Glenn Beck, the Fox News commentator, told Tea Party activists on the eve of a rally at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington that they are assembling to try to “wake America up” from its “backsliding of principles and values, and most importantly of God.”
Beck, the surprise speaker at a gathering late yesterday to build political support for Tea Party-supported candidates, shared the stage with Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and other candidates running for Congress.
“My, my, my, the U.S. Senate won’t know what hit them,” Bachmann said. “Can you imagine not only conservatives, but constitutional conservatives?”
Today, Beck will be joined by Tea Party heroine Sarah Palin, a contributor to News Corp.-owned Fox News, for a rally billed as a celebration of the military, patriotism and American heritage.
Beck has said the assembly -- on the same steps where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech exactly 47 years ago -- isn’t political and doesn’t aim to rally voters before November’s congressional elections.
Organizers of the event, titled “Restoring Honor,” are discouraging people from bringing signs, and no current officeholders are scheduled to speak. Bachmann said members of Congress would meet for an outdoor town hall style meeting after the rally.
That wasn’t the case yesterday at the warm-up event organized by FreedomWorks, an advocacy group affiliated with the Tea Party. Organizers handed out campaign signs supporting Tea Party-backed candidates.
“What happens this year will make what happened in 1994 look like a Sunday picnic,” said Mike Lee, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Utah. He was referring to Republicans gaining control of the House in elections that year.
Beck, Palin and allies are bolstered by skirmishes their candidates have won in a war against the political establishment. One is playing out in Palin’s home state, where Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski trails a Tea Party rival in a protracted Republican primary vote count.
Murkowski, 53, who followed her father into office, is 1,668 votes behind political newcomer Joe Miller, 43, a Gulf War Army veteran endorsed by Palin and Tea Party activists. Thousands of absentee votes are to be counted starting Aug. 31 to determine the winner of the Aug. 24 primary.
Catherina Wojtowicz, 41, traveled to Washington to see Beck and Palin. She arrived in the capital two days ago wearing a T-shirt that carried Palin’s name and “Babies, Guns, Jesus.” The self-employed event organizer from Chicago said she wanted to celebrate the Constitution and see Beck in person.
‘Talks to You’
“He talks to you and not at you,” said Wojtowicz, who was meeting in Washington with about 40 members of the Chicago Tea Patriots group. “He’s giving you an education.”
Rally organizers, who got a permit from the National Park Service, said they expect 300,000 people to attend, the Washington Post reported on its website.
“It’s going to be a little overwhelming as we see tens of thousands of people standing together, locked arm-in-arm, peaceful, happy,” Beck said on his television show two days ago. “This event is bigger than any single one person; it is not about one person.”
St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols is scheduled to be honored, and team manager Tony La Russa, who plans to introduce him, said they agreed to appear only after being assured the rally wouldn’t be a political event, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported on its website.
Although Beck says his event is nonpartisan, it has been surrounded by political activity.
Tea Party, Rally
Representative Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican, said he asked people to donate to the event, saying in an interview that it was a “good thing for our country.”
Americans for Prosperity, a Tea Party group, is holding its political action convention in Washington over the weekend and busing people to the rally.
The leader of the House Democratic campaign effort, Maryland Representative Chris Van Hollen, challenged the claim by rally organizers that the event is nonpartisan.
“It’s a blatant political effort,” he told reporters at a Washington press conference. “You’ve seen Glenn Beck and a lot of the talk show hosts on Fox News out there talking about this election” for 15 months.
Beck has said it is a coincidence that his event is taking place on the anniversary of King’s speech.
Last year, Beck said on Fox that President Barack Obama is a “racist” with a “deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture.” He later told CBS’s Katie Couric in an interview that he was “sorry the way it was phrased.”
Beck’s rally will get competition from the Reverend Al Sharpton and other African-American and civil rights leaders, who will hold their own event to commemorate King’s “Dream” speech and focus on improving education equality. It will conclude with a march to the site of a planned King memorial, near Beck’s rally.
Organizers of the Sharpton rally said in a news release that Beck is attempting to “hijack the dream” by pushing for an expansion of states’ rights, “the exact antithesis of the civil rights movement and Dr. King’s legacy.”