Academics and political analysts say the demonstrations represent the largest effort by immigrants to influence public policy in recent memory. And the scope and size of the marches have astonished politicians on Capitol Hill as well as the churches and immigrant advocacy groups organizing the demonstrations, leading some immigrant advocates to hail what they describe as the beginnings of a new, largely Hispanic civil rights movement.
What a day that would be, if true.
Legal Fiction's Publius was at the march in DC. As he so often does, he captures my sentiments exactly, and shows just how special this event was:
The first thing that stood out today was the sheer magnitude of the crowd. The Post reported that there were hundreds of thousands of people there. I believe it. People just kept pouring in from the streets. For those who haven't seen it, the Mall is a big place. And it was packed - at least from where I was standing, which was approximately halfway between the Capitol and the Washington Monument. [I'd like to see an aerial shot to see how far it extended between those two landmarks - anyone?]
In addition to the size, it was the nature of the demonstration that was so moving. The crowd consisted of families and children and groups of friends - all of them waving American flags and holding signs reading, "We are America," or "First-Generation American" and so on. Personally, I get annoyed with the deification of our flag, but it worked yesterday. It seemed very appropriate.
All in all, it was a positive demonstration - one rooted not in anger, but in hope and in a longing for recognition and dignity (the latter being the theoretical foundations of democracy promotion). These people were appealing not to base anger or resentment, but to our better angels. In the face of reality - the faces of the excited, hopeful families before you - Mickey Kaus and Michelle Malkin's nativistic rantings just sort of float away.
I won't pretend like I'm not at least partially please at the discomfort Republicans are facing at this pushback. The right has drawn on this playbook--exploiting American fear and mistrust of a minority group--one too many times for my tastes, and it's about time they got their just desserts. But honestly, this isn't about politics for me. Families who want a better life, who want to vote in a country where that vote means something, who want nothing more than to be a citizen of our nation, who want their children to have real opportunity in life: this is what our country is at it's best. I'm just thrilled that we have hundreds of thousands of people--legally here or not--willing to march in the streets and remind us of that fact. Status under the law notwithstanding, they're already Americans in my eyes.