In Glenn Beck's own words, the "Restoring Honor" rally wasn't supposed to be about politics. Last week Beck told Bill O'Reilly, "[t]his isn't political. This is about restoring honor in our own selves. We will never fix our country unless we stand in the shadows of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington."
Despite Beck's request for attendees to leave their signs at home, the faithful found plenty of other ways to make their statements loud and clear. As Think Progress notes, anti-Obama t-shirts were sold, along with liberal-bashing pamphlets. The College Republican National Committee come along to recruit new members, and Tea Partiers from all over made their presence known.
On Saturday, it was reported that "an overwhelmingly white crowd of tens of thousands" convened on the Lincoln Memorial steps. CBS put the actual number at close to 87,000 and although that may seem like a powerful number The American Prospect's Adam Serwer chimes in at The Plum Line with some perspective:
The number of people who showed up for Beck's rally was also considerably smaller than the 1963 March for Jobs and Freedom, at which Martin Luther King Jr. gave his "I Have A Dream"...The 1963 march drew around 200,000 people, according to contemporary estimates.
In fact, given the money and technology available to Beck, it feels like there should be a way to adjust for inflation when it comes to historical comparisons of crowd sizes. Imagine what King, the black church and labor movement could have done if they'd had access to the Internet and a television network.
The Million Man March in 1995, the last big event that similarly mixed a sort of vague spirituality with political criticism of the then-Republican majority's congressional agenda, drew around 450,000 people, according to the lowest estimates.
Beck's efforts clearly pale in comparison to the history he's trying to hijack. No word yet on whether that illusive 'honor' has been restored.