Over the weekend, the Million Vet March converged on D.C. to protest the closure of the World War II memorial and call the president a traitorous Muslim and wave Confederate flags, because patriotism. But despite the event’s name, far fewer than a million people showed up. The Washington Times estimated the crowd at about 200, a figure that included gawking tourists, while CNN pegged it at “hundreds” and ABC went so far as “thousands.”
We point this out not to mock the tea party lunatics, but to highlight the flawed strategy of naming every march the Million [Whatever] March. It’s really difficult to convince a million people to march for any reason. Maybe the Million People Who Demand to See the Cyrus-Bieber Sex Tape would actually meet its implied turnout goals, but everything else is probably doomed.
In fact, the last time a million Americans showed up to a march was … maybe never? The 1995 Million Man March, the very first march to use the “million” naming format, only drew 400,000 participants (according to a National Park Service estimate) or perhaps 837,000 (according to a study by the Center for Remote Sensing at Boston University). Two years later, about 500,000 women mobilized for the the Million Woman March in Philadelphia. The anti-gun Million Mom March in 2000 managed between 500,000 to 750,000 people. And these were the most successful examples. About 1,000 people showed up for 2012’s Million Puppet March to protest cuts to PBS.
There was never any chance that anywhere near one million veterans were going to show up to protest the closing of the World War II memorial, so putting “million” in the name was setting up impossible expectations. If we ever organized a blogger march, we’d call it the “Handful of Bloggers March,” then blow the expectations out of the water when 38 people showed up. That’s how you march.