"There are only two men in America who can fill Yankee Stadium on three weeks' notice," a friend instructed me years ago.
"Billy Graham and Louis Farrakhan."
Indeed, a decade ago, Black Muslim Minister Farrakhan's "Million Man March" brought a throng of hundreds of thousands to the Capitol.
But, last Saturday, Glenn Beck packed the Mall with a crowd that could have filled Yankee Stadium to overflowing five times over. As it stretched from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument, the estimates of its size ran to half a million.
This was twice the size of the crowd that heard Martin Luther King Jr. 47 years ago and matched the antiwar demonstrations of 1969.
Wisely, Beck dropped partisanship to convert his gathering into a God, country and Constitution rally, with speakers honoring the courage and sacrifice of America's military. Said Sarah Palin, a rally star, "Say what you want to say about me, but I raised a combat vet, and you can't take that away from me."
Al Sharpton, who organized a counter-rally that turned out a few hundred folks at Dunbar High, was his usual gracious self. Speaking of the half a million Americans on the Mall, the Rev. Al volunteered, "They want to disgrace this day."
President Obama, seeing that crowd on the Mall as large as the one that came to celebrate his inaugural, must understand what it portends. His moment may have passed.
For that enthusiastic and energetic assembly is the spear point of an army of millions headed for the polls to throw out the party he leads.
Nevertheless, as Obama raised hopes only to be perceived as having fallen short, so, too, Beck's believers and the tea party folks are raising hopes and expectations.
But can they succeed?
"We must not fundamentally transform America, as some would want," said Palin, in one of the direct challenges to Obama. "We must restore America."
But can we restore America, or is the old America gone forever?
Consider the issue that unites all on the Mall on Saturday -- the need for the U.S. government to cut spending, to balance its budget and not to shove an immense burden of debt on our children.
Like last year, we are running a deficit of $1.4 trillion, almost 10 percent of the entire economy. With housing starts and housing sales plunging, jobless claims rising, the stock market sinking and economic growth slowing to a crawl, we will face a new deficit equally large in the fiscal year beginning in October.
Where are the victorious tea party Republicans going to cut?