his “Restoring America” gigs was filled to only 10% of capacity. Perhaps the $50.00 tickets (or $125.00 for “VIP privileges”) suppressed demand enough to allow 90% of the seats to go unfilled.
The above notwithstanding, One Nation can be considered a roaring success if it achieves its goal of invigorating the electorate, recruiting volunteers, and turning out voters. The right has become fully invested in an outcome that requires them to take majority control of the House and Senate. If they do not, they can only be regarded as failures. That is their projection, not mine. It’s all they’ve talked about for weeks. Now they must be prepared to be judged by the standard they set.
The past few weeks have seen momentum shifting in the election nationwide. The right may be played out. The left are just getting warmed up. In order to close the deal we need to insure extraordinary turnout. So get involved and make the demagogues on the right eat substantial portions of crow. Organizations like MoveOn and Democracy for America are presently recruiting people for their GOTV projects. Call them, or a local Democratic campaign office, and be a part of something positive.