Saturday, September 12, 2009

Nine Twelve and the Glenn Beck Revolt

Back when I was a young skinny long-haired radical, I used to regularly attend demonstrations for leftist causes. Some of them, like a pro-choice rally during the George H.W. Bush administration, felt intense, as the anticipated 100,000 demonstrators became 500,000, and the march spilled out beyond it's boundaries, flowing through the city four blocks wide like a flood of flowing, chanting humanity. Being in a vast crowd of more-or-less like-minded folks shouting defiance against the Man can be invigorating.

The Tea Party demonstration in downtown DC yesterday wasn't quite on that scale. Eyeballing it, it seemed of decent size...somewhere between 35,000 and 75,000 human beings. Several things struck me about this event:

1) For an event being actively, vigorously pushed by a mainstream media outlet, it was pretty underwhelming. Fox News has significant market penetration, and a high level of visibility. I've known about this gathering for a few days, and it has been aggressively pushed by not just an array of grassroots organizations, but by several well known media personalities. This is the best that they can do? It wasn't a flop, but given how much it's being pushed by MediaCorp, it also wasn't indicative of a major national movement.

There will be a counter-rally. It will be...bigger.

2) It wasn't America. America isn't all white and working class, and the Tea Party movement is consistently whiter than my pasty behind. I live in a highly diverse neighborhood, a rich medley of Korean stores, Latino churches, and a healthy smattering of Anglos. This is, increasingly, what America actually looks like. Looking at the crowd gathered in today was like looking at the Republican Senators and Representatives during Obama's health care speech. As my nine year old said while watching the speech this week: "Why does one side have all sorts of different people, and the other side looks all the same?"

3) It isn't organized. Yeah, people showed up. That's a good thing. The right to freely assemble is vital, even among those with whom I may disagree. But the crowd seemed...well..more like an assemblage of the randomly aggrieved. I've been to demonstrations like that under Reagan and George Aitch Dubya, just a herd of angry progressives with no unifying purpose other than their disgruntlement. They aren't particularly useful. This seemed...equally messy. You have to stay on message. You have to stay on target.

4) It's too busy shouting and frothing to realize that somewhere under all that crazy it actually has a case. Here's the thing: I'm a liberal. I'm a progressive. In many ways, I'm the antithesis of everything that most of these protesters believe. But if you look beyond their recycled anarcho-Reaganite anti-government rhetoric, reflexive nationalism and cain't-spell-to-save-my-life signage, there's a massive issue that needs to be addressed. Our government cannot...just cannot...continue to spend wealth that it doesn't have. Unlike China, which was able to spend from it's reserves to stir itself out of recession, we find ourselves growing so deeply in hock that the future of this nation's prosperity may be jeopardized. Our addiction to deficit spending must, at some point, stop. Period. Stimulus packages are all well and good, but they're like applying paddles to a failing heart. If we can't or won't pay for the government we have, eventually, somethings going to give. Just look at California. It could be ugly.

A pity the "leadership" of this movement can't figure out how to say this in a way that works.