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Under the Gadsden Flag: Conservatives Rock the Capitol

The numbers may be in dispute, but not the zeal or commitment to liberty.

by
Robert Stacy McCain

Bio

September 13, 2009 - 12:55 am

His sign said “Save America First — Evangelize the World,” and he stood in the parking lot near Constitution Avenue with a bullhorn. Thousands who arrived at Saturday’s 9/12 March on Washington. heard Pastor George Luca proclaim his pro-life message. A black evangelist from Virginia, Pastor Lucas condemned those who support “murdering innocent pre-born babies” and accused “so-called black leaders” of betraying their own people.

Diversity of opinion was on display everywhere among the vast crowd, generally estimated in excess of 1 million, that gathered on the West Lawn of the Capitol and sprawled for blocks in every direction. The chief sponsor was FreedomWorks, a libertarian-leaning organization which was accused by liberals like Alan Colmes of being sold-out shills for corporate America.

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Even though FreedomWorks’ chairman, former Texas Rep. Dick Armey, a Republican, has often criticized the religious right’s influence within the GOP, it was remarkable how many of those who turned out for Saturday’s march were evangelical Christians in sympathy with Pastor Lucas. It was a right-wing Woodstock. No one who wanted to attend was turned away for ideological deviation from the sponsors’ goals, and those who responded represented the broadest imaginable spectrum of opposition to the status quo in Washington.

Not far from where Pastor Lucas preached  his message through a bullhorn, Kell Grenga stood with his daughter, Sarah. They had traveled from Charlotte, N.C., the father dressed in the uniform of a Revolutionary War patriot militiaman and the daughter in a colonial homespun dress. Grenga held a staff from which flew a yellow flag bearing the image of a coiled rattlesnake and the defiant motto “Don’t Tread On Me!”

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Hundreds of those banners fluttered among the crowd. This traditional emblem of American liberty was nearly as ubiquitous as the red, white, and blue of Old Glory. Standing beside the stage Saturday afternoon in his trademark black leather jacket, Nick Gillespie of the libertarian journal Reason agreed that, whether or not this event had established a Washington record for attendance at a political rally, it certainly deserved Guinness Book recognition as history’s largest mass display of the Gadsden flag.

While the crowd estimate was furiously debated online, the people who turned out for the March on D.C. — not figments of anyone’s imagination, but flesh-and-blood Americans whom I saw, spoke to, and even sometimes shook hands with — were unanimously agreed that they’d never seen anything so huge. However much critics want to denounce the sponsorship as “corporate” (by which liberals mean “phony,” if not indeed “evil”), the crowd was real. And it was spectacular.

Brendan Steinhauser, the young vast right-wing conspirator who had spent six months helping organize the event for FreedomWorks, stood on the stage and saw the massive rally stretching out toward the Washington Monument. Recalling how the speaker of the house had derogated the tea party movement as artificial, Steinhauser declared, “I understand Nancy Pelosi is out of town, but Madam Speaker, if you’re watching on TV, we just replaced the grass on the Mall with Astroturf.”

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From the Christian home-schoolers and physicians opposed to ObamaCare, to the allegedly kooky folks whose homemade signs referenced the president’s birth certificate, to the Second Amendment activists and the libertarian Paulistas (their hero, anti-war Republican Rep. Ron Paul, was at tea party event in his Texas district), to the regular grassroots Republicans who constituted the bulk of the attendees, everyone agreed that they were present at a historical occasion.

Barbara Espinosa came from Phoenix to attend the event. Saturday morning, the Arizona grandmother found herself deployed as a FreedomWorks volunteer, working the route of the march along Pennsylvania Avenue. While I was weaving my black KIA sedan furiously through jammed traffic trying to reach the Capitol in time for the start of the main rally, Barbara — a one-woman “angry mob,” whom I met at last month’s Right Online conference in Pittsburgh — called to give me reports from the scene.

Barbara’s first report, that a “people meter” at the corner of 11th Street and Pennsylvania had counted the marchers as 450,000 strong before noon, so startled me that I quickly relayed it to Rick Moran, VodkaPundit, Dan Riehl, and the American Spectator. (Driving one-handed at high speed while reporting via cell-phone is only for highly trained professional journalists. Don’t try this at home, kids.)

If the morning marchers numbered 450,000 and many thousands more were still streaming in (not counting those innocents in slow-moving minivans who had been run off the road by a maniac in a black KIA), what would the final attendance be?

Yet the 9/12 March on DC wasn’t about numbers, except perhaps the trillions of dollars of federal debt heaped upon future taxpayers by the stimulus-and-bailout agenda in Washington and the untold trillions more that ObamaCare might cost.

As the rally was winding down and I was walking toward Massachusetts Avenue to hail a cab back to where the KIA was parked 14 blocks away, I spoke to another grandmother, Judith Knapp of Baltimore, who was accompanied by her granddaughter Savannah Jackson, both wearing “American Patriot” T-shirts. Knapp gestured at her teenage granddaughter and said, “I’m not going to put her in debt, that’s my point.”

Like the rattlesnake banners that flew over the mall Saturday, Knapp’s words recalled the American founding and the men who sought to secure “the blessings of liberty” for future generations. A photo that Barbara Espinosa sent via cell-phone to VodkaPundit might well have said it best. The photo showed a marcher’s sign, with a large image of George Washington and the father of his country’s imagined address to today’s Congress summarized bluntly: “WTF?”

Indeed, and whether it was expressed as “WTF” or “Don’t Tread On Me,” that message was heard loud and clear Saturday in Washington.

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Robert Stacy McCain is co-author (with Lynn Vincent) of Donkey Cons: Sex, Crime, and Corruption in the Democratic Party . A frequent contributor to the American Spectator, he blogs at The Other McCain.
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