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September 18, 2009

Reflections on our Weekend in DC

About 1:30 Friday afternoon on September 11th we set out from Nashua in Susan's Prius for Washington, DC and the taxpayer tea party.  It was a longer ride than we anticipated. 

Traffic reports of an accident on I-91 South of Hartford persuaded us to take the I-84 West route.  This had the Garmin annoyed beyond all reason, complaining about "recalculating" every time we refused to take an exit that would get us back to I-91.  She was still whining about it as far west as Waterbury when we finally shut her off.

The Garmin reminds me a lot of our Democrats in congress.  She gave me no credit for knowing how to get where I wanted to go, and she was positively determined that I would go the way she wanted.  On the other hand, if I followed her, she was ultimately going to get me where I wanted to go.  The Democrats have their own destination in mind.

We made pretty good time until we got close to the Tappan Zee Bridge, and there the traffic slowed to a bumper-to-bumper crawl.  On the other side of the Hudson it improved some, but a short way down the Garden State Parkway we were into rush hour.  That, the rain, and an accident stretched what was expected to be an eight hour drive into a tiresome but uneventful ten hours. It was nearly midnight when we got to our hotel in Arlington.  We were both tired and testy.

Next morning the hotel lobby was crowded with tea partiers.  We had no problem finding out where we needed to go and how we would get there.  Several people were handing out directions to the various gathering points. 

A hotel van dropped us at Reagan where we caught a Washington Metro train to the Smithsonian by the Mall.  We shared the van with a couple of kids from New York, a guy, also from New York, who came to promote the Fair Tax, and a group that drove down from Ohio.  The group from Ohio included an aspiring congressman.  


That's Dan Moadus on the far right.  OK, so we're all on the right, and no doubt lefties would say we are all on the far right.  But I digress.  Dan is running for the Ohio 17th District congressional seat.  That picture was taken while we were on our way up 13th Street toward Pennsylvania Avenue.  We figured we'd find signs of a crowd there, and we did.  There were signs of a crowd in both directions as far as we could see.  In fact we could hardly see anything else.


We could hardly believe all the people.  We are rookie protesters after all, I suppose.  This was the crowd who stayed home during all those anti-war protests, from  Vietnam to Iraq.  So there we were, at our first protest ever.  It was more of a celebration than a protest, though.  The day was warm and pleasant.  Everybody was smiling.

So Susan and I got out into the street and walked with the crowd down toward the Capitol where the speakers would speak and the bands would play. 


When we got there we walked around trying to gauge the size of our crowd and entertainment value of the signs on display.  By 11:30 we were ready to stop being protesters and start being tourists.

That's when our real march began.  We set off toward the Washington Monument.  The section of the Mall between the Capitol and the Monument was reserved for the 24th Annual Black Family Reunion.  As we walked by, the wind pushed over one of the banner posts that lined the event.  I was right next to it.  I picked it up and set the sand bag back on the base to hold it upright.  A loud "Thank you" came from across the walkway, so I turn and smiled and waved "You're welcome."

We must have walked a dozen miles altogether, down Pennsylvania Avenue, from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial, to the Vietnam and World War II memorials, then back and forth across the Mall.  We went into the Smithsonian, the National Art Gallery, the Museum of Natural History. 

About 4:00 we decided to walk back to the Capitol and see if anybody was still there.  Much to our surprise the crowd was bigger than it was when we got there in the morning.  By that time, though, we were done for the day.  My feet were telling me it was time to sit down.

The Metro train back to Reagan was packed.  Susan got a seat, and I stood next to her.  We chatted with a couple from Raleigh, North Carolina, speculating on the size of the crowd.  A policeman working the rally told them the estimate was 1.5 million.  On the van ride from Reagan back to the hotel two ladies from Alabama said they heard the number was 2.1 million.  If 1.5 seemed too high, 2.1 seemed ridiculous.  I wondered if the officials working the event were having a little fun with us rubes from the country.

We turned on the news when we got back to the hotel to find very little reporting of it.  We caught a replay of Glen Beck who said there were 60,000 to 75,000.  That seemed low to me, and to Susan too.  Susan tends to be apolitical, but there was a very interesting shift in her perceptions over the course of the weekend.  Before, when I would make a remark about media bias, Susan would be quick to ask, "How can you say that?  How do you know?"  During the weekend in Washington, she had been flabbergasted at the how most of the media coverage tried to downplay such a huge event.

Failing that, it comes as no surprise that lefties would then universally condemn it as racist.  That our peanut farmer former president would embarrass himself by saying it was rooted in racism was sadly predictable. 

According to Jimmy Carter’s libel against opponents of Barack Obama, “an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is black man.”

But if there was racism involved, it was hard to find it.  That didn't stop one Washington Post reporter from looking very hard for it.  Yamiche Alcindor's headlines read: "Seeking Healing, Seeing Hostility, Some at Black Family Reunion Criticize Protests Against Obama." 

On Saturday, tens of thousands of protesters thronged to the U.S. Capitol to angrily accuse President Obama of taking the country in the wrong direction.

That's my emphasis above, but if I had to guess, I'd say our intrepid Post reporter got nowhere near the rally.  Her article itself does nothing more than recite the perceptions of a few Family Reunion participants.  Noticeably missing from her article were descriptions of any incidents, of any kind.  There was nothing to report, not even a verbal disagreement.

Dorothy Height, president of National Council of Negro Women, which holds the reunion, said that although she was pleased that the protesters and the reunion participants coexisted peacefully, she was disappointed that some marchers were so crass.

"They are a bad sign for democracy," said Height, 97, who supports health-care reform. "I've never heard anyone say that they wished the other presidents would fail," she said. "President Obama has shown courage and leadership in trying to tackle various problems."

One must wonder where Ms. Height has been for the eight years leading up to Obama's historic election. 

If anything, there was a missed opportunity for the racists. A huge conservative protest march went side by side with the Black Family Reunion on the Washington, DC Mall and there was not one incident.  In fact, tea partiers walking by would stop to watch the dance competitions and cheer along with the reunioners at the precision of the dancers.  If there was any racism that would have been the place to see it, but there was nothing.

I was actually fearful that lefty agitators would see it as a wonderful time and place to start something that could smear tea partiers as racist, but they apparently didn't think of it.  Either that, or they expected any conservative rally would just naturally be a failure all on its own.

I suppose it's sad commentary when opposition to health care reform has to be framed as racist.  It's a false charge and everybody knows it.  Opposition to HillaryCare was just as strong in 1993, and unlike today, we hadn't just tripled the deficit with bailouts and stimulus packages. 

I have to say, I came away from the weekend with a fairly high degree of optimism.  There were tens of thousands, probably close to a half a million people there who, like Susan and me, invested a little money and a lot of time to make it to this Washington event.  We spent eighteen hours in the car to get there and back.  Not everybody traveled that far, but there were some who came farther. 


This is not the crowd that plans to stay home on election day. 

A great collection of pictures of the rally can be found here.

Update:  David Brooks bears me out on the absence of any racial tension between the two crowds, the Black Family Reunion and the Tea Partiers.

You wouldn’t know it to look at me, but I go running several times a week. My favorite route, because it’s so flat, is from the Lincoln Memorial to the U.S. Capitol and back. I was there last Saturday and found myself plodding through tens of thousands of anti-government “tea party” protesters.

They were carrying “Don’t Tread on Me” flags, “End the Fed” placards and signs condemning big government, Barack Obama, socialist health care and various elite institutions.

Then, as I got to where the Smithsonian museums start, I came across another rally, the Black Family Reunion Celebration. Several thousand people had gathered to celebrate African-American culture. I noticed that the mostly white tea party protesters were mingling in with the mostly black family reunion celebrants. The tea party people were buying lunch from the family reunion food stands. They had joined the audience of a rap concert.

Because sociology is more important than fitness, I stopped to watch the interaction. These two groups were from opposite ends of the political and cultural spectrum. They’d both been energized by eloquent speakers. Yet I couldn’t discern any tension between them. It was just different groups of people milling about like at any park or sports arena.

Our progressive friends call us racists because their policies and the arguments they make for them have no merit.

Posted by Tom Bowler at 07:43 AM | Permalink


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Great reporting...thanks !

Posted by: Shirley | Sep 18, 2009 12:17:03 PM

Thanks. Glad you enjoyed it.

Posted by: Tom Bowler | Sep 19, 2009 7:21:55 AM

Great write up! It was an awesome day!

Posted by: Lance T. Pfeifer | Sep 19, 2009 1:31:48 PM

Thanks, Lance. It was an awesome day, indeed.

Posted by: Tom Bowler | Sep 19, 2009 6:27:04 PM

Totally awesome reportage, Tom. Best I've seen. I felt like I was there. :-}

Posted by: Sissy Willis | Sep 19, 2009 6:42:19 PM

Thank you, Sissy. It was quite a weekend.

Posted by: Tom Bowler | Sep 19, 2009 10:52:35 PM


A little late to the party here, so to speak, but I'm glad Jane posted a link to your recap over at JOM. It was a pretty amazing day in almost every respect, wasn't it? Your observations, and the Brooks excerpt, on the Black Family Reunion were very interesting. I was so busy taking pix on the Tea Party end that I never got that far down the Mall -- although you wouldn't know that from how my feet felt after hours of stepping over, around, and in between at least a couple hundred thousand protesters. If I'd known there was food on offer, I might have hauled my camera paraphernalia down to the Monument!

Posted by: JM Hanes | Sep 27, 2009 10:56:07 PM

Thanks, JMH. I agree, it was a fabulous day. I took a lot of pictures myself, but they don't compare to the ones you took. I got a look at them at Jane's site, and they are just excellent.

Posted by: Tom Bowler | Sep 28, 2009 11:32:13 AM