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Whose Was Bigger?: An Eyewitness Guesstimation of One Nation's Crowd Size vs. Glenn Beck's Restoring Honor Rally

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Via Instapundit comes this animated comparison of the crowds at Glenn Beck's 8/28 rally at the Lincoln Memorial vs. this past Saturday's One Nation Working Together event at the same location:

The creator of the image at Verum Serum above notes that left-wing sites such as Crooks & Liars are reporting that the One Nation rally drew a bigger crowd than the Beck one.

As somebody who was at both events (and took in the crowds at both from the stages on or near the steps of memorial), there's no question in my mind that the Beck rally drew a much larger crowd. I'd say the One Nation audience was somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 as big as the one for Restoring Honor.

With that basic statement out, let me add two provisos:

1. Basically any time you're estimating a crowd that is bigger than what can be counted by an individual in his head, you're whistling in the dark. Crowd estimates, which the U.S. Park Service stopped giving out for DC events after squabbles over how many people actually attended the Million Man March way back when, are incredibly loosey-goosey to begin with and subject to all sorts of distortion. Indeed, even the image above is questionable since it's impossible to know when the comparison photos were taken. Were they both taken at the high point of each rally, for instance? The One Nation rally was definitely slow to get moving but I think I saw more folks in the upper-left-hand quadrant of the pic than seem to be there above. Having said that, I do stand by my guesstimate of 1/3 to 1/2 of the Beck rally (another thing to consider is that the stage for the Beck rally was set up closer to the reflecting pool, whereas the One Nation folks had a lot of seating on the steps and area in front of the reflecting pool itself).

2. Does size really matter in the first place? For instance, the Crooks & Liars post linked to above crows in its headline, "Here's Your Enthusiasm Gap: One Nation Rally Draws More Attendees Than Beck's "Whitestock." Well, if you're banking on the size of the crowd showing something, then you're shit out of luck, One Nationers. There's no doubt that the Beck rally drew an overwhelmingly white crowd but it also clearly drew a far bigger crowd. As important from an "enthusiasm gap" POV, I didn't see any of the top-down coordination at Restoring Honor that was everywhere at One Nation – as my Reason.tv colleagues and I were leaving the event, there were four or five National Education Association chartered buses being filled with teachers who doubtlessly attended One Nation in a fit of spontaneous coordination. There were buses of course at the Beck rally, but there didn't seem to much or any of the union-type organized turnout that was everywhere at One Nation. The uniform du jour at Restoring Honor were American flag T-shirts of various makes and models; it was definitely work-related T-shirts at One Nation.

Having said that, while the One Nation crowd was clearly smaller, it was in many ways more focused. This was an explicitly political rally after all, where Restoring Honor was not. The folks in attendance were explicitly exhorted to vote for Democrats and to turn out on November 2. The action item (sorry) of the Beck rally was far less clear. There was massive discontent with mostly Democratic pols, but the message from the stage was more about self-improvement than anything else. It's quite possible that One Nation will generate more votes than Restoring Honor.

Reason.tv's coverage of the One Nation rally, including Q&A with Jesse Jackson, Ed Schultz, Al Sharpton, and Charles Rangel, is below on Hit & Run (click on the hyperlink).

Our coverage of the Beck rally:

And go here for ruminations a week after the Beck rally.