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Conservative and Tea Party Rallies and Trainings Dominate the Capital: Are Progressives and Liberal Democrats About to Be Out-Organized?

Conservative protests in Washington show the breadth of energy and money marshaled to organize the right-wing base, while progressives lag behind.

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In a basement room at the Mayflower, the mood was somber and penitent as Ralph Reed offered a prayer asking collective forgiveness for those assembled, for having let American down, presumably with the election of Barack Obama. "Father, we repent for having taken the gift of this nation, and the freedom that you gave us, for granted. We ask you to forgive us; we ask you to forgive us for our national sins," Reed said. "We ask you to heal our land. Rick Santorum, the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, offered the keynote speech for the Faith and Freedom Coalition gala, where not a drop of alcohol was served. Freedom, Santorum said, flowed from faith.

Witness the circle widening -- the circle of energized opponents to the re-election of a Democratic Congress.

Given the lighter turnout at this year's FreedomWorks 9/12 march, or the mere 200-300 who turned out for Ralph Reed's Faith and Freedom Coalition conference, liberals and progressives may be apt to diminish the impact right-wing organizers are likely to have in the midterm elections. They shouldn't. It only takes a core of committed activists to "move the needle," and those who turned up this weekend are among the most committed. Next weekend will bring another 2,000 or 3,000 for the Values Voter Summit.

At the FreedomWorks rally on Capitol Hill, Tea Party leaders from around the country took their turns at the podium, overlooking the crowd carrying signs that promised insurrection or derided the president, and imploring the thousands before them to do their part. Raucous and ready to rumble, the crowd roared back its approval with each appeal.

"I believe we’ve got the Republican Party's attention; we've been beating the establishment all over the country," Dick Armey told the appreciative crowd gathered on the Capitol lawn. "It's time we give the same lesson to the other party."

Adele M. Stan is AlterNet's Washington bureau chief.