Sunday, September 19, 2010

Rally for moderation and fear

By Don Klein

Blame it on Martin Luther King. He started the prevailing concept of the epochal political march on Washington. We’ve gone the entire route, from taxpayers rights and abortion rights, to gay pride and black pride, to Tea Party bombast and the Glenn Beck orgasmic ritual of tearful claptrap last month.

Now we finally reached the apex with the planned Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert marches on October 30. Stewart named his movement the "Rally to Restore Sanity" or simply the "Million Moderate March." Colbert wants his gathering to be known as "March to Keep Fear Alive."

Now there are a couple of marches I think I would like to join.
In case you are not up-to-date on such matters, Stewart presides over "The Daily Show" on the Comedy Network where he cleverly spoofs the lunacy of public figures who claim to speak for the people. Colbert prances around mocking conservative blowhards like Bill O’Reilly and others on "The Colbert Report" on the same network.

All the previous marches tended to replicate the historic "I Have a Dream" assemblage back in the summer of 1963 in which Dr. King gave his famous speech. An estimated 400,000 people attended and ever since groups espousing a cause have organized similar marches.

Unlike King’s masterful accomplishment none of those that followed made a lasting impression. The Stewart and Colbert attempt to mix comedy with stark reality perhaps will succeed where others failed.

All "march" promoters choose the site in front of the famous Lincoln Memorial, attempting to slather some of the reverence of the sixteenth president of the United States on their particular issue. The famous David Chester French sculpture is an impressive backdrop for any rally.

Dr. King choose the location because of the relationship the Great Emancipator to the black race in particular. However, there are no such connection with those who have massed there since. As far as anyone can tell Lincoln had no strong positions on abortion rights or taxpayers’ complaints or the rights of gun owners.

We can assume without quibbling that Honest Abe would not have endorsed Glenn Beck’s unfounded political accusations and his chronic disregard for the truth.

There is a chance, however, Lincoln might have wanted to attend the Stewart "march" on Washington. Who wouldn’t be in favor of a rally to restore sanity to this country at a time when the nation is being torn apart by greed and self interest? Wasn’t that part of the conflict Old Abe faced during his lifetime?

The country seems to be divided in two camps these days – maybe even three. A current New York Times\CBS News poll revealed that most of the country still prefers the Democrats in power. Party favorability tips towards keeping the Democrats in control of Congress by 27 percent to 23. That same poll shows 40 percent of respondents feel the Democrats have a better handle on problems than the Republicans, who have 33 percent.

As far as helping the middle class, 55 percent of the electorate favor the Democrats and only 33 percent like the Republicans, and in helping small business the lead the Democrats have over Republicans is 49 percent to 41.

None of these are breathtaking figures and some are so close that they just emphasize the wide split in the nation. America has had similar divides in the past and has survived. The trouble today is that there is a death wish towards opponents by too many politicians. The comity that once existed on Capitol Hill is no more.

What we have instead is virulent opposition of the minority party towards anything the majority attempts to do. In essence gridlock. The goal seems to be, either we are in control or –- governmental chaos. There are even threats by Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, a leading Republican, of shutting down the government if the GOP does not win in November.

There are other insinuations to take over the country by force of arms if not at the polling booths by GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann

It is attitudes like this that makes the Stewart "Million Moderates March" less of a comic reaction than a realistic and necessary destination. It is especially important at this time with the emergence of the Tea Party as a cannibalistic element within the Republican Party, eating its own in a drive to exorcize all moderates from the party. It seems just right of center is no longer acceptable among the angered Palin partisans.

It is easy to despair and moan there is nothing we can do about it as we grit our teeth waiting for the destruction of our country. This will not necessarily become our fate. Up to now there has been no wide scale, multi-party opposition at the voting booths to Tea Party extremists. They can be beaten down by a solid rejection in November.

In the meantime we need people to cool down and not let the incendiary rhetoric overwhelm us. That’s why we should be thankful there are opportunistic comedians who have taken on the challenge of rallying the moderates to Washington. They no doubt recall the famous Lincoln line which could be directed at today’s empty talking Right Wing:

"Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt."

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