Why Obama's 2013 Crowds Were Better

Conservatives made a big deal about smaller numbers at this inauguration. Slate's David Weigel looks at who was actually there.

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Monday's inauguration crowds were smaller than they were in 2009, but was that really a bad thing? Slate's David Weigel unpacks how, four years later, supporters in Washington, D.C. -- many of whom were African American -- were different in their outlook as well as numbers:

This was a smaller group than 2009, but it managed to overload every relevant Metro stop and every checkpoint. The press, eventually, was diverted through one of the House office buildings, where their gear could be scanned. By 9 a.m., anyone arriving at the press and VIP rows below the inaugural stand could look back and see the Mall filled, choked up back to the Washington Monument.

Who were these people? At the edge of the VIP section, stage right, some room had been cleared for Tuskegee Airmen. Any member of the media who ambled around would walk right into them, and so at any given time, four or five reporters were leaning into the wheelchairs, filing a tear-jerk story. None of the pioneering black pilots were younger than 80; the youngest, Ezra Hill, was aged 82, and spry enough to direct airmen from the perimeter into the prime spots. When an instrumental version of "Amazing Grace" plays, he and another airman sing the lyrics. The two of them, said Hill, had sung together for years, and even won a competition in 1948 ...

Actually, the Obama voter had learned never to trust Republicans. During his speech, the loudest cheer rose when the president settled scores from 2012. "Our journey is not complete," he said, "until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote." This was a problem that excited the pundit class every four years, and no president had mentioned it in a speech like this -- the crowd erupted. The president denounced "name-calling as reasoned debate," and the cheers were almost as loud.

Of course they were. Four years ago, everybody except Sarah Palin seemed to love Barack Obama. And now he'd defeated people who challenged his citizenship and called him an agent of long-dead Communists. The people who'd come back for this inauguration hadn't beaten the crowds from 2009. But they'd sure enough beaten the Tea Party ...

Read more at Slate.

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