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Tea Party in Washington

Tea party protest near U.S. Capitol on September 12, 2009 

Chrissy and I went down to watch the tea party protest today in Washington. I like to watch protests. I got in the habit when I lived in Madison.  The crowd filled the lawn from the Capitol down past 4th St. None of the anti-war marches were as big.

The demography was the interesting part.  I bet the median age was around forty or fifty and I thought about what I said in Revenge of the Geezers a couple days ago.  It has usually been hard to get a crowd of people over thirty-years-old to come out to protest. Most of the other protests I have seen are staffed by the young and unemployed. This protest was unusual in that included mostly people who probably actually pay taxes and I think it was largely organized online.  This might be the harbinger of political activism of the future.

Once you get a full time job and other responsibilities, you don’t have as much time or inclination to march, chant and protest.  This explains why youth has driven protest movements.  There is no mystery to it.  They have extra energy and time on their hands.  Beyond that, they are vaguely bored and a little bit resentful because they think others don’t pay enough attention to them.  As the older population becomes healthier and retirement stretches on for many more years, this is increasingly a description that applies to old people.

The other thing interesting about this crowd was its lack of professionalism. Most protests I have seen have their core of bused-in experienced protesters, with well constructed signs and organized chants. This one had almost all hand lettered signs.  There was very little unity among the messages. Most clearly didn’t like the President but most of the anger seemed directed at congress.  One of the most original signs had pictures of members of congress and said, “Don’t give your cash to these clunkers”

tea party protestors in Washington near reflecting pool at Grant Monument on September 12, 2009 

The crowd was very well behaved, but not very well organized. Most were probably first-time protesters and I got the feeling that many would be taking their children or grandchildren to see the monuments in Washington after they wandered off when the protesting was done.  Some brought lawn chairs.  If someone had fired up a grill, it would have seemed a lot like a July 4th picnic.  Of course we didn’t stay long.  Maybe it got more intense later, but I doubt it.


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