Teabaggers can't do math

It shouldn't have taken any debunking to realize there was no way 2 million people showed up to protest Obama

By Mike Madden
Published September 14, 2009 5:13PM (EDT)

Let's just get right to the point here: There is simply no way there were anywhere near 2 million people at the Tea Party march on Washington this weekend.

Conservative bloggers and activists were crowing after the march about the number of people they got out to protest against such horribly un-American ideas as healthcare for people who need it. As Salon's Alex Koppelman reported on Saturday, the organizers were pretty sure they'd set some kind of record. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican -- whom in a just world might qualify as the nuttiest GOP lawmaker, but who really can't hold a candle to Michelle Bachmann -- told the crowd Saturday that the highways around D.C. had been closed due to the overwhelming turnout. (Which, if the Tea Party movement is essentially the right-wing version of Woodstock, makes Blackburn Arlo Guthrie.) Michelle Malkin has been trying to bait progressives with photos she claims show a huge crowd massing in the D.C. streets -- even though she wasn't actually at the march.

The 2 million figure turned out to be based on, well, nothing; FreedomWorks, the right-wing group led by Dick Armey, had erroneously claimed ABC had reported it. But there's no need to actually fact-check a claim like that, or Blackburn's declaration that the highways were closed -- it's obviously false on the face of it. I wasn't able to get to the march Saturday, but I was a passenger in a car driving on the Capital Beltway, which was never closed.

More important, 2 million people is actually more than attended Obama's inauguration. The estimates for that event ranged up to about 1.8 million. The disruption that caused in the city was impossible to miss -- subway stations closed, streets blocked off, hours-long delays on public transportation and roads as people filtered out of the District. Nothing of the sort happened Saturday -- by 5 p.m., D.C. officials had sent out an alert saying there was no sign of the Tea Party crowd anymore. It's completely impossible to imagine 10 percent more people showed up to protest Obama's administration than turned out to see his historic inauguration, and conservatives should have known that without needing anyone to verify the math involved.

Not surprisingly, some of the right are also using fake evidence to document their claims. A photo circulating on conservative blogs purported to show a massive crowd stretching from the Capitol past the Washington monument on Saturday. But PolitiFact, the political equivalent of the urban legend-busting site Snopes.com, reported Monday that the picture was taken at least a decade ago.

Still, that all leaves about even odds on whether Glenn Beck -- who tied his kooky 9-12 Project in with the march -- will be boasting on his show Monday afternoon about the millions and millions of people who turned out Saturday to fight socialism. Or Nazism. Or Nazi-Marxism. Or something.

Mike Madden

Mike Madden is Salon's Washington correspondent. A complete listing of his articles is here. Follow him on Twitter here.

MORE FROM Mike Madden

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Glenn Beck War Room