Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Tea Parties: A Bottom Line

Success vs SUCCESS. I have to admit that I wasn't as put out as a lot of left-wing people by all the anti-Obama tea parties. Street theater is not exactly the most effective politics in the world, but I've done some ineffective street politics myself and it's certainly a lot better than joining a militia, going on a killing spree in a liberal church, or pulling a Rich Poplawski and ambushing a bunch of cops.

So, I was glad to see the tea parties happen and I think everybody on the left should be glad to see people on the right have such a healthy and harmless outlet for their views.

There's a certain way in which the numbers tell the story of the tea parties. I've seen estimates of 2,000 anti-Obama tea parties and claims that 184,000 people attended. Estimates for the largest crowds were for 4,000 and came from Cincinnati and Lansing, Michigan. Only a few hundred attended in Boston. There weren't any tea parties announced for my home town of Morehead, KY.

And there's some significance to the lack of a tea party here.

I wouldn't discount the tea party turnout at all. All in all, getting 100,000 people to do anything in politics is very good. Certainly, the tea parties were a success.

However, it's useful to measure the success of the tea parties against the appeal of Barack Obama. My town of Morehead, KY has a population of about 11,000 when the college is in session. If Barack Obama showed up completely unannounced to speak in Morehead, he would draw more than 4,000 people to a speech just on word of mouth. Obama is far more popular than Bill Clinton but Clinton drew a crowd of about 4,000 to a 2008 campaign speech on one day's notice. Actually, six hundred people gathered when Clinton stopped at a Dairy Queen in Flemingsburg, KY (population, 3,000) on his way to Morehead.

And Obama only won this relatively liberal county in the very red, rural, state of Kentucky by 500 votes. Just think how many people Obama would draw in urban areas like Boston, New York, Philly, or Miami if he came to an event that was as much anticipated or highly publicized as these tea parties. The numbers would be in the tens if not the hundreds of thousands.

It's a sad fact of conservative life. Even when they have successful events, they're still dwarfed by the charisma and popularity of Barack Obama.

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