What's the true state of the debate on President Obama's health care plan? New polls suggest that while opposition is still high, the intensity is subsiding. Yet, an event this weekend recalls the old line from the Marx Brothers: "Are you going to believe me or your lying eyes?"
Tens of thousands of people gathered Saturday on the National Mall in Washington to protest, not just the health care plan, but the explosion in federal spending that began last year with the $700 billion bailout to banks. That was followed by bailouts of insurance giant AIG and the auto industry, then a $787 billion stimulus package. The Obama administration then introduced its own $3.6 trillion budget. Then came a proposal for a $1 trillion health care package.
It might be convenient to just write off the protesters on the Mall as cranks, not to be taken seriously. But the "Tea Party" movement which they represent has been growing. It was a few thousand people randomly spread about the country when first launched back in February. Those numbers grew two months later to more than 300,000 for April 15-themed rallies across the country.
And now, as many as 100,000 or more -- estimates vary wildly -- have come to the nation's historic gathering place for social movements. Maybe it wasn't quite as large as Martin Luther King's civil rights march in 1963 or the Million Man March and Promise Keeper rallies in the mid-90s. But just as those rallies were symbolic of larger movements, so too is this "Tea" march. And getting that many to come to DC on a weekend to protest -- not social action or civil rights, but budgetary and fiscal issues -- is a remarkable achievement.
It would be unwise to dismiss the protesters' fears that the nation remains on a path toward possible bankruptcy and poverty for future generations off Americans.