This weekend was the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, which he offered up from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Aug. 28, 1963; most of you are no doubt familiar with this historic example of oratory; for those that aren’t, perhaps this unexpectedly lovely autotuned version would be a suitable introduction.
By coincidence, this anniversary was also the date FOX commentator Glenn Beck chose to have his own rally on the mall, and, while he insists he didn’t know the historical importance of the date (“I find that totally credible,” The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart said in response), Beck wasn’t about to let a good coincidence go to waste. He had, for a while been referring to this as a Woodstock for a new generation, or an anti-Woodstock, depending on what mood he was in, but quickly Beck’s discussion turned to civil rights. Attendees, Beck claimed, “will reclaim the civil rights moment. We will take that movement, because we were the people that did it in the first place.”
Moreover, he invited one of Dr. King’s actual relatives, his niece Alveda King, as a keynote speaker. What? Who? Salon introduces us to Ms. King, who has, shall we say, pronounced views on gay rights and abortion — she once referred to gay marriage as “genocide.” Beck claimed the rally would not be political, and even extolled attendees to “leave your signs at home, guys.” And while Beck insisted the point of the rally was to honor our troops — a sort of sentiment that most people can get behind, regardless of politics, the timing of the event and Beck’s extensive use (or misuse, depending on your perspective) of the rhetoric of civil rights was bound to stir up some anger. As ABC News points out, the Rev. Al Sharpton, himself no stranger to controversy, held a counter-rally.
Ultimately, the event seemed less about the troops and more about political opportunism, and all of this would be out of the scope of the Daily Glean, but for one thing: Michele Bachmann spoke. She claims the event, along with other conservative events she attended this weekend, spoke more to unity than disunity (specifically, according to Annie Baxter of Minnesota Public Radio, Bachmann said, “What I saw was a great unity“), but there isn’t even a unified sense of how many people were there. Beck was hoping for 300,000, but even his FOX co-worker Bill O’Relly scoffed at these expectations, saying, as The Week reports, that he would give up his job at FOX if Beck managed to draw more than 100,000. Tom Kavanagh of Politics Daily discusses the estimates as to the actual crowd size — estimates that vary wildly, with FOX putting the amount at 500,000, apparently eager to have O’Reilly resign, while CBS commissioned aerial photos of the crowd and put the estimate at 87,000, apparently hoping O’Reilly would stick around. Bachmann offered the most hopeful estimate: “We’re not going to let anyone get away with saying there were less than a million here.” One presumes she is now on the phone with every news organization in America, as none of them are reporting a million.
Perhaps disappointed by the self-declared nonpartisan theme of the event, Bachmann also held her own rally on the mall, witnessed by one Noah Kristula-Green of Frum Forum, who describes the event as being opened by a rock band called Bobby Powers and Party Time, who sang a song with the following lyrics: “Take your haaaands, out of our pockets! / Don’t you have some pockets of your own?” — which isn’t exactly Dylan but does have an admirable directness. Bachmann was introduced as “Barack Obama’s worst nightmare!” One expects the introduction was written without awareness of the irony of taking a day famous for being one African-American man’s dream and turning it into a nightmare for another. The Washington Post also covered Bachmann’s rally and offered this wry note: “Although the crowd was overwhelmingly white, the dais showcased a diverse group including a black woman, a black man, a white man and a Hispanic man.”
In another apparent coincidence of timing, Bachmann has again found herself in the crosshairs of the Southern Poverty Law Center for her relationship with the Christian rock group You Can Run But You Cannot Hide. In a report titled “Pols, Nativists Make Common Cause With Gay-Bashers,” the Center quotes a notorious comment by the band’s founder, in which he seems to praise Muslims for executing homosexuals (“they seem to be more moral than even the American Christians”); Bradlee Dean has backtracked quite a bit from this, which the SPLC notes, but also notes that the group has been supported by both Bachmann and GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer. Paul Schmelzer and Andy Birkey of Minnesota Independent have covered the band, and their relationship with Bachmann and Emmer, extensively.
While Bachmann continues to outrage the left, DFL gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton has been generating some heated statements from the right, such as this comment from the Minnesota Family Council, a local affiliate of the evangelical Focus on the Family. According to the Independent’s Birkey, the MFC declared that a Dayton win would mean “abortion and condoms any and everywhere,” which would be an amazing campaign slogan.
That makes it sound like Dayton has a clear-cut position, but, then, as Birkey further reports, Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life calles Dayton “wishy washy” on the subject. As quoted by Lifenews.com, “MCCL is calling for Dayton to state clearly whether he supports the extreme agenda of the abortion industry or would back limits on abortion like allowing parents to know when their minor daughters are considering one.” According to OnTheIssues.com, Dayton is rated 100 percent by NARAL Pro-Choice America, a group that opposes restrictions to abortion; perhaps MCCL hopes to peel off a few pro-choice voters by suggesting that Dayton’s support for the issue is in question.
The most startling tale from the campaign trail is that of Minnesota Senate District 13 candidate Larry Rice. As the Associated Press relates, Rice suffered a brain hemorrhage on a campaign stop. Rice is recovering and is expected to return to campaigning soon, but there is a lesson there for all candidates: Don’t assume it is American politics that is giving you a headache.
In more local politics, Tim Pugmire of MPR reports the formation of a new umbrella organization called the Minnesota North Star Tea Party Patriots. According to the AP, the point of this group is to “work with coordinators of the local tea party groups that have sprung up around the conservative movement”; and the Associated Press notes the risks in creating organizational structures for a group the identifies itself as having a bottom-up approach to governance. But, then, a recent New Yorker piece by Jane Mayer makes the case that this grass-roots self-identity is illusory; and the movement is funded and steered by billionaires, such as the brothers who own Koch Industries to serve their business interests and support their politics, which, in the case of the Kochs, is libertarianism.
In arts: Yet another flash mob descended on Minneapolis, this time performing, and apparently in support of, Lady Gaga, who plays at the Xcel Energy Center today and Tuesday. Advertisers have already demonstrated that there is no spontaneous movement they won’t abscond with to move product; we at the Daily Glean foresee a future in which you can’t leave your home without being surrounded by a flash mob of mediocre dancers trying to encourage you to purchase soda pop or cheese or Florida Water or a book on why Bill Wasik, who invented the flash mob, cries himself to sleep every night.
In sports: Hart Van Denberg of City Pages offers up a guide to the Vikings that “rock Twitter the hardest.” Given their iffy start to the new season, perhaps we will have to look to their Twitter accounts for entertainment. If they’re not going to go to the Super Bowl, the least they can do is entertain us with a constant stream of Twitter memes.