Why we have rallies, and why they work
In the aftermath of the big Jon Stewart rally, I think it's worth thinking about why we as a civilization hold and attend political rallies. What's the point? After all, it's not as if anyone ever changed his or her mind about something because a bunch of people marched on the National Mall.
It's all about two things: The media narrative and voter enthusiasm.
The point of all big rallies is to get the media to put your issue front and center in order to rile up your base. The actual speeches made at a rally don't (or rarely) matter; the only point is to get on the news, which in turn brings out people's emotions and reminds them to vote.
The point of the Stewart rally clearly was to divert the national media narrative away from endless stories about how much more enthused Tea Partiers are about the upcoming election, and to give liberals a reason to get enthusiastic about something themselves. We've all read news stories about the "enthusiasm gap." Stewart's rally was a tool to narrow it.
By putting a massive liberal crowd on every TV and Internet news outlet in the country, Stewart essentially provided phone banking services to the entire country. That's a whole lot more efficient than doing it one phone call at a time.
Of course, the rally gambit only works if your rally is big enough to get mainstream attention, and if you don't make yourself look especially bad in the process. The big World Trade Organization protests a few years ago failed because the anarchist protesters were so unlikable that they generated more sympathy than opposition for the WTO.
But if you can get enough people in one location for the media to take notice, and you can use them to generate a narrative that excites people, then your rally is worth its weight in gold.
Dan Malouff is an Arlington County transportation planner who blogs independently at BeyondDC.com. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.
Posted by: peterg73 | November 1, 2010 6:42 PM | Report abuse
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