The crowd was huge by any count – likely at least a couple hundred thousand people judging by aerial photos and the reported comments of some police officers – stretching from the Lincoln Memorial back to the Washington Monument.
And far from being a gathering of self-proclaimed rabble rousers carrying offensive signs insulting of President Obama, as has often been the case with “tea party” rallies spurred on by Mr. Beck, it was mostly a heartfelt and largely nonpartisan expression of civic concern, patriotism, and religious faith.
In other words, there may have been some Democrats in the crowd, but even they are likely not happy with the direction the country’s taking, according to recent polls – including the policies and programs pushed by the majority party in Congress and the White House.
The irony regarding Beck – a brilliant communicator whose talents earned him $32 million last year – is that much of what he told the crowd flies in the face of what he espouses in his Fox News broadcasts.
Beck's rhetoric more mellow
“We must get the poison of hatred out of us,” he told the crowd. “We must look to God and look to love. We must defend those we disagree with.”
Which drives Beck’s critics nuts.
Beck “knows how to manipulate an audience’s emotions,” writes Avlon, author of “Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America.” “He uses conflict, tension, fear and resentment to keep their attention day after day, buying his books, attending his rallies.”
But none of that was on display Saturday, when Beck sounded more like an evangelical preacher than a flame-throwing political provocateur. “Today we are going to concentrate on the good things in America, the things that we have accomplished – and the things that we can do tomorrow,” he said.
Voters increasingly unhappy with Democrat-run government
Meanwhile Americans of the type that gathered by the thousands to hear Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin (and other conservative speakers) are increasingly unhappy with their Democrat-run government.
A Rasmussen Reports survey this past week showed “voters now trust Republicans more than Democrats on all 10 of the important issues” – including the economy and taxes, national security, war in Iraq and Afghanistan, immigration, government ethics and corruption, health care, Social Security, and education.
An Ipsos poll (also last week) shows 62 percent of those surveyed “think that things in this country are on the wrong track” with more people (52 percent) disapproving of the way Obama is doing his job than indicating approval (45 percent).
A new Newsweek poll shows independent voters – many at the Saturday rally would characterize themselves this way – moving toward the GOP. “Forty-five percent of independents say they’ll vote for Republican candidates, compared with just 33 percent for Democrats,” reports Newsweek.
GOP should be nervous too
At the same time Republicans have to be nervous about the antiestablishment political ground swell, and some recent primary elections have given both parties pause. Establishment GOP candidates have been knocked off by tea party favorites Rand Paul in Kentucky, Sharron Angle in Nevada, and perhaps Joe Miller if he hangs onto his lead in Alaska.
“But to be more than a political movement that is tugging the Republican Party ever farther to the right, the tea party must show in November that its candidates are electable,” writes political analyst Rhodes Cook in the Wall Street Journal. “If not, the movement could lose much of the luster and attention that it has gained over the past year.”
Either way, Glenn Beck and his media empire will continue to prosper.