This column originally appeared on Townhall.com on September 15, 2009.
If Woodstock in 1969 presaged the free-wheeling ’70s, then Saturday’s massive TEA party rally at the Capitol against Big Government may be the Constitutionalists’ equivalent and harbinger of hope for the next decade.
Or it’s a tsunami of incivility, depending on where you fit into Obama Nation.
The mood was remarkably upbeat as thousands of people peacefully marched from near the White House to the Capitol. Crowd estimates varied widely, with some as low as 100,000 to as high as 1.8 million.
Upon arriving at the Mall, the marchers swirled around large tents in the middle of the green that housed a different gathering, the 24th Annual Black Family Reunion. There was little doubt that the tent people heavily support President Obama, yet there was no confrontation, no hostility from either side. People said hello to each other and moved on. While some marchers probably were uneasy about the separatism implicit in the title, most probably felt a benign solidarity. At least the event celebrated the idea of family. And the black family has borne the brunt of the liberal welfare state’s experimental horrors.
This peaceful coexistence didn’t stop the Washington Post from trying to paint a completely different picture. The Post had done a creditable job on Sunday covering the big event on the front page, complete with a color photo of the huge crowd. But the paper’s left knee jerked strongly on Monday. Here’s the Metro Page One headline: “Seeking Healing, Seeing Hostility.” And the subhead: “Some at Black Family Reunion Criticize Protests Against Obama.”
Post reporter Yamiche Alcindor dug out some people who reliably equated the protest to outright racism. Vera Hope, a D.C. teacher who reportedly had just “left a booth promoting health prevention (sic),” opined of the rally: “It’s not conducive to the coalitions we need to build in this country. I’m disgusted and upset by the hostility. Let’s call it was (sic) it is — it’s just a disguise for right-wing racists. They are fomenting a climate of violence to provoke people.”
Really? One would look in vain for what Hope claimed was the bad motive of all those hundreds of thousands who had come from Oklahoma, Florida, Ohio and even Barney Frank’s Massachusetts. About the only thing upon which you could hang this absurd assertion might be a few Lyndon LaRouche Democrats who carried pictures of Obama with a Hitler mustache. The media love those. Or perhaps the guys who doctored a photo of Obama to look like the Joker in Batman. Neither image has anything to do with race.
The vast majority of signs called for less government and less spending. The yellow flags flying everywhere amid baby strollers and men in veteran’s hats were the American Revolution banner designed by South Carolina patriot Gen. Christopher Gadsden, featuring a coiled rattlesnake and the phrase “Don’t Tread on Me.” To find a racist aspect here you had to channel Jesse Jackson: “The hope of a dope is the mope of a rope!” Or somesuch.)
The Post quoted Black Family Reunion organizer Dorothy Height, president of the National Council of Negro Women, as saying she was glad the two groups had gotten along fine. But — and here’s the message the Post wanted to get across: she noted that some of the marchers were crass. Yes, a tiny few. One sign identified NBC as the Nothing But Crap network. A couple said “Obama sucks!” Not very classy.
“They are a bad sign for democracy,” Height said. “I’ve never heard anyone say that they wished the other president would fail.” Perhaps Ms. Height was unaware of the profanity-filled leftist protests in Washington over the past eight years. And I’m not just talking about Congress. Some street demonstrators called for, among other things, the death of President Bush and for “regime change now” (before the next election). Marchers splashed red paint on the Capitol steps and called the police “pigs” and Mr. Bush a lot worse. A good time was had by all.
The rhetoric over health care has been tough from all sides. In his speech last week, Mr. Obama described as “bogus” any criticism of his takeover plan, and said the “death panel” label for end-of-life counseling and cost cutting “is a lie, plain and simple.” When he told the whopper that illegal aliens would not be covered, Rep. Joe Wilson from Gadsden’s South Carolina suddenly concluded, as Popeye would say, “It’s all I can stands, I can’t stands no more!” and blurted out “You lie!”
Okay, not very conciliatory. But Rep. Wilson’s outburst should not be measured in a vacuum. You could put it up against the rants of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, who even TIME magazine calls “foul-mouthed.” And over the summer, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid accused critics of being “evil mongers,” while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer wrote a USA Today column calling townhall participants “un-American” who are conducting “an ugly campaign.”
It’s a safe bet these pols aren’t “seeking healing.”