UPDATE at end of this post
A family wedding occupied our time on Saturday September 12; absent that I probably would have stood in line to try to get into the local Target Center in Minneapolis to hear President Obama on Health Care Reform. As expected, he filled the house with more than 17,000 local citizens. Also as expected, there were protestors, but as one of them pointed out to a Minneapolis Star Tribune reporter: “We didn’t have a big turnout. We were outnumbered.”
I also missed the big goings-on in Washington D.C. on Saturday where a gaggle of protestors gathered, ostensibly for national unity as it existed on 9-12-01; but which in actuality were a collection of very bitter and angry people bearing assorted grudges against government in general and President Obama in particular.
I was interested in the true impact of this Washington event: specifically, how many people would show up for it.
The two local Sunday newspapers had fairly long articles about the D.C. protest, but surprisingly there were no crowd estimates included in either article. Tonight on a television news program, it was stated that there were 50-75,000 people on the National Mall for the demonstration on Saturday. Whatever the actual numbers they seem to have been nothing to brag about.
As national protests go, that was, I would say, a small turnout.
I often wonder to myself how truly large (or small) a constituency this purportedly pro-national unity but anti-government group is. The only way I can assess this is by looking at my normal environment which seems to be, essentially, a fairly conservative one.
For example, we live in a subdivision of about 100 dwelling units, in a prosperous suburban city that traditionally votes heavily Republican…but for the last two elections has elected Democrats to represent it in the State Legislature and has almost given a majority vote to Democrat candidates for national offices. We must be a fairly moderate place, in other words.
Personally, I don’t know anyone who would fit the profile of the angry people I saw on the National Mall. In my community of 100 homes, I can think of two who might fit the profile at least a little, but they would never think of demonstrating or speaking publicly. Of the rest, doubtless there are some very conservative people, but mostly we are just a little town whose residents generally work and relate well together.
Similarly within my other circles. I know there are family members – a very small number of them – who might actively relate to those protestors, and might even wish they could have been there, but by no means are they any more than a small percentage of the whole.
Similarly, the same could be said about the other circles I am part of.
The U.S. is are not a country of extremes or extremists, and thankfully those folks on the National Mall on Saturday, and the vocal angry people at town meetings during August represent a tiny fraction of the U.S. population.
50-75,000 people on the National Mall does not impress me as much as the residents of my subdivision and my community and my family who by and large see our country as a community, with differences of opinion to be negotiated in a civil manner.
Incivility has become a visible canker sore on our otherwise reasonably healthy body politic.
We need to keep in mind that we are, generally, a decent and civil society.
UPDATE from Paul R Sep 15, 2009
I read your post regarding the 9-12 rally in Washington, DC, and the estimated crowd size. Apparently, the realistic crowd estimate wasn’t big enough to satisfy inflated egos. or, they are just getting so accustomed to lying they can’t help but lie about everything that comes along. Huffington Post has a story about the spreading of a photo of a massive crowd at the Washington Mall. Those spreading the photo claim it shows that the attendance at this rally was many times greater than the actual 50-70,000 or so. The post is titled: “9/12 Tea Party Photo: False Image Spread By Anti-Reform Activists.” #mce_temp_url# The photo was actually taken at least 5 years ago of some other large crowd. It is pathetic but just too typical of the lack of facts thrown around by the corporatist right wing fanatics out there.
Moderator September 16, 2009: The photo referred to, and in the link, was hurriedly withdrawn from many right-wing websites, but the wildly inflated estimates of the number of people attending the protest continue to be circulated. Caveat emptor.
UPDATE at end of this post