Tuesday, September 15, 2009

An on-the-ground perspective of the 9/12 Tea Party

While I was back home in Columbus, Union Station was good enough to walk down a few blocks and take in the sights of the enormous event taking place down by the US Capitol this weekend. Here's his report:

From an organizational standpoint, the DC Teaparty this past Saturday was an outstanding success. The march from Freedom Plaza to the Capitol was intense and provided the media with some great shots. The list of speakers included a diverse group of individuals who included a coal miner, a Nazi concentration camp survivor, and multiple members of Congress. I am not going to try to estimate the crowd size, but I will say that when I walked down at about 2pm the crowd was packed from the Capitol to at least 3rd street with lots of people walking up and down the mall on both sides.

The actual effectiveness of this protest remains to be seen. There were lots of anti-war protests in DC and around the country during the Bush years but we still have troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Although these protests never brought the troops home, they did shift the power in Washington. Hopefully this will happen again.

This crowd viewed Glenn Beck and Rep. Joe Wilson as heroes. They erupted with cheers each time either of their names were mentioned. I was amazed at the number of Joe Wilson stickers/signs people were wearing/carrying. You may not agree that a joint session of Congress is the best time to call the President a liar, but he has no doubt made a name for himself and as of last night had raised well over $1 million for his campaign.

As a veteran of many political rallies, the message on the signs being carried is usually strictly controlled and the rally organizers usually have select individuals create many “homemade looking” signs with similar messages that are approved by the organizers. This was not the case here. I would approximate that 95% of the signs I saw were actually homemade and demonstrated a variety of opinions and concerns that people have right now with the direction of the country.

As I entered the crowd I was smoking my cigar and quietly following behind a couple of young left wingers who were walking in to check out the crowd. All they kept saying was “OMG OMG” and pointing to this sign or that.

I would tend to agree with them.

My jaw hit the ground when I walked over the hill of the Capitol to see all of hundreds of thousands of people, from all walks of life, coming together to show Congress their disapproval. I could overhear their dismay that anyone would consider Obama a fascist. My guess is that they couldn’t give me a definition of fascism if I asked them.

From a tech perspective, the speakers were regularly taking “polls” by getting people to text them their biggest concerns. Were they trying to get a list of phone numbers? #DC912 served as the twitter hashtag for the protest is still a trending topic. Truly it shows the success of the organizers and the grassroots effort.

The Bottom Line: Democrats should be concerned of two things: 1. the people who want to remove them from office are highly organized and motivated on a grassroots level. This is not a good sign for their longevity; and 2. the people in the crowd were not all redneck right-wingers who cling to their guns and religion. One woman I spoke with voted for Obama and considered herself a liberal as recently as last year. The crowd was filled with moderates and libertarians who think things have gone too far. A significant portion of the people I talked with had never attended a political rally of any kind; these are not long time political activists. Of course the liberals will dismiss this protest as being “mostly white” (like that matters, although it is untrue), filled with old folks and crazies. This dismissal is an asset of this movement, because liberals will continue to push their agenda through Congress, which will eventually fail, and will further motivate this base to come out and vote next November.

My Favorite line from a speaker: Hector Barreto, former Administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration: “Most of the people in Congress have never made a payroll.”

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a President who has?

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