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Sizing up the Tea Party protest
Just how important, and big, was the Glenn Beck–inspired “9/12” march in Washington?

“The weirdness of the Wingnut summer isn’t over,” said John Avlon in The Daily Beast, at least if Saturday’s Glenn Beck–inspired “9/12” march of “angry white people” on Washington is any sign. The protest channeled very real “pent-up frustration” at federal overspending, mixed with a “spicy dash of paranoia,” that poses a very real danger for the Democrats. But Republicans may soon regret stirring this “crazy pot”—they can’t "contain or moderate” it.

That’s the classic way to “marginalize a significant protest” you don’t agree with, said Matt Welch in the New York Post. First you “dismiss participants as deranged and possibly dangerous kooks,” when in this case it was “a huge gathering of mostly white, mostly right-of-center Americans” passionately unhappy with big-government policies. Then you “lowball” the attendance numbers.

On the other hand, "if you don’t want to be discredited,” don’t inflate the numbers, said Nate Silver in FiveThirtyEight. ABC News, citing the fire department, puts attendance at 70,000, but Matt Kibbe of protest co-organizer FreedomWorks said 1.5 million people showed up. Kibbe lied. It wasn’t a small rally (nor a “particularly large” one), and the 70,000 who showed up deserve better than Kibbe.

Still, it kind of chafes that the supposedly liberal media is treating 70,000 “Tea Baggers” as a “major political movement,” said Steve Benen in Washington Monthly, when gatherings of 100,000 or more anti–Iraq War protesters were routinely dismissed as largely irrelevant “liberal hippies out of step with the mainstream.”

Those anti-war protests just showed that "using protest size as a gauge of popular sentiment is stupid," said Allahpundit in Hot Air. The turnout was huge for those marches back in 2003, but support for the war was 65 percent. Whatever the true size of the 9/12 rally, one thing's for sure—there were more people there than anyone expected.

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