Yesterday, CNN reported that at the Tea Party protest in Washington DC, Nazi imagery and a poster of President Obama as an African witch doctor were popular images. A friend and former law firm colleague who spent hours at the protest says this isn’t true. He tells me: “I saw a couple of signs out of thousands that said ‘Hitler gave good speeches too’ and a few of the Obama zombie like images that have been around the internet.” But CNN is “simply making [it] up” when it claims that Nazi imagery and a post of Obama as a witch doctor were popular images at the protest.
Here is the rest of my friend’s report:
It was a very civil crowd, and a very large one. We probably talked with 100 people, plus or minus. From all over the country. I recall talking with folks from California, Oregon, Montana, Texas, Missouri, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Maine, North Carolina, South Carolina, Connecticut, and New Jersey, not to mention assorted “locals” from Virginia, Maryland, and DC.
There were many, many signs, and I’d say that 95% + were hand made. The slogans ran the gamut, but most were on the general theme of spending and government intervention is out of control, we can’t afford it, we’re scared by where Obama is trying to take the country, and the like. Certainly, there were also signs against abortion, for gun ownership, and assorted signs about support for the military (we didn’t fight WW2 for “socialism”), but the proportion on the issue of big government out of control was very high, on the order of 90% or close to it I’d venture.
It was interesting talking with the wide variety of people there. Quite a few came as part of groups, but we encountered more who had come on their own — driving from California or Michigan or Texas, not to mention closer by. There were no production line signs or masses of folks in identical tee shirts. And we found that the people we met were generally well educated and articulate, and they had been paying attention to the issues.
They weren’t just there to shout slogans (although if prompted by speakers many of them would from time to time). They cared deeply about what they perceive as a sudden and dramatic lurch to the far left, an across the board and very aggressive move by the administration to seize and centralize more power than ever before in Washington and to make Americans more dependent than ever before on the federal government. It was clear many there had been very concerned about spending under Bush, and were now alarmed all the more.
Quite a few of the signs were about health care, and “reading the bill.” Several folks remarked — and a few signs hit this point — how incensed they were that their elected representatives had not bothered to read the legislation, and were shown to be flat wrong in their general statements about it when read passages of the actual bill in town hall meetings. These folks were watching, and it’s easy to see why so many Senators and Representatives chose to duck instead of engaging the issues with their constituents.
One other phenomenon: Joe Wilson was a hero today. Not I think, that the crowd generally approved of intemperate outbursts (I don’t, and Wilson himself said the same in apologizing for his shout), but there is clearly very widespread sentiment to the effect that the President and his administration have not been candid with the public, especially about the health care legislation. So, there were numerous “thank you Joe Wilson” signs.
It should not be necessary to say this, but given a particularly partisan segment I just watched on CNN, I will: There was not a trace of “race” in all of this. It was all about the substantive issues. And, although the race card is now shamefully being played more and more aggressively by many speaking for the administration, it’s ludicrous when you think about it. Would people be less concerned if Hillary were in office and moving forcefully to take over the health care industry even before the auto and financial sectors are fully digested? Or, marching on DC to protest if a Michael Steele sort were in the oval office implementing conservative policies? Of course not.
I’m very glad we went. We did not return thinking naively that these “tea parties” will lead to a sea change in the balance of political power, but it is heartening to see that many Americans are watching and willing to say out loud that they do not like what they see. Many remarked that the 2010 elections will be very important. We consistently advised people they had better start working for their candidates right now, and hope that the “ground game” of the opposition will be a lot better than it was in the lackluster McCain campaign. (Also, many signs reflected concern about and disdain for ACORN, which is hardly surprising given this week’s news about that organization’s characteristics.)