Jewish Journal

The Mainstream Gets Used

by  David A. Lehrer

October 5, 2010 | 3:31 pm

Tens of thousands of people gathered this past weekend in Washington, D.C. under the banner of One Nation Working Together

with the avowed aim of “building a more united America—-with jobs, justice and education for all.”  A benign goal with which very few could disagree.

The rally, addressed by the likes of Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. Al Sharpton, and a variety of leaders of organized labor and progressive organizations hammered home the message of “jobs, justice and education.”

The rally received widespread media coverage, most of it straight reportage of who was there, what they said, and when they said it. What most, but not all, of the coverage missed was the decision by the march sponsors to extend the approved list of endorsers to virtually any organization that simply said they agreed with the rally’s goals.

This “big tent” notion of collaboration sounds wonderful in theory but in the real world of politics and extremism doesn’t work and, in fact, can be dangerous.

A brief review of the some 400 organizations that are listed as “Endorsing Organizations” on the

One Nation Working Together

website reveals both the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) and the ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) Coalition.

These two groups alone demonstrate the folly of the rally leaders’ decision.

The CPUSA and ANSWER are extremist organizations that have demonstrated again and again their warped agendas and their support for, and links to, dictators, repressive regimes and terrorist groups around the world. They are interested in “justice, jobs and education for all” when it suits their larger ideological aims; when that is no longer the case, those goals will be discarded and ignored in an instant.

“Justice” was neither the watchword in Communist regimes of the past century nor of Lebanon and Gaza where ANSWER’s friends (Hamas and Hezbollah) prevail.

The history of the twentieth century is littered with individuals and organizations which paid heavy prices for thinking they could make alliances with extremists and radicals who, seemingly, shared a bit of their agenda. If there is one clear lesson from the tragedies of the past century, it is that one can’t ally with extremists and radicals, because they don’t play by the same rules moderates do. They keep allies so long as they are useful and they exploit any hint of legitimacy for their own awful ends.

For NAACP head Benjamin Jealous (one of the rally’s key sponsors and spokesmen) to say about the event and its endorsers, “This is a big tent and anyone who wants to stand up to create jobs and defend the jobs of teachers, police officers, nurses, firefighters——I say come on and join us,” betrays either naiveté,  his youth, or a hidden, unfortunate, agenda. He is quoted by The New York Times as saying, “That did not mean that the organizers agreed with all the policies of every group that endorsed the rally.”

One sure would hope not!

In his desire to swell the ranks of demonstrators he, wittingly or unwittingly, aided the crazies. His group’s and the March’s accomplishments can and will accrue to the benefit of extremists who made the “Endorsing Organizations” list.

For decades, an understanding prevailed among mainstream American political leaders—- ostracize the extremists, no matter how tempting such alliances might be. The Republicans, after some flirtation, steered clear of the John Birch Society and the Democrats treated the Communists like the plague. Bigots were eschewed by both parties with regularity and consistency.

Now come some new rules as enunciated by the NAACP’s Jealous, “We welcome them because they endorse our views…even if we don’t endorse theirs.”

If these groups weren’t officially listed as “Endorsing Organizations” one could make the case that the March organizers had no obligation to go out of their way to distance themselves from crazy groups that want a free ride. But once the March officially sanctioned them, the game changed.

There are certain groups—-the CPUSA and the ANSWER Coalition (there may be others in the list of 400 “endorsers”) among them—- that are so vile, their lack of commitment to principle so apparent, their ideological dishonesty so manifest and their track record of wreckage so obvious that to not ostracize them is to commit a political sin.

How self righteous or effective can liberal critics be of right wing groups who fail to ostracize racists and militia-like folks? Even several Tea Party leaders have distanced themselves from racists and extremists who sought to join up; they could simply have answered their critics, in a mirror of Jealous, “We don’t endorse all their views, we just agree with them on less government and lower taxes.”

It shouldn’t work for them and it doesn’t work for the Saturday marchers!

Allowing extremists to acquire some legitimacy by associating with mainstream organizations—whether it’s the NAACP or organized labor or children’s’ advocacy groups—-is a tragic mistake. The Communists and ANSWER folks will exploit this moment and gain adherents by touting the fact that they “marched with and were part of” a demonstration featuring mainline groups with a storied history of accomplishments; they will simply assert “how bad could we be?”

Leaders of the left and the right in this country, from Martin Luther King, Jr. to William F. Buckley knew to stay away from the political edges—-some among us seem not to remember that valued tradition. 

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