Glenn Beck rally: sound and fury, signifying ...

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The much vaunted "Restoring Honor" rally, hosted by Fox News' Glenn Beck, promoted 24/7 on that station and others, and bankrolled by far-right billionaires, drew an estimated 87,000 people, according to CBS News.

(Even if there were as many as 500,000 people, as the event's organizers claimed, does it really matter? The higher figure pales in comparison to the 2 million people who turned out for President Barack Obama's inauguration.)

Despite Beck's claim that the rally was not political, the politics were clear. Among the major speakers were icons of the Republican Party, including former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and, reportedly, FreedomWorks' Dick Armey, the former Republican House majority leader.

Then there was the politics of race and racism. Whether or not Beck and his corporate puppetmasters deliberately chose the Aug. 28 date with this in mind, it certainly became their conscious choice to manipulate the significance. Aug. 28 is the anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where Dr. Martin Luther King gave his "I Have a Dream" speech.  Aug. 28, 1963, was a coalition effort that brought together black and white, Latinos, Asian Americans, Native Americans along with United Auto Workers members, public workers and other union members, civil rights groups, religious leaders and believers of all faiths and Hollywood stars as well.

Beck's rally was overwhelmingly white, yet Beck claimed the mantle of the civil rights movement. "We are the people of the civil rights movement," he outrageously declared. "We are the ones that must stand for civil and equal rights, justice, equal justice. Not special justice, not social justice. We are the inheritors and protectors of the civil rights movement. They are perverting it," he said, sounding like a plaintiff in a "reverse racism" court case.

Organizers of the carefully staged rally clearly were on the defensive about being considered a racist movement. They undoubtedly worried that if anti-Obama signs and speeches filled the National Mall it would doom the Republicans' hope for a November triumph. Americans of all colors are disgusted by what is widely perceived as the tea party/Fox News/Wall Street movement's racism towards the nation's first African American president and towards African Americans as a people. They are repulsed by Latino-and immigrant-bashing, and the new crop of Rupert Murdoch media-created Islamaphobia. And perhaps they considered the reality that President Obama enjoys 90- plus percent approval ratings among African Americans, a major voting block.

Did the organizers think that making it religious could bring more of the Republican-leaning Evangelicals back into the largely secular tea-party fold and get them mobilized for November? That's another voting block the organizers may have had their eye on. It seems what was once the backbone of the Republican grassroots effort - the Christian Coalition and such - has taken second seat to the more libertarian, conspiracy theorist, anti-government tea party.

Did the organizers choose to "honor" the troops because the Republicans have lost much support among military families? The GOP base in the military has shrunk due to failures like Iraq and veterans' care, while at the same time, President Obama's support among GI Jane and Joe has strengthened. Perhaps the rally speakers thought a few demagogic speeches would undo all the damaging policies.

What the rally boiled down to was November midterm election posturing. In a bid to claim the country's grassroots, the ultra-right GOP tea party is trying to show a much bigger base than perhaps it really has. Like the man behind the curtain portraying the Wizard of Oz as all-powerful, is it really a humbug? It is possible to expose them as such.

Saturday's Glenn Beck-Sarah Palin spectacle, and the Republican/Wall Street-supported coalition behind it, has real limits. It represents only a small section of American society. Some of the people caught up in this ultra-right movement are looking for answers to real life problems they have. And some - not the majority - are working-class people who will never find solutions - especially to economic problems -- in such a movement.

This fall is a test for small and large "d" democrats, progressives and independents. The first challenge is to show that the grassroots doesn't belong to the tea party, with an equally large turnout for the NAACP's One Nation, Working Together march on Oct. 2.

And the biggest challenge will be to hit the streets and help mobilize for a big voter turnout to defeat the ultra-right in November.

Photo: AP