A Rally, but No Rival

Money can buy a "grassroots" march, but it won't matter in November.


"This is true democracy and good old-fashioned organizing at work,” declared Leah Daughtry, black liberation theologist and organizer of the One Nation Working Together (ONWT) march held October 1st in the nation’s capital. The ONWT event was steeped in similar messaging: a progressive upswell is on the rise. Yet even a cursory look at the factors that made One Nation and its march possible reveals that Daughtry's characterization is not just inaccurate -- it’s laughable. Billed as a progressive counterpart to the populist Tea Party movement, the event in fact clears up any doubt over the well-funded, well-orchestrated, well-connected nature of the consortium of far-left organizations and activists that constitute the political Left today. For such a movement, a “grassroots” event on the fly isn't that difficult a feat.

Determining what exactly ONWT is, is a revealing process in its own right. Is it a rally? An organization? ONWT is noticeably evasive on this issue. The provenance of ONWT ultimately derives from a likely left-wing wellsprings; the multimillion-dollar Tides Center. Not exactly an organization, ONWT is classified as a “project” of the center, which is itself closely affiliated with the equally well-provisioned Tides Foundation. Both the Tides Center and the Tides Foundations are the brainchildren of radical activist and ACORN bailout-man Drummond Pike, and both have received millions of dollars over the years from George Soros’ Open Society Institute.

An enabler of left-wing astroturf, the Tides Center’s “core” service is providing “fiscal sponsorship” to progressive nonprofit startups. Although the center does not fund projects directly, the Tides Center takes care of their management and administrative burdens. Projects are not independent entities in themselves, but rather “are” the Tides Center (as they put it), allowing the projects/quasi-organizations to receive the benefits of tax-exempt non-profit status.

As stated by the Tides Center, the ONWT project is clearly aimed at energizing and organizing far-left voters and the Left's political infrastructure. The project’s signature event, the ONWT march in Washington D.C., was designed to “lead into an intensive voter mobilization program for Election Day 2010.” Secondarily, ONWT is concerned with “push[ing] back” against the forces of “divisiveness and hatred” (i.e. the Tea Party) and offering a “healing alternative” to “summon people to a higher moral plane” -- in other words, to present the facade of a grassroots counter-insurgency to rival right-wing populism. Not coincidentally, the project description makes special mention of the need to encourage voter participation from racial minorities, or as ONWT calls them “historically underrepresented groups and communities.” This demographic threw huge support to Barack Obama in 2008, but is not expected to make remotely as strong a turn out in the mid-term elections.

For all the derision of the Tea Party movement’s “extreme,” “fringe” politics, few are quite so concerned with the progressive Left’s flagrant commingling with Communists, socialists and radical theologians, which was on full display at the ONWT march. It has been widely reported that the Communist Party USA endorsed the ONWT rally, as did the Democratic Socialists of America, the International Socialist Organization, the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, and many other groups. Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER), Pax Christi, the American Friends Service CommitteeCode Pink (founded by Castro-acolyte Medea Benjamin), Sojourners, and the Campaign for Peace and Democracy were all endorsers of the event, among countless others.

ONWT is headquartered out of USAction, a spin-off of the group Citizen Action, which was founded by USAction vice-president Heather Booth. Booth, who is serving as a “senior advisor” for ONWT, has a storied history as a radical activist, with connections to such groups as ACORN, Moveon.org, the AFL-CIO and others. Her husband, Paul Booth, was co-founder of Students for a Democratic Society. Other ONWT activity was coordinated out of SEIU headquarters in New York City, the union closest to President Obama and whose leadership openly espouses Marxist tenets.

At least three other the key organizers of ONWT are associated with various far-left organizations and causes. ONWT’s steering committee liaison is Rosalyn Pelles, formerly of the AFL-CIO. Pelles was involved in the black liberation movement and was a signatory of the 1998 proposal for the formation of a Black Radical Congress, which called for a revival of militancy among African-Americans. ONWT “director of peace,” Michael McPhearson, is an endorser of the same Black Radical Congress and is the former executive director of Veterans for Peace, a group that supported the Marxist Sandinista militia of Nicaragua. Leah Daughtry, ONWT’s national campaign manager, is the daughter of Herbert Daughtry, a pastor and advocate of black liberation theology. Leah Daughtry, who is a minister herself, is likewise known for her adherence to black liberation theology. She was also chief of staff Democratic National Committee former chairmen Howard Dean and Terry McAuliffe.

Yet despite its disconcerting affiliations, ONWT is not at all obligated to apologize for it’s “extreme,” “fringe” elements. All of ONWT’s radical supporters were welcomed additions to the event and were prominently displayed on both its website and at the march. In a similar manner, there is relatively little criticism of ONWT’s artificiality. To be sure, neither the Left nor Right enjoys any kind of holy grassroots authenticity, but the orchestrated nature of ONWT has not received anywhere near the level of scrutiny as has been directed at the Tea Party. Neither has there been objection to its well-heeled benefactors.

All things considered, two lessons from ONWT are clear: in the first place, rallying the troops on the brink of a bleak election season really isn’t so difficult if the money and machinery are powerful enough. This is certainly not a problem for the Left, which is why no conservative anywhere can afford to rest complacently in the next several weeks preceding the election. On a more hopeful note, it seems there's no comparison between the organic nature of the Tea Party movement and the spurious, manufactured left-wing populism witnessed over the weekend. Yet it's one thing to bus your union members to a rally to wave a prefab sign for the cameras; its quite another to ensure they will actually make it to a voting booth. And with any luck, that will be the difference in November.