There are arguments over the number of those who participated in the March for Our Lives, as there always are disputes over crowd size at these mass demonstrations. Suffice it to say, a bunch of people took part. In Washington, the spat is over just how many hundred thousands flooded the nation’s capital, to say nothing of those who turned out in hundreds of cities and towns throughout the United States and around the world.
The organizers — rank amateur teenagers who rose up from Parkland, Florida, after the massacre at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School — did an amazing job. They ignited an outrage-fueled wildfire that spread to students at thousands of schools nationwide. They also captured the imagination of the logistic professionals financed by sympathetic adults. The result was an immense turnout and a well-choreographed and telegenic outpouring of angry frustration at a political system that is unresponsive and unable to cure our nation’s illnesses, like the blight of deadly weaponry, that has so infected America.
In no way is this a criticism of the kids who put this together. It is skepticism over whether this immense show of force is enough to overcome the entrenched special interests that will do whatever it takes to protect their prosperity. One of the most perversely successful is the gun lobby, led by the National Rifle Association. Like a threatened monster, the NRA brutally lashes out whenever threatened. It didn’t disappoint this time, derisively calling the enormous rallies a “March for Their Lies,” heaping scorn on the Stoneman Douglas leaders who’ve become celebrities, charging that if their classmates had not died, “no one would know your names.”
So, the battle lines have been drawn. The problem is, the NRA has always won these battles. Each time the country is shocked to our core after a deadly slaughter of innocents by gunfire, the arms-merchant lobbyists swing into action and stifle any meaningful progress with bullying and demagoguery.
What will it take for the chants of “enough is enough” to become more than just a feel-good mantra? The purity of this outpouring must now dig into the dirt of politics to accomplish anything more than catharsis. Obviously.
So there were voter sign-up spots throughout the rallies, but will those who are easily distracted actually sustain their focus on the campaign process and hold the candidates accountable by slogging nonstop for the several months before the midterm elections? Will they work for candidates who declare themselves in favor of meaningful gun-control measures and, more importantly, against those who receive support from the NRA?
We in the media are fickle. Between gun bloodbaths, there are distractions everywhere. Some of them are consequential, such as the intrigue of the Robert Mueller investigation into whether Trump and his associates sold out the last election and our country to the Russians. There also is our siren song of seedy sex stuff, featuring Stormy Daniels, Karen McDougal and lots of others. The Stormy Daniels interview on “60 Minutes” may have been just unworthy hype, but it got huge ratings. The challenge for the hundreds of thousands who turned out for the March for Our Lives will be to maintain the enthusiasm and public focus on cutting back guns, which are America’s real obscenity.
Franken is an Emmy winning broadcast journalist.