It was the longest sunset of my life. The evening after the September 12 Tea Party march on Washington, I took a 7:35 flight headed West, chasing the sun. I wondered how fast one would have to travel to catch it. Within the hour, it was clear that, whatever the necessary speed, we hadn’t achieved it. I wondered whether the same was true of the Tea Party movement in pursuing the torch of economic liberty.
It was a large crowd; huge by the standards of the Colorado rallies I’ve attended. The train of people marching from the Washington Monument to the Capitol seemed to go on for at least half that distance, meaning at least half a mile. Yet by the massive scale of the Mall, the assembled crowded seemed healthy but not gigantic. I wonder how much the earlier Glenn Beck rally hurt attendance on the twelfth.
The signs and T-shirts in attendance sounded an ideological cacophony. Many lambasted Obama and the Democratic congress. Some blasted the “mainstream” media (from which I had to disclaim membership a couple of times). Some praised capitalism. A few declared that outlawing abortion was the penultimate policy imperative and that God is the ultimate sovereign. At least one promoted Ayn Rand.
Perhaps it was because I was tired or because I largely worked the periphery, but it seemed to me that the crowd was less exuberantly enthusiastic than I’ve seen before and more calmly determined. Perhaps people were thinking about the long fight to election day and the hard work required after that to keep the new congress honest. Or maybe that was partly my wishful thinking.
I do think, as several people I talked with confirmed, that the election of Obama and the resulting rapid expansion of federal power has caused many Americans to fundamentally reexamine their own ideas about politics and the direction the country is heading. Rather than being pulled gradually in the direction of statism, now many Americans feel the carpet has been pulled from under their feet. Or, to invoke the familiar metaphor, the frog has noticed the sharp temperature increase and started kicking. Whether he can flop himself out of the pot — and at the same time avoid the fire — remains to be determined.
The big question remains whether colorful signs and noisy protests can translate into the demanding long-term commitment to the ideas of liberty. I’ve seen some indications that they can, and what I saw and heard at the latest rally confirms that.
Notes: FreedomWorks, which organized the rally, paid for me to travel to D.C. for the weekend; I’ll have more to say about that later. I’ll also post a lot of photos and interviews, so check back! For now, check out the photos from Grizzly Groundswell. See also photos from Tom Nally.
Update: Here is my Flickr set of the event.