Why March Saturday? Take Back the Discourse (That the Tea Party Stole)

Predicting a crowd of more than 100,000, some 300 liberal groups -- including the N.A.A.C.P., the A.F.L.-C.I.O., the National Council of La Raza and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force -- are sponsoring a march on Saturday in the hope of transforming the national conversation so it focuses less on the Tea Party.

What does that mean?

I am one liberal is who is not deeply concerned the Tea Party will gain enough political power to take over the country. As I wrote in July for The Hill, "The Tea Party is not large. Poll after poll has shown the Tea Party to be nothing more than a far-right faction of the Republican Party. They do not represent anything close to a majority of the country (a mere 18 percent in the April New York Times poll). And the more other Americans hear about the Tea Party's conservative ideas, the less they like it."

And the Tea Party was not effective in shaping the national conversation when the President and Congress were seriously legislating. Also from my earlier piece in The Hill: "After its main salvo to kill healthcare reform -- spreading the 'death panel' smear -- was flatly debunked in the September 2009 presidential address, dubious Tea Party claims ceased to be an obstacle to passage. (Reluctant 'centrist' Democrats, peddling their own false information about the cost of reform, were the ones who dragged out the process.) The Tea Party's follow-up attack, twisting the Wall Street reform bill into a 'permanent bailout' bill, barely registered at all."

In other words, when the left-center congressional majority was busy legislating, it crowded out Tea Party nonsense.

But now, the divided Democratic caucus in Congress has ceased to put any additional major reform on the table for the time being. And the Tea Party is filling the void.

With the media boost generated by right-wing victories in low-turnout Republican primaries, and a mere 87,000 who came out to hear Glenn Beck's ramblings, Tea Party screeching has stolen the discourse and crowded out thoughtful policy discussion -- such as 300 economists sounding the alarm about the need to put public investment in jobs ahead of deficit reduction.

If we can't take back the discourse, it will be difficult to renew the mandate for change next year, press Congress to build upon the successes of the Recovery Act to create millions more jobs, and continue pursuit of critical progressive reforms in areas such as clean energy and immigration.

The media has been applying a lower bar of success for Tea Party rallies than it did during the massive protests against the Iraq War. So you might be skeptical that a large turnout Saturday would make a difference.

But the million-strong turnout of the 2006 pro-immigration rallies caught the media's attention, took back the conversation from the anti-immigrant right-wing, and squelched the anti-immigrant legislation which had passed the House.

Similarly, a larger turnout Saturday in support of "jobs, justice and education" than Glenn Beck's recent rally in support of "Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck" will be very hard for the media to ignore.

Simply achieving parity in media attention blunts the Tea Party's corrosive influence on the discourse, opening up the possibility for a serious, responsible dialogue on the next steps America must take to recover from the conservative-created recession.

You can make that happen Saturday. Click here to join One Nation.

Originally posted at OurFuture.org