Here are the facts.
First, last night’s rally saw between 1,100 and 1,500 people attend the event. The attendance was off from the previous two years, that is for sure.
But do the diminished numbers mean a diminished interest or resolve concerning the wasteful spending and over-taxation by the Federal Government? Absolutely not! The resolve is still there, even among the many that stayed away.
To be sure, burnout is a factor. And this translates into a lower priority for any number of things, especially after working all day. For those with kids, getting off work, picking up kids and lugging them downtown, hunting for parking and walking several blocks to stand and listen to speeches on a Monday evening is a bit much. In 2009, when Democratic extremists controlled the Senate, the House and the White House, there was an urgency that pushed concerned citizens to bite the bullet and show up.
Recent victories have served to lower the urgency. In Virginia, we have seen two election cycles move the Commonwealth and the Nation back to a Conservative path. The top three offices in Virginia are now in Republican hands as is the House of Delegates. Last year, the Democrats lost control of the US House of Representatives and one of the icons of left wing lunacy, Nancy Pelosi, has been relegated to back bench obscurity.
Success has played a part in lowering the level of anger and panic.
So, the ones who stayed home, or found something else higher on the priority list are those who lead very busy lives and attending events like these requires neglecting something else that has now moved up in importance, ironically because of the success of the TEA Party movement. Most are confident that we are moving in the right direction now and are content to let those with more tenacity and drive carry the flag.
These are the people that feel the most important contribution they are able to make will be in November, at the ballot box. Until then, they will go about their lives as best they can.
Other reasons for staying away vary, but probably had a marginal effect. For instance, some feel the Richmond TEA Party broke with their basic values by allowing the former President of the Richmond TEA Party, Jamie Radtke, to speak after denying others seeking political office to address the crowd in the past. (Radtke is running for US Senate.) Other TEA Party rallies have allowed office seekers to speak, including Radtke’s opponent George Allen. This issue has been up to the leadership of each group, and the Richmond TEA Party has new leadership. Many fiscal conservatives simply dislike Republicans as much as they dislike Democrats and see this as the Republicanization of the RTP. Most saw it as a non-issue.
As the Obama Agenda grips the nation, joblessness and high gas prices had some impact as well. Many sat at home unable to justify spending for gas and parking to attend a rally. Their heart is there, but their wallet is not.
And in the end, there is little they can do until the 2012 elections. They will have gas money to go to the polls.
So, who showed up?
The ones who attended this year were likely attending their third Richmond Tax Day Rally. These are the grassroots activists and core of the TEA Party movement. Pods of area TEA Party organizations like the Mechanicsville TEA Party were gathered in groups. Patriot organizations and other grassroots groups were in attendance. Most could easily name a dozen or more friends that were unable to attend for one reason or another that will be voting against Washington Big Spending in 2012.
In the end, Liberals will try to draw a correlation between lower attendance and diminished resolve of the TEA Party. That would be a mistake. Attendance is down, but resolve to bring responsible, Constitutional government back to D.C. is at an all time high. After all, this is an off-year for elections at the national level. There are Virginia Elections, and the TEA Party movement will play a big role in those, but the main focus of all of the TEA Party groups is the Constitution and Washington.
There are two main reasons a movement appears to lose steam, when judged by attendance alone. One is failure. We are seeing the Progressive movement in a steady decline as the Socialistic agenda has been proven a failure in America and Europe. And we are seeing the Union greed and anger in Wisconsin and elsewhere go down the tubes in defeat. The hard core leftists in these defeated movements are more determined than ever, and should not be underestimated. But the masses have seen the folly of these groups hungry for power and treasure, both stolen forcefully from others, and have abandoned them in droves. Many hard core Progressives are discouraged and beginning to question their beliefs, the proof being in the pudding. (But don’t look for them admit defeat, or even accept blame.)
The other reason a movement appears to diminish in numbers is success. Call it Mission Accomplished Syndrome. Like the Progressives, the core activists in the TEA Party movement are not going anywhere. They are resolved and determined. And the masses have not abandoned them. They are not disheartened. Quite the opposite. They may not all be activists, but they will vote.
And remind me again how the Progressive Coffee Party went? You know. The anti-TEA Party on the left. Folks just can’t seem to get charged up by promises of higher taxes and government control.
Next year’s TEA Party will see an improvement in attendance as the national political season gets underway. Probably not the level of the first TEA Part events. They were like Woodstock. Impossible to repeat to the same degree. The first time made the point, subsequent attempts always fall short, but do not diminish the importance of the original.
And the efforts to whip up the base will increase on the left and the right. But for the masses in the middle, who now have a clear view of the Progressive reality, will they find high unemployment, high gas prices and widespread misery appealing? And President Obama actually has a record to defend and broken promises to explain in 2012. He is no longer the great unknown candidate full of hope, change and promises with no history like 2008.
There is a danger of complacency on the part of the TEA Party, and that must be avoided. But there is no reason to believe lower attendance at rallies indicates anything at all.
The war is not won.