The Tea Party should be viewed largely as a construct of the right wing media. Except where the only bona fide star of "the movement," quitting governor Sarah Palin, shows her winking face, crowds are scant, at best.
When the outback diva spoke at the Boston Commons on April 14th, 6,000 people attended. That number represents about 1/10 of 1% of Boston's metropolitan area. Of course, if they had given out free bags of M & M's about the same number of people would have shown up and they could have saved Sister Sarah's speaking fee.
For those of us who have witnessed real movements or know them from historical retrospectives - the million-persons-strong peace rallies of the 1960s, 40 consecutive Earth Days, Women's Rights Parades, Gay Rights demonstrations, and, of course, the enormous Civil Rights gatherings of the 1960s - Tea Party affairs qualify as little more than, well, tea parties minus the crumpets and fine china.
There are a host of reasons why the media across the entire spectrum cover the Tea Parties so avidly.
As interesting and at times as electrifying as President Obama is, the day to day running of the government is pretty boring. (Spending half an hour with C-Span observing Senate or House business is like watching paint drying and grass growing at the same time.)
Clearly Fox News wants to goose its thrill-addicted audience daily. It makes good dollar sense. In our binary political world, the center and center-left media then feel compelled to stick their thumbs in the dam to counter the Fox over-coverage of the Tea Party. Thus the out-of-control spiral prolongs itself...
What is the average citizen to make of this so-called movement? How big is it? Is it actually important?
Following is a random selection of attendance figures from around the country where Tea Party rallies were held on April 15th. (For anti-government ideologues, Tax Day is like Christmas, Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July all wrapped up in one day.)
Even if there were one million Tea Partiers on April 15th, they would represent 3/10ths of 1% of America's population.
Note the highlighted editorializing language in some of the excerpts below.
Columbus (OH) Dispatch: In contrast to last year's Tax Day Tea Party at the Statehouse, yesterday's event didn't draw a parade of Republican office seekers. (About 2,000 people showed in Ohio's largest city and its capitol.)
Seattle Times: In Olympia, an estimated 3,000 crowded onto the Capitol steps to advocate less government and lower taxes.
NY Post: An estimated 2,000 people swarmed around the Midtown site carrying signs and waving American flags. (Manhattan)
Chicago Tribune: a crowd of 1,500 in Chicago's Daley Plaza.
Huffington Post: Just under 400 people rallied on the steps of the state Capitol in Springfield, IL.
Des Moines Register: Thursday's tax day rally might not have come as big as advertised - more than 1,000 tea party supporters showed up on the west lawn of the Iowa Capitol - but organizers called it an impressive display of the political force the movement has gained.
Medford (OR) Mail Tribune: Though an exact count of participants wasn't available, several people interviewed said they thought the crowd numbered 700 at the height of the rally.
Salem, OR from the Seattle Post Intelligencer: Hundreds of protesters waving American flags and homemade signs made their way to the steps of the state Capitol to ask for less - taxes and government.
NY Times (Washington Bureau) Before a crowd of a few thousand gathered on Freedom Plaza under bright sun... (in Washington, DC)
Philadelphia Inquirer: At least 1,000 paraded in Boise, Idaho; 500 rallied in Oklahoma City; in Lansing, Mich., 1,000 cheered calls for tax cuts and states rights; about 2,000 rallied Denver and another 2,000 in Colorado Springs. More than a hundred Tea Partiers spent Tax Day 2010 protesting in center city Philadelphia.
Miami Herald: As Tea Partiers across the country held similar rallies, more than 1,000 gathered outside the federal courthouse in Fort Lauderdale...
Austin Statesman: Tea party activists gathered by the hundreds rather than the thousands at Austin-area rallies to protest big federal government Thursday, the day income tax returns were due.
Fort Collins, Colorado: a protest of about 1,000 residents...
Tampa Fl (Fox News) it became a day of protest with hundreds taking part in a demonstration downtown...
Bloomington Indiana: Hundreds of local residents crowded Showers Plaza.
Charlotte (NC) Observer: around 1,000 people who flocked uptown for a tax day protest like many across North Carolina and the country...
Houston (Fox News): In downtown Houston at Discovery Green, hundreds of people showed up to voice their displeasure with big government...
And in California's Orange County: Irvine, 400; Santa Ana, 250; Yorba Linda, 700.
Randomly, for comparison's sake, ponder the daily number of commuters and visitors to one spot in New York City, Grand Central Terminal: 625,000.
Seems the winds of change are more like a light southerly breeze on a warm spring day.