The Operation American Spring Facebook page is here. The event was proclaimed as targeting Washington, D.C., with a gathering of patriots on 16 May, to restore “constitutional government, rule of law, freedom, liberty ‘of the people, for the people, by the people’ from despotic and tyrannical federal leadership.”
If you hadn’t heard about Operation American Spring before the triumphant finger-wagging about it began on Friday, you’re in the overwhelming majority.
That’s not why it fizzled.
The demonstration in Washington, D.C. reportedly began under heavy rainfall, but that’s not why it fizzled either.
It fizzled because it was an event with no practical objective. There was no logical connection between the planned appearance of the patriots on-scene and the desired outcome, which was framed by some commentators (although not necessarily by the organizers) as the ousting of various officials, like Barack Obama, John Boehner, and Eric Holder, and the passage of laws to change America’s course.
Such irrational, emotive demonstrating is actually a specialty of the political left – and in the United States, it doesn’t draw big crowds either. But it’s not something that even occurs to the middle-class people with families and jobs who overwhelmingly make up the political right. You can’t get them to turn out for it, because it’s obviously not going to accomplish anything.
The name of the event – American Spring – was clearly intended to evoke the Arab Spring. Perhaps, more particularly, it was to be like the massive demonstrations of 2013 in which Mohammed Morsi was ousted from power in Egypt, after a year of proving just how radical and brutal his Islamist regime was going to be.
But there’s a big difference between Egypt in 2013 and the United States in 2014. In the U.S., the great majority of people are still able to slog through a semblance of normal daily life. Yes, we see egregious violations of the rule-of-law principle all around us, but conditions of literal chaos have not been created on our streets – at least not yet. The massive crowds in Egypt had no stable daily life left to lose, and that’s why they flooded the streets and demanded that Morsi go. Americans still do have something left to lose.
The vast majority of citizens on the right – as well as in the center, and even on much of the left – want to correct our national course through the mechanisms of our normal politics and government. There is a big debate on the right about how to do it: whether it can be achieved through gaining big enough majorities in Congress; whether a convention of the states will be necessary; what kinds of amendments ought to be made to the Constitution, etc.
Some on the right are comfortable with big government, and resist thinking about such measures entirely; others are concerned that these measures may not be enough, or may not be feasible, before something less orderly becomes urgently necessary. There’s debate and disagreement. But there is nevertheless a natural uniformity of mental posture. The conservative, limited-government, constitutionalist right in America just isn’t “about” impractical histrionics. It’s not about creating pitched-battle crisis situations, for no strategic purpose, where they don’t exist already.
I tend to see that as a feature of conservatism, not a bug. This doesn’t mean I think the Operation American Spring folks are crazy, or that I disagree with their assessment of the unacceptable state of government in America. I probably do disagree on some of the objectives – I don’t think forcing particular officials from office outside of the election cycle is the key to America’s future, for example – and I definitely disagree on tactics and strategy.
I can’t say to what extent all conservatives are in agreement with me. But I am certain that the “bust” of Operation American Spring isn’t about what people believe in. It’s about the tactics American Spring adopted.
There’s no reaching the commentators on the left who will put their own spin on what happened, but I do urge commentators on the right to be a little calm and large-minded about this event. The people who organized it aren’t fools for disagreeing with you on tactics. They haven’t made you look fat or stupid. What has happened with their event is interesting and informative, not embarrassing. It tells me that on the whole, the American people are still hoping for orderly, accountable methods of changing the direction of government. I think that’s a good thing.