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Vol. 74/No. 43      November 15, 2010

‘Moderates rally’ held in
D.C. ahead of elections
A “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear” called by political satirists Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert jam-packed the National Mall in Washington, D.C., October 30.

For many the three-hour rally/entertainment show was a response to the August 28 “Restoring Honor” event organized in Washington by conservative talk show host Glenn Beck. “We want to outdo Glenn Beck,” said Karl Kreiner, a young accountant from Alexandria, Virginia.

Among the participants were large numbers of professionals, small business people, and other middle-class layers, as well as office workers and students. “Well over 200,000 people” turned out for the event, according to an unofficial account by the Parks Service. The day set a new record for use of Washington’s Metrorail system with 825,000 trips—475,000 more than an average Saturday. Some 10,000 came from New York City on free buses provided by the Huffington Post.

The event was sponsored by Comedy Central, a division of Viacom, which broadcast the event live. The comedic duo pitched the event as the fusion of Stewart’s “Rally to Restore Sanity” and a tongue-in-cheek “counter rally” led by Colbert’s mock on-air conservative personality called “March to Keep Fear Alive.”

Stewart dubbed the event as a nonpartisan “Million Moderates March.” One of many handmade signs seemed to capture this spirit: “What do we want? Moderation. When do we want it? In a reasonable time frame.”

But held two days ahead of mid-term elections, the action was aptly characterized as “a Democratic rally without a Democratic politician,” by New York Times columnists.

A number of people dressed up as tea bags or other costumes directed against tea party Republicans. (Thousands were simply wearing various Halloween costumes.)

“This is a pro-Democratic rally,” said Maureen Mercurio, 59. “People here want sanity, not hate. The right is spreading lies about our president.”

Most organized political groups working the crowd were pro-Democratic Party, such as Naral Pro-Choice America and Barack Obama’s Organizing for America. Among them, however, were campaigners for the Socialist Workers Party candidates, who received a wide range of responses, reflecting a heterogeneity of political views and outlooks.

“Didn’t you listen to the speaker?” commented one passerby. “This is a rally for moderates.” Several others made similar remarks. Dozens were interested in the socialist campaign, and stopped to talk, subscribe to the Militant, and buy books on revolutionary politics. (See article on front page.)

Many expressed frustration with the Democratic Party, President Barack Obama, or the state of the economy. “We thought Obama was going to do something different on the war, for immigrants,” said Tanya Tinsley, 47, a physical therapist and among the small percentage of Blacks at the rally. “He should move a little more to the left and he would get some support.”

“We need Obama to be what he said he would be,” said Tinsley’s friend Nadine Brown, 48, from Queens, New York, who was an event planner before she lost her job. “I want to go back to work, but I don’t want to go from $100,000 to $20,000 a year.”

“It’s hard to find a job today. I would like to go to graduate school and become a librarian,” said Cairty McCarthy, 23, who recently graduated college with an English major and works part-time at Best Buy for $9 per hour.

A common thread was aversion to the coarsening of political discourse and factionalism in bourgeois politics, as well as the interest in reactionary conspiracy theories—manifestations of the deepening economic and social crisis of capitalism. “We need to take it down a notch,” said Ali Arman, a telecommunications engineer. “Politics has gotten ugly.”

One handmade sign simply read, “Relax, everything will be O.K.” But what seemed to lay under the facetious tone and mockery that marked the rally was unease about the future and idle hope that it will all stop, turn around, and everything will be as it was.
Related articles:
Elections in 2010 signal no change for workers
Socialist candidates in Iowa advance solidarity
N.Y. students discuss possibilities for revolution
‘Two-party face’ of capitalism’s ‘one-party system’
Join fight for a socialist world
SWP candidates in 2010  
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