Retired Army Col. Harry Riley expects that somewhere between 10 million and 30 million people will help him shut down Washington on Friday for Operation American Spring. Operation American Spring, in case you didn't get your invitation, is a militia-heavy protest explicitly aiming to force Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, and Eric Holder from office. This is not going to happen. 30 million people will not show up for Riley's protest. And the protest will not overthrow the government.
So, for the benefit of the future of the Overthrow Obama protest movement, here is a guide to managing expectations and making your attempted coup the best version of itself.
Learn from the Examples of Others
Had Riley based his estimate on anything other than, we presume, the numbers he'd like to see in the papers, he'd know that promises to send We the People to the door of American power rarely meet lofty turnout estimates. Last October, "10,000" truckers were reportedly on their way to literally clog the Beltway and shut down traffic in protest of Washington politics. In reality, about 30 truckers showed up, and they caused no delays worth mentioning. In November, Larry Klayman promised that "millions" would show up at his rally "to occupy Washington D.C" and call for the overthrow of President Obama. Instead, the crowd looked more like this:
Of course, this advice applies beyond the realm of the "overthrow America" protest genre. In 2012, a coalition of progressive groups planning to march on the Tampa RNC failed to top 500 in attendance, despite estimates of thousands. And Glenn Beck famously estimated that his 2010 "Restoring Honor" rally would draw 300,000 people to the Lincoln Memorial. While still an indisputably enormous event, Beck had a crowd of about 87,000 people instead, based on the most generous of reliable estimates.
Despite the symbolism of crowd size, journalists who have ever actually tried to cover a protest or rally know that it's very difficult to get accurate head counts. In other words, there is some leeway here when it comes to numbers — no one will fault you for saying 10,000 people would come to your protest, if it's really only more like 8,000. The effect is the same. The best estimate of the crowd at the famous Million Man March is 837,000, for instance, with a large margin of error of plus or minus 20 percent. But you have to make sure the crowd will be big enough to fake it, at the very least. If you say that 10 million people will attend your weekday rally, you're setting yourself up for a great disappointment that would impress even the Millerites.
Look at Some Polls
Riley's high estimate of 30 million people amounts to a little under 10 percent of the entire U.S. population. While no one has polled reliably on whether Americans want to forcibly remove Obama and several other members of the federal government from office, we do have some polling on American attitudes towards the president and the government in general. Polling on impeachment is tough, but the most reliable figures out there seem to estimate that as much as 35 percent of the entire population would favor the House of Representatives bringing impeachment proceedings against the president (depending on how the Huffington Post asked that question, however, results varied widely).
35 percent! That's more than 10 percent, so Riley's in the clear, right? Not exactly. Take a look at those attendance figures up above. Under a million people showed up for the Million Man March. Glenn Beck's highly publicized rally, at the height of his influence and with a still-fresh Tea Party, was under 100,000. By comparison, Operation American Spring's Facebook Page has 800 likes, and Riley's explanatory video promoting the rally has about 9,500 views:
In order to get even the low Riley estimate, nearly a third of all Americans who would support some sort of impeachment proceedings would have to take Friday off from work, travel to Washington, and stand with the militias for the protest. It's not impossible that such a thing would happen. But it almost certainly won't.
Have a Back Up Plan
Operation American Spring has a very detailed, widely-circulated plan. Mission? "Restoration of Constitutional government, rule of law, freedom, liberty “of the people, by the people, for the people” from despotic and tyrannical federal leadership." It continues:
Millions of Americans will participate.
American veterans and patriots are energized to end the tyranny, lawlessness, and shredding of the US Constitution.
Government is not the target, it is sound; corrupt and criminal leadership must be replaced.
Those in power will not hesitate to use force against unarmed, peaceful patriots exercising their constitutional rights.
Patriots may be incarcerated, wounded or god forbid; killed.
It goes on, outlining the plan of action, with the assumption that 10 million people show up to participate:
Phase 1 – Field millions, as many as ten million, Patriots who will assemble in a peaceful,non-violent, physically unarmed (Spiritually/Constitutionally armed), display of unswerving loyalty to the United States of America Constitution and against the incumbent government leadership in Washington D.C., with the mission to replace with law-abiding leadership. Go full-bore, no looking back, steadfast in the mission.
Phase 2 – One million or more of the assembled must be prepared to stay in D.C. as long as it takes to see Obama, Biden, Reid, McConnell, Boehner, Pelosi, and Attorney General Holderresign or be removed from office.
Consistent with the US Constitution, as required, the U.S. Congress will take appropriate action, execute appropriate legislation, deal with vacancies, or U.S. States appoint replacements for positions vacated consistent with established constitutional requirements.
Phase 3 – Principled leaders such as, Former Representative Allen West, Senator Ted Cruz, Doctor. Ben Carson, Senator Mike Lee, Former Senator Jim DeMint, Senator Rand Paul, Governor Scott Walker, Senator Jeff Sessions, Representative Trey Gowdy, Representative Jim Jordan, appointed by their peers, would comprise a tribunal and assume positions of authority to convene investigations, recommend appropriate charges against politicians and government employees to the new U.S. Attorney General appointed by the new President.
This plan would certainly send a message, but given the above, it seems prudent to make sure you have a Plan B in case the crowd is less than historically unprecedented.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.