The Green Miles was down on the National Mall yesterday, visiting the Tidal Basin (no cherry blossoms yet), the Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden, and the National Museum of the American Indian. It was a great day — beautiful weather, good company, and lots of people in “Tyranny Response Team” t-shirts to make fun of!
- We first saw a few Tea Partiers taking the Metro, a public option funded by tax dollars
- They were swarming those socialist museums of the Smithsonian (functionally & legally a body of the federal government), where the public’s option of free entry is subsidized by tax dollars
- And finally, despite private enterprises like McDonald’s just a block away, Tea Partiers were enjoying lunch at the public option of the American Indian Museum’s cafeteria
While the Tea Party’s offensive antics are rightfully getting plenty of attention, I walked away with a different impression: Is this all there is?
This is the movement that terrified into inaction Senate Democrats last summer & House Democrats in January?
I haven’t seen any estimates of crowd size, but when we walked by at 5pm, there only about a thousand people at the Capitol. I’ve seen crowds that were younger & more diverse at Crosby, Stills & Nash concerts.
It’s hard to make a good crowd estimate exactly because it was so disorganized. There was a small group relaxing in the sun a few blocks away at the American Indian Museum at the same time the larger group was chanting outside the Capitol. There were a few Tea Partiers on our Metro ride in at 11:30am, yet there were a few getting on & off Metro when we headed back to Arlington at 5pm. When were they supposed to be there? Impossible to tell.
The crowd’s messaging couldn’t have been worse. While today’s progressives spend countless hours honing a message to appeal to moderate, independent voters (patients bill of rights on steroids!), the crowd on the Hill proudly flaunted the worst of hateful, I’ve-got-mine-so-screw-you teabaggery. Again, the experiences of Rep. Frank & Lewis tell the story, but that was far from an isolated incident. One sign compared House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to a prostitute — and it was carried by a woman. Sad.
The bottom line is that yesterday’s event makes the Tea Party look less like a movement and more like a one-time burst of anger that’s already dissipating. This should be the Tea Party’s shining moment, scaring moderate Democrats away from supporting the most important progressive legislation in more than a generation. Instead, the small crowd was only able to make headlines with its hatred.
Once dealt the blow of health insurance reform’s passage — likely followed by clean energy & climate legislation and financial reform — will the Tea Party be able to hold together? In what form?