Political soothsayers sifting for clues that President Obama's worrisome “enthusiasm gap” was narrowed by Saturday's One Nation rally may have to look elsewhere.
The tens of thousands who gathered at the Lincoln Memorial demanding more federal funding for jobs, schools and justice included some of the bedrock constituencies of the Democratic Party.
But much like the tea party movement they seek to counterpoint, the liberal groups on The Mall represent a schism within their party, and a persistent unhappiness with Washington leadership.
While many at the rally took shots at the Tea Party movement, sprinkled among the thousands near the Lincoln Memorial were those with signs like “Spend Money on Jobs — Not War” that indicated dissatisfaction with Obama administration priorities, as well as the work of a Congress controlled by Democrats.
“The Democrats haven't delivered on their promises and a lot of the hopes people had about being the majority party,” said Mischa Gaus, editor of Labor Notes, the nation's largest independent union publication. “Part of this is to say you need to buck up, and deliver on what you promised.”
The other part, Gaus and other rally participants said, is sending a message that liberal activism is alive and strong despite the media attention paid to the tea party movement.
“One Nation doesn't seek to be the alternative to the tea party, but we do believe it's the antidote,” said Benjamin Jealous, President and CEO of the NAACP, one of the rally partners.
Whether the One Nation rally serves as a get-out-the-vote generator for the Democrats is a murky prospect. Labor, environmentalists, the gay community and other constituencies are more often expressing frustration with Democratic leadership than otherwise.
Obama last week exhorted Democrats to “buck up,” and expressed exasperation about his party's lack of interest in this year's consequential midterm elections.
A recent Gallup poll found Republicans with a 20 percentage point lead over Democrats among voters who say they are “very enthusiastic” about voting this year.
“Part of being a Democrat, I guess, is kind of looking at the glass half empty sometimes and thinking, oh, gosh, we didn't get this, and we didn't get that, and I'm still dissatisfied that that hasn't happened,” Obama said.
Labor, one of the key organizing elements of the rally, is especially unhappy with Obama's compromises on health care and other key issues.
Unlike the tea party, the One Nation participants support more government activism, especially on issues like job creation, education policy and redirecting money spent on war to other causes.
David Swanson, a prominent anti-war activist and co-founder of AfterDowningStreet.org, said this event brought different interest groups together for a unifying principle.
“You could close that enthusiasm gap in a day if you told people that we are going to end these wars and all that money will become available to provide people with quality jobs and education,” Swanson said.
Examiner reporter Freeman Klopott contributed to this story.