Beware the crowdsmanship: Does the size of political rallies really mean much?

A great article about one of the more common misconceptions in US politics. While Professor Mann naturally emphasizes the journalistic aspects, I recommend reading into some of the more unique characteristics of Southern politics during the late 19th and through much of the 20th century and stump speaking. Albert Kirwan used the title Revolt of the Rednecks for his work on Mississippi politics from Reconstruction to 1925 with the focus being on Vardamann and Bilbo and Louisiana obviously featured Huey and Earl Long along with Jimmie Davis who often sang instead of merely giving speeches on the campaign trail. While these statewide races can be seen in a vast number of excellent works, please look at primary sources for local races. There you can readily see the connection between entertainment and campaigning. I’m fortunate to be just old enough to remember as a kid the crowds gathered at the local Amvets Hall to hear candidates for sheriff and for the police jury. One of the keys to crowd size was the quality of the jambalaya typically served following the candidate’ remarks. Many candidates would attract far greater support for the free eats than in votes casts up at the precinct. It’s the same concept as today in that crowd size does not equate to votes, but crowds or the lack of crowds can bring different variables into a given election. As I often relate in the classroom, at times appearances play a bigger factor than reality and at other times appearance is nothing but a deception which may be intentional or unintentional on the campaign’s part.

Something Like the Truth

By Robert Mann

Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders is drawing large crowds at rallies almost everywhere he goes. Nearly 10,000 in Wisconsin; 8,000 in Dallas; more than 7,000 in Portland, Maine; more than 5,000 in Denver; and 3,000 in Minneapolis.

That, according to some political observers, is evidence that Sanders is a threat to the Democrats’ presumptive nominee, Hillary Clinton. “Sanders’s audience—in a state not among those with traditional early nominating contests—rivaled the largest drawn by Clinton and the Vermont senator in recent weeks,” Washington Post reporter John Wagner opined of Sanders’ recent Denver rally. “The extraordinary turnout was the latest evidence that Sanders, 73, has tapped into the economic anxiety of the Democratic electorate.”

Not to be outdone, Donald Trump recently bragged that the size of his rally in a Phoenix hotel ballroom “blows away anything that Bernie Sanders has gotten.” Most journalists covering the event pegged the crowd’s…

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