Minimum estimate of Saturday's crowd on the Mall: 300,000 Maximum estimate: One million people.
Meaning of the crowd: An enormous upheaval in the emotions of average Americans is coursing through the country, with a certain significance for November's elections. It will have a lasting, profound impact on America's political direction.
Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin provided an occasion to glimpse this undeniable phenomenon. Of course, the interpretations of what the phenomenon is and what its consequences will be will keep the chattering class busy for weeks, if not years.
Some on the left are trying, with increasing desperation, to use old and new media to brand this surge in public participation in politics as sinister, even though it was preceded by a surge from the left of people and energy into President Obama's campaign.
The new tools of communication and the ease of movement have unleashed a tumultuous era of politics driven by the demand that elites not attempt to speak for, or condescend to, average citizens. They will not quietly or passively be lectured to, or insulted by, the president, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg or any anchor on any network, any columnist in any paper, or any blogger on any Web site.
The people on the Mall and the millions more who watched the gathering with satisfaction rather than fear are quite simply sick of the left, and of its vast sneer toward the traditions, values and, yes, faith of the American middle class.
The American Enterprise Institute's Arthur Brooks has quite accurately described America as a 70/30 nation, with the 70 percent presently massively underrepresented in the federal government, the Manhattan-Beltway media elite and academia.
The 70 percent is appalled by the placebo economics practiced by the president and the Congress over the past two years, shocked by its profligacy with the wealth of the republic, and sickened by the looting of the next generation's opportunities.
The 70 percent did not want Obamacare, but it has been thrust upon them.
The 70 percent did not want federal judges to declare "game over" in the complex discussion of what marriage is and means.
The 70 percent want a fence on the border that works, and do not want their concern over unregulated immigration dismissed as nativisim.
The 70 percent are not ashamed of their belief in God, deeply resent being labeled bigots because they view ground zero as land that ought not to be exploited for "messaging" of any sort by any group, and are enraged by the scorn which they encounter everywhere in media except Fox News and talk radio.
The 70 percent believe that the federal government is remote and clueless, and that the Constitution's principles of enumerated and limited powers and the sovereignty of the states are vibrant, important core values to the republic.
The 70 percent think Iran is in the grip of an evil, theocratic fascism, and that Israel is our true friend and ally deserving of our full-throated support.
We are in the middle of a perilous economic passage to a new competitiveness across the globe. We are watching other countries across the globe respond to the new demands of competitiveness by shrinking the public sector and encouraging private-sector growth. But American education is crippled by bureaucracy and burdened by the inability of a political class to demand reform of the practices and pensions of the public sector. Children have been hostages of this countrywide collapse of common sense for a generation, despite wave after wave of "reform".
Two years into what had been sold as a new politics and a new approach, the 70 percent are fully aware that they have been conned, suckered, and taken to the cleaners by a hyper-ideological amalgam of leftist public intellectuals, snarling bloggers, career politicians with limited abilities who are often corrupt, and a president wholly inexperienced in the management of complex problems who is in way over his head and prisoner to slogans and schemes that make for great campus debates -- but for disaster in the real world.
The people on the Mall were saying much more than "this far and no farther." They were saying "rewind and restart." They will hold that thought and that purpose as they peacefully, but with great passion and purpose, insist on real change come Nov. 2.
Examiner Columnist Hugh Hewitt is a law professor at Chapman University Law School and a nationally syndicated radio talk show host who blogs daily at HughHewitt.com.