In name and in theory, the premise is great: "One Nation Working Together." Initially, the Web site looks the part as well. There is talk of uniting conservatives and moderates, liberals and progressives. There is the common goal of advancing prosperity for all Americans in a manner that is above politics and encompasses citizens from all backgrounds.
And then there's the welcome video clip with former DNC Chairman Howard Dean. When you see it, you understand what this rally is truly all about: not losing the elections in November.
A closer look at the sponsorships of the rally gives a deeper understanding of the folks who are expected to participate in the rally at the National Mall in Washington: a coalition of political left-leaning and leftist organizations, some of which have no reputation at all for working with conservatives and moderates for political and social solutions in today's America.
Furthermore, a quick peek at some of the rhetoric on the site, including Dean's monologue, tells us what "nation" this rally is really attempting to unite today: the Obama Nation — or at the very least, the movement of Obama voters who came to the polls in 2008. Without them, there will be a lot of electoral losses for the Democrats in November. With them, the Democrats feel that they have a shot at holding on to at least one of the two chambers on Capitol Hill.
Either way, we have lost the true definition of "nonpartisan" in the process. Just as the left criticized the Restoring Honor event as nothing more than a rallying cry for Republican voters in the fall (while overlooking the significance of Aug. 28), those holding Saturday's rally are guilty of the same halfhearted efforts to feign bipartisanship through nice slogans and good sound bites, only to display their partisan tones soon after. The One Nation march will, in the end, come off as nothing more than a political rally for voters to "stop people that want to take us backwards, not ahead," and will not do much to fulfill the promise of reuniting America.
And just like the controversy surrounding the Restoring Honor rally, the pall hanging over the One Nation rally proves that unifying leadership in America is disappearing at a time when our nation badly needs it.
Years ago, there was a time when national organizations, public speakers and public figures could be counted on to truly bring together the nation. Martin Luther King Jr. and others did this, most famously at the Mall. They used their platforms to call out their oppressors where necessary and chastise their supporters when needed — not merely to rally them to vote in an election. Leadership to inspire action on such a broad scale — such as the One Nation rally — requires that honesty and unity be present in the planning, execution and aftermath of one's actions, with an exclusive focus on uplifting results.
A Dearth of Statesmen
The economic crisis is already putting us through the worst of times. The political environment is turning it even more negative. With a dearth of real American statesmen and women out there — people who are skilled at reconciling past differences and making appropriate compromise — we no longer have the social structures to regain our sense of stablity and common identity as "one nation."
Instead of offering an alternative to what they say is the primary focus of the Tea Party — dividing America with polarizing political and social rhetoric — the One Nation leadership has acquiesced to the "You're for us or against us" mind-set that first came onto the American landscape during the Bush White House years, a direction we were promised we would move away from during the Obama era. Sadly, the One Nation march symbolizes an era in which everything seems to be burning down around us economically, socially and morally in America, and too many leaders want to invoke the "fight fire with fire" mantra.
We must admit: In facing the challenges of hard choices and tough times today, we cannot continue to bypass any opportunity to unite our nation for liberty and justice for all — be it under God (as the Pledge of Allegiance rightly states), under a common stance against terrorism or under a common vision for a more prosperous country. However, as long as we continue to refuse to listen to one another while calling our efforts "nonpartisan," we will move away from truly being one nation.
Lenny McAllister is a syndicated political commentator and frequent contributor to The Root. He hosts the morning radio show Launching Chicago With Lenny McAllister on WVON, the Talk of Chicago 1690 AM. Follow him at Twitter and on Facebook.