Some have characterized those attending Tea Party protests recently in Washington, D.C., as a dangerous, violence-prone fringe group of haters.
Most (not all) of the “mainstream” media seem to suspect these people have unaccountably come to dislike President Barack Obama and all his works, or have been manipulated by Fox News, and are more than tinged with a bit of racism.
This is no doubt comforting to those who find it difficult to imagine any opposition to this administration and its ambitious plans intellectually or morally creditable. But from what we have been able to piece together from many who were there and the experience of some of the reporters attending and observing demonstrations in the nation’s capital, this is hardly an accurate picture.
Following up on large-scale protests with effective political action is notoriously difficult. But it appears this protest represented a genuine middle-American wave of concern, sometimes exaggerated, at the truly stunning expansion of government power and spending that the Obama administration has begun and apparently plans to continue. Obama supporters would be wise not to take too seriously efforts to marginalize or downplay this sentiment.
Of course, any large-scale political demonstration, especially one that attracts TV cameras, will feature a noisy fringe element, and this one was no exception.
Signs and posters equating Obama with Hitler and Stalin could be found in almost as great abundance as signs equating George W. Bush with Hitler at anti-war and other demonstrations during the previous administration. Such signs tend to confirm the prejudices of those who oppose the cause or causes being espoused by demonstrators and discredit those with sincere concerns, but there seems no way to keep them out.
Crowd estimates at such events also tend to vary wildly, with opponents preferring to stick to modest guesses and proponents to inflated estimates. Thus estimates of the D.C. crowds varied from about 60,000 to 2 million. Local officials pegged it “in excess of 75,000” while a local police agency estimated 1.2 million. The National Park Service doesn’t make estimates anymore.
Nick Gillespie of Reason.tv (which put together a video with numerous short interviews of participants, organizers and speakers) said he found most of the crowd “stunningly normal.”
They were concerned mainly with the flamboyant spending the Obama administration has begun, but also with what they see as an attempted government takeover of health care, unaccountable policy “czars” and taxpayer bailouts.
Most expressed disdain for both Republicans and Democrats.
Widespread gerrymandering makes the likelihood of the wish expressed by many to throw them all out come the next election rather minute. But the demonstration was by and large a legitimate and heartfelt expression of alarm over the expansion of government. Whether that alarm will be translated into effective political action is another question.