Guest Post By: Dave Cruikshank
I searched out a group to go with, mainly because I definitely did not want to drive, and I wanted to be with like minded individuals. To date all of my discussions of politics have mainly been online or with my wife. Many people just don't want to talk politics, are uniformed, or have steadfast liberal views like many of my family. My mother-in-law whom we live with gets upset when I talk politics or watch Glenn Beck, O'Reilly, or listen to talk radio. When I said I was going to DC she asked "Why did I feel a need to dig up dirt?" She is from the generation that you respect the President no matter who is in or what they do.
I found 2 groups by searching for "912 project" and eventually meetup.com. I ended up joining the Schuylkill County Conservatives and the Berks County Tea Party. Both are in East-Central PA. I grew up in Schuylkill County and had originally planned on going with them. I actually knew 2 members from High School. But their bus was full, so I went with plan B. This worked out because it allowed me to meet with like minded individuals much closer to home, and the bus was loading only 5 blocks from my house.
A Grassroots Movement
This is definitely a grassroots movement. No one provided me with a T-shirt, ready made signs, or free transportation. I paid $40 to go. That got me a seat on the bus, a Metro-Pass for the light rail / subway into DC, and a bagged lunch. We met at 5:30 am. It was raining and in the high 50's temp wise. Not conducive to going on a joy ride on a Saturday. You had to believe in what you were doing. In my situation it took a little more. I am on disability. My wife and I had our own small business for 15 years and we had to close due to my health.
I had three back surgeries and one neck surgery. Both my back and neck are fused together with plates and screws. We had to close because I could no longer go on due to the pain. The night before the trip I had absolutely no sleep. My pain was up because of the weather and also a bit of anxiety for the rally. The trip down took about 2.5 hours on the bus. Spending more than half an hour in a vehicle is painful for me, two-and-a-half was real painful. My wife tried to talk me out of it, but I had to go.
I can't be this concerned for the direction of our country and sit out an opportunity like this. The biggest reason for ME was I've always be an entrepreneur. I've started several small businesses and always worked for small businesses. I'm a capitalist at heart, and I will make no apologies for it. There is nowhere like the USA where anyone can start a small business, work hard at it, and really make something of themselves.
Not A "Mob"
But back to the trip. Even at the hour of 5:30 this was a lively and excited group. Everyone introduced themselves to those around them and there was non-stop conversation the whole time. 90% of these people had never met before. But they all seemed to have one main reason to be there this day. They were concerned about the direction their country was going. They were very concerned about the amount of spending, and they blamed both parties. I heard it mentioned several times that they hoped the Libertarian Party had a presence in DC and would use this day to recruit new members.
Many felt the time was ripe for a strong third party. This was not an Anti-Obama, Anti-Democrat rally. They felt that government had forgotten who put it there, and who it exists to serve. The ride down was dark and rainy all the way until we got to the DC area of MD. The weather for the Rally was perfect- overcast and mid 70's with a good breeze. We parked our bus at New Carrolton MD. From there we took the Metro into DC. You could really feel like something special was building even at this outlying Metro station.
There were several hundred others there, just like us. And let me take this time to report it was not a group of angry white men. There were many women, young adults, veterans, etc. While I will admit the majority were white there were also plenty of African Americans, Asians, & Latinos there. There were students, teachers, nurses, doctors, tradesman, carpenters, people from all occupations. And yes several photographers, myself included. There were people with walkers, canes, wheelchairs, and oxygen. No ailment kept people away.
It took us about 25 minutes or so to ride into town on the metro. When we came up from the subways it was like a movie, there were just throngs of people, most carrying signs and banners. While there were many thousands of people all crowded in one area there was no fear of looting, overturned cars, or other violence that you would see at a WTO or War Protest Rally. I felt excited and safe. I personally saw very little police presence. They had to be there, but there were no long lines of police in riot gear.
The march down PA Avenue was supposed to start I think at 11:30 but it started almost 1 hour early because the crowds were becoming too large at the gathering area. They started the parade to make room for the thousands more still streaming in from all directions. We marched and chanted things like "USA, USA" and "No More Bills," "Read the Bill," "Stop Spending Now," and many more I can't recall. There were many, many creative signs. Most were humorous, I saw few that were in poor taste.
I personally saw no Obama as a Nazi signs. I did see several enlarged pictures of Nancy Pelosi calling those that oppose Healthcare Nazis. There was a poster / sign being passed out that I thought was in poor taste. It said "Bury Healthcare with Kennedy." During the parade I looked around in awe of the many large granite government buildings. It made me proud of our Capitol and made it even more important to get our country back on track.
We were lucky, we arrived on PA Avenue about 10am and were able to get on the lawn of the Capitol building. Many more were left to fill in way down PA Avenue and eventually the Mall. I heard it said they wanted as many as possible on the Capitol grounds because they didn't want us on the Mall for some reason. There were many motivational speakers but here is an area where the organizers dropped the ball in my opinion.
There was a central stage, that we were off to the far left at least 100 yards. There were no other screens that I was aware of, and only one set of main speakers off the stage. Therefore it was hard to hear the speakers and impossible for me, and many others to see them. I listened as well as I could. I heard no ugly rants about the President or Congress. I heard people both on the stage and in the crowds who want their country to get back to the Constitution. That was the main theme from almost all who were there. They want a smaller government, not a bigger government.
They don't want bailouts, handouts, stimulus, or cash for anything. They fear the massive debt this country is going into and can't fathom how we are going to get out of it. They fear so much of our debt being held by the Chinese. Many feel we are sliding swiftly towards Socialism. If there was one villain for the group it was ACORN and the Czars. There was a lot of Disdain for ACORN and the millions in tax dollars they get.
The majority of the crowd wanted the people in power now, both in the White House and Congress to listen to us. They don't feel they are being listened to, and that the government represents them. They feel that special interests have all the power. Over and over they kept chanting "Can you hear us now?" And there is a feeling that they want to clean house in 2010. Not vote in a boatload of Republicans, but clean house on both sides of the aisle of those that aren't listening. If this was the Fall of 2010 there would be some worried politicians. I hope the drive of this movement doesn't die down by then.
The people were all the nicest people you'd ever want to meet. They were all passionate about their beliefs but there was no anger, just passion. There were also people from all over the country, literally every state. And when asked why they were there, they said "I had to be here, I had to make my voice heard, I wanted to be counted." We were dismayed at the lack of Network Satellite trucks. If this had been an anti-war march, or had it been a year earlier and we were protesting President Bush for anything, there would have been wall to wall coverage. We saw one Sat Truck we assumed to be Fox though it may have been C-SPAN, and one helicopter. We meant nothing to the media.
The feeling on the way back was very positive. Many were psyched by the report of 1.5 million attendees. This was reported from the main stage several times. But we were also psyched by how many of us did show. We thought we sent a loud and clear message. But we were reminded by the leader of our group, a Mr. John Stahl that this was just the beginning. That this was going to be a long slow battle to win our country back. He was the former head of the Berks County RNC. He and others talked about how the big conservative win of '94 was blown when the Republicans got in power and became greedy, seedy politicians and not representatives of the people.
All in all it was an over 17 hour round trip for us. And yes I would and will do it again. Keep up the good fight!