Media outlets of every stripe today are ignoring the message at the core of Saturday’s One Nation Working Together march—Americans need jobs—to focus instead on comparing it with Glenn Beck’s Restoring Honor rally. Held in August, Restoring Honor was the conservative soiree of the summer, drawing Sarah Palin, Alveda King and 87,000 Beck acolytes, according to CBS News. Though trumping Restoring Honor’s impressive turnout was never the stated goal of any of the hundreds of groups behind the NAACP-led One Nation Working Together, it goes without saying that to do so would have been quite a coup.
Two days after One Nation, there is still no official third-party estimate of the crowd size, which means that speculation about it has become the job of politically charged news organizations. If progressive Web site Crooks & Liars is to be believed, the NAACP and its partner organizations did indeed beat out the rally of Beck et al., with blogger Nicole Bell reporting that "satellite estimates put the crowd size at 175,000 to 200,000 at about noon EST." And at The Nation, Laura Stampler also puts forth the "175,000 attendees" statistic, a number provided by the One Nation team itself in its official march press release.
As the kids say, I call bull dung.
Having been on the ground for hours at both Restoring Honor and One Nation Working Together, I’m 100 percent confident that Restoring Honor dwarfed Saturday’s gathering, probably by as much as several thousand people. A friend who was also at both events feels similarly. "We were still [at One Nation] at 4," she told me. "The entire mall was emptied out and a speaker said, 'Just look at the size and diversity of our movement!' And you could practically hear crickets." Over at the Daily Beast, political reporter John Avlon writes, "For all the chanting about how 'the people, united, will never be divided,' this turnout was small."
It's worth noting that making accurate crowd estimates is difficult, that most rally organizers overestimate attendance and that The Root reported Restoring Honor as having hundreds of thousands of attendees, a number that was later shown to be grossly off-base. That said, it seems that, with so many reporters acknowledging the smaller size of One Nation Working Together, the 175,000-plus attendee statistic has to be scrapped. It's fairly clear: The right won this round.
There’s been a lot of talk about the “enthusiasm gap” lately. That is, the obvious disparity between GOP voters’ burning desire to fire Democrats in November and Democratic voters’ jaded willingness to submit to a Republican steamrolling. If the year’s biggest Washington Mall marches were any sign, not only is the enthusiasm gap real, but it’s about to end the careers of several Democratic politicians in less than a month. It's too bad for them that you can’t exaggerate vote tallies the way you can crowd estimates.
--Cord Jefferson is a staff writer at The Root. Follow him on Twitter.