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This Is Not MLK’s Dream

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When Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. made his famous “I have a Dream” speech 47 years ago, he did it before a large and diverse audience full of both white and black faces, all united behind the cause of racial equality and equal opportunity for all Americans just because they were Americans, regardless of political, ethnic or social divisions. Today, while watching C-SPAN I saw the descendants of those who witnessed and even participated in King’s march on Washington gather in two largely segregated groups in an ironic segregation of the failure of King’s vision for our nation.

At the south end of the national mall, in the location where King spoke, there gathered a huge audience which was mostly white and middle and working class. They were enraged and driven to activism by the realization that the dream which Dr. King wanted white America to share with black America was now being taken away from both groups. At the call of a confused and clownlike fanatic with more media access than good sense, they came together to fumble for a shared expression of the powerlessness and frustration they feel when faced with a government running out of control and a nation wrecked on the shoals of greed and institutionalized corruption. There was far too much talk of God and Honor and other abstractions and too little talk about real solutions to the nation’s problems.

Not far away, at historic Dunbar High School, there were no good solutions to be found either. Before a small and unenthusiastic crowd which was uniformly dark skinned and had been bussed in by the SEIU, the AFT and the NEA, speaker after speaker repeated unionist slogans and socialist rhetoric with lukewarm response from the audience who had apparently been paid to show up but not to applaud. Unlike Dr. King’s spontaneous gathering of the people, this was a contrived event funded and manufactured by powerful special interest groups who have seized control of the government and promote an inhumane and exploitative ideology.

The contrast between the two rallies was striking.

Beck’s “Restoring Honor” event was enormous, far beyond anything I would have expected. Estimates of the crowd size place it well over 500,000 people, more than double the turnout for King’s original rally. In comparison Reverend Al Sharpton’s “Reclaim the Dream” event had a small and unenthusiastic turnout which may have barely topped 10,000, though comments from the podium suggested that the unions were still bussing in participants even as the original crowd was losing interest and wandering away during Sharpton’s speech.

The Beck event was largely apolitical. In fact, I found it troubling how heavily religious it was, with extensive references to Mormon symbolism and creepy religious figures spending time talking about moral values and vaguely threatening references to rechristianizing America. The most political speech came from former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, but most of the speakers were pushing a religious message, including some black preachers who had marched with King and his neice Alveda King. The union-sponsored event was quite different. Everything was political and the preachers who appeared were among the most radical of the speakers. It was all about blaming Bush and asserting political dominance for unions and activist groups.

At the Lincoln Memorial Beck’s followers were dressed normally and mostly not carrying signs. They were hot but enthusiastic and engaged, though I can’t figure out how most of them could see or hear anything at all given the size of the crowd. Much of the crowd at Dunbar High School showed up in uniform, wearing SEIU provided t-shirts and obediently participating in displays of support, but seeming quite disengaged from the speakers, some of whom became quite frustrated at the lack of response from the crowd.

Frankly, the Beck rally bored the hell out of me. Aside from a creepy bit at the beginning with some blatant token Jews and Native Americans and a bizarre preacher who seemed to e some sort of dualistic or pantheistic heretic with a speech impediment, the only part which kept my attention was Palin’s speech. I wanted more politics and less moralizing. Too much flag-waving and religiosity and a lack of content left me uninterested.

The “Reclaim the Dream” rally kept me riveted because of the obvious anger, hate and frustration on display. It was like looking at the moment where a populist movement achieves victory and begins the transition to despotism and oppression. All they needed was Hugo Chavez on the stage, or maybe not since several of their speakers did a fair but unintentional impression of him.

The rhetoric of revolution sounds like the rhetoric of tyranny when it comes from those who already have power and who are the new establishment. When Marc Morial of the National Urban League talks about poverty it’s impossible to take him seriously when you know he makes $657,000 a year and has a 7 figure benefits package. It’s hard to stick it to “The Man” when times have changed and you are “The Man.”

Perhaps the most ominous moment was when a Gregory Floyd of Teamsters Local 237 in New York City said that “We stand in solidarity with this social movement. Labor and this social movement, this civil rights movement, are one and the same.” Words with terrifying implications from the spokesman of an organization which is notorious for denying workers their right of free choice and free association in the workplace.

Surprisingly, the strongest expressions of ugliness and hate from either event came from a hispanic speaker. Jamie Contreras of the SEIU called Beck’s rally a “shame” and announced that it represented “hatemongering and angry white people.”

Al Sharpton was not far behind, announcing that “they want to disgrace this day. And we’re not giving them this day. This is our day and we ain’t giving it away.” But it’s not and Dr. King would not agree. His message was for everyone and no one, regardless of skin color or political ideology can claim it exclusively for themselves.

Forty-seven years seems like a very short time for Dr. King’s dream to have soured and become so misunderstood. When the exploitative labor leaders and hatemongering activists stood up at Dunbar High School and declared that they wanted to “Reclaim the Dream” the sad truth was readily apparent that their goal was to take a dream which was meant for all people and deny it to some while perverting its intent to their own advantage.

If they really believed in Dr. King’s dream they would have been at the Lincoln Memorial with Glenn Beck, demanding an equal voice and speaking to an audience which their presence would have made truly representative of the dream which both groups professed so stridently and unconvincingly to believe in and which neither was really doing anything to advance.

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About Dave Nalle

Dave Nalle is Executive Director of the Texas Liberty Foundation, Chairman of the Center for Foreign and Defense Policy, South Central Regional Director for the Republican Liberty Caucus and an advisory board member at the Coalition to Reduce Spending. He was Texas State Director for the Gary Johnson Presidential campaign, an adviser to the Ted Cruz senatorial campaign, Communications Director for the Travis County Republican Party and National Chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus. He has also consulted on many political campaigns, specializing in messaging. Before focusing on political activism, he owned or was a partner in several businesses in the publishing industry and taught college-level history for 20 years.
  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/alan-kurtz Alan Kurtz

    Excellent article, Dave. I missed the proceedings on TV (my set has been broken for two months and I can’t afford to get it fixed), but you’ve given me an engaging picture of what went on. Thank you.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    The fuzzy motives and themes of Beck’s rally don’t seem to have added up to much. A lot of the reaction from the left beforehand [myself included], was based on Beck’s history of bizarro rhetoric and antics, including calling the president a racist on national TV.

    Also all his portentous promises about this rally — that it would produce miracles and change history — now look empty and silly.

    The combination of media superstars Beck and Palin were bound to draw a big crowd — but to what purpose? I don’t think there are any clear answers.

  • zingzing

    the sharpton, et al, response to this was late and ill-conceived, which is typical of the left. the beck, et al, thing was either stupidity or quite cunning and evil, which is typical of the right.

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    any other source of the crowd size other than a blogger? I looked at FOX News’s website and they only state thousands and not hundred thousands.

  • Chlotilde

    The crowd filled the entire mall and more. For other rallies that has been estimated at as much as a million.

  • jamminsue

    Dave – thank you for posting MLK’s speech. I am working on a paper about the Glen Beck event, for a class at UNLV, and wanted to re-visit that speech.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Evil is typical of the right, Zing? Come again? You actually think that people who want less government and more freedom are evil?

    EB, my impression is that everyone is now shying away from making firm estimates of these crowds because they’ve been burnt too many times. The blog I linked to has multiple links to other sources and you can draw your own conclusions. It certainly seems like a hell of a lot of people, especially in comparison to the turnout for the Sharpton event.

    Look at some of the video and photos and I think you’ll agree that Beck had as many people there as at any event in recent memory. Certainly more than the “million man march” or the Tea Party event this Spring.

    And believe me, I wish the Beck event had been a flop. I find it troubling that he could draw so many supporters.


  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Found another bit. The official Park Service estimate on the Beck crowd is 300,000 and they have historically estimated low.


  • http://jeanniedanna.wordpress.com/ jeannie danna

    Well Dave, you managed to get a few digs in here about the evil unions…Why am I no longer surprised?

    Also, the very same people that claim they want less government always find a way to grow it to serve themselves and their friends when it’s there turn…During his presidency, Reagan bloated the government’s size.

    “This is Robert Hager in Washington.

    The Reagan camp promised a revolution in the way Washington does business, and at first, it resembled one. At the Environmental Protection Agency, Ann Burford was busy shooting down a decade’s worth of anti-pollution rules. New leaders at the Federal Trade Commission virtually took the government out of consumer protection. There were promises to close down the Department of Energy. Close down the Department of Education, and cut government spending on health. Budget cuts did reduce the federal role in housing in welfare and in parklands.

    But the early zeal gave way to the practical problems of running government. Instead of decreasing, spending on health increased, and the Departments of Energy and Education remained, and got bigger. So the revolution came only part way, but enough to change the terms of future engagement. Nowadays even liberal politicians, opponents of the Reagan record, no longer dare to advocate a return to the pre-Reagan days of regulation writing and fiery consumerism.”

    more to follow…

  • http://jeanniedanna.wordpress.com/ jeannie danna

    When it’s their turn, the only government departments that disappear are the one that employ *other people*, certainly not their friends, colleagues, and people they owe.

    Look at what Bush/Cheney did.

    Dismantle, cripple and wipe-out existing offices, and then bring in your own people to do the same jobs…example, Homeland Security.

  • Arch Conservative

    Jeanie, you may not have noticed but Bush and Cheney are no longer in office any more. Your golden boy is. You know…..the first messiah in the history of the world that required on the job training. Wouldn’t you rather speak about him and the miracles he’s performed such as turning water into double digit unemployment?

    By the way…….does anyone know if Tawanna Brawley showed up for the Sharpton shindig?

  • http://jeanniedanna.wordpress.com/ jeannie danna

    What’s your point?

  • http://jeanniedanna.wordpress.com/ jeannie danna

    I think , I hit a nerve. :(

  • http://jeanniedanna.wordpress.com/ jeannie danna


    You are so bitter. Would your entire personality change if the GOP were back in power? We will probably never know…

  • Jordan Richardson

    does anyone know if Tawanna Brawley showed up for the Sharpton shindig?

    Leave it to Arch to haul up something from the late freaking 80s in an attempt to be relevant.

  • Bill B

    Nothing at the link dave cited for attendance is remotely reputable except maybe the park service number – though as far as I know they compute from area occupied x number of folk (via formula – I believe 4cu. ft. per person though could be wrong) in said area – don’t know if they distinguish between shoulder to shoulder (the 4 cu. ft. #) and blanket and lawnchair crowds with their formula but an awful lot of green can be seen the further from the podium you go. Most close up pics show more leisurely lawn chair folk than shoulder to shoulder. Big difference.

    cbs commissioned a company to do an estimate and with a +/- 9000 margin of error (not sure how they compute) they say 87k.
    Check it out here.

    I suppose numbers aren’t too big a deal anyway – just kinda nuts how many folks actually believe/listen to this guy.

    Would like to have daves crystal ball telling us the socio-economic makeup of the crowd.

  • http://jeanniedanna.wordpress.com/ jeannie danna

    “Glenn Beck Rally Attracts Estimated 87,000”

    thanks, Bill…i was wondering about that number…

  • http://jeanniedanna.wordpress.com/ jeannie danna

    I wish the Beck event had been a flop. I find it troubling that he could draw so many supporters.

    It was and he didn’t…

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Good post, Jeannie, about the presumed motivation of the the Glenn Beck crowd. More freedom and less government, my foot. Their newly-found idealism and concern for America is but a pretext to make them look and feel good. They’d sell their soul to the devil if it meant furthering their self-interests.

    It’s interesting how Dave holds both ends against the middle, espousing the ideas while disapproving of the spectacle.

  • Arch Conservative

    The point was that you’re obsessed with blaming Bush and not even entertaining any legitimate criticism of the current administration.

    I think I’d like it if every politician in Washington, Democrats and Republicans (with the exception of Ron Paul of course) and all the international bankers dropped dead before I finished writing this post jeannie.

    As for Glenn Beck, although he shares some of my views, I can’t stand the guy. The presentation is over the top annoying. He’s always giggling.

    Oh and Al Sharpton is to race relations what Fred Phelps is to promoting a positive, open minded view of Christianity. He’s a fat pig in a cheap suit whose only goal in life is to get as much camera time as possible. I think MLK would most likely vomit in his mouth if he were around today and had to watch Al in action.

  • zingzing

    dave: “You actually think that people who want less government and more freedom are evil?”

    you actually think glenn beck and sarah palin represent that? no. they make suckers out of you. they are nothing but money-grubbing opportunists who know a fucking dope when they see one. they’re taking you for a ride and they don’t give a shit what happens to you or this country after they’ve made the cash.

    that’s what i think is evil. but by this point, those idiots at that rally yesterday just might deserve whatever they get.

    and stop with the meaningless “less government” and “more freedom” junk. you’ve really beaten those words into a soup. the catch phrases now, not ideas with any real substance.

  • zingzing

    they’re, not “the” in the last sentence…

  • http://jeanniedanna.wordpress.com/ jeannie danna

    Thank you, Roger

    I’m not alone in thinking that all this *smaller government* talk is just a smoke screen…

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Exactly, zing, they’re nothing but fighting slogans by now, deprived of any real meaning.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Yes, Jeannie, a smoke screen for a defunct agenda.

    Just think, if conservatives, and I count Dave among the smartest, were capable of suggesting realistic solutions, they surely would have. Their constant fallback on the same old tired turn of phrase is proof positive that they have no idea how to even begin to think about today’s prob