Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Report and Pictures from the Madison Wisconsin Tea Party

I attended the Madison Tea Party yesterday. Very professional and well-run. Americans for Prosperity may be a right-wing corporate front group, but they sure know how to put together an event. Democrats, and the left in general, could learn a lot from these guys.

I arrived early with my cameras and recording equipment, and as soon as I started to set up the nice AFP staffer in the picture below came over, introduced himself, gave me a press packet, explained the event schedule, and offered to arrange interviews with AFP officials or the speakers. There was a media platform, a bit small, but properly positioned to take advantage of the sunshine, and a professional sound and video system with a trailer-sized Jumbotron.

One of the many AFP staffers. Easily identified by their headsets and earnest expressions.
The crowd started to build as the buses from Milwaukee and other parts of the state arrived. A lot of folks drove to Madison and parked at the Alliant Energy Center, and then took a shuttle bus to Capital Square. Buses, parking, and shuttles were all free, courtesy of AFP.

As I said in my earlier post, AFP put tens of thousands of dollars into this event, and organized and ran everything from top to bottom. How anybody could believe this was a grassroots event is completely beyond me, but the crowd lapped it up every time one of the speakers played up the grassroots angle.

It was a big turnout, AFP is claiming 5000, but I think it was maybe 3500 or 4000. I have good crowd pictures if anybody wants to actually count heads. I expected a lot of mainstream conservative Republicans, given AFP's close ties to the Republican Party and because the chair of the Republican Party of Wisconsin was one of the featured speakers, but the majority of the crowd seemed to be libertarians. Anti-tax, anti-government, and deathly afraid of "terrorists", "socialists", and "communists". Mad about taxes and deficits, but whether they were Ron Paul or McCain supporters what they seemed most upset about was simply that Obama won last November.

One thing that surprised me was that the vast majority of the crowd seemed to be from the Milwaukee area. I assume this was driven by righty talkers on Milwaukee radio, so if you can confirm this please leave a comment. The area around Milwaukee, particularly to the west in Washington County, is the most politically conservative part of Wisconsin.

Seems to me that the tea parties are basically an attempt by the Republican Party, working through front groups like AFP, to electorally harness the anger generated by a black president and a poor economy. It's a high risk strategy, given the extremism of people attracted by such movements, but the Republican Party, both in Wisconsin and nationally, doesn't exactly have much to lose. They've driven away moderates, so all that's left are the radicals.

Enough writing, on with the pictures. Click any of them for bigger versions.

This sign says it all.

A friendly teabagger. Seems like the folks with the most extreme signs are often the least informed. This guy couldn't put together a coherent argument to save his life, but he sure knew he was right and everybody who didn't agree with him was wrong.

The crowd, or as much of it as I could get in one picture. Mighty white, not that I expected otherwise.

Plenty of libertarians.

Jumbotron. Very nice. Very expensive. Boy, right-wing grassroots organizers sure have a heck of a lot more money than left-wing grassroots organizers.

One of the main themes of the event was trashing Jim Doyle.

Another Doyle fan.

Not much love for Obama. I didn't see any blatantly racist signs, not that AFP would have allowed them, but anything short of that seemed to be fair game.

It's Nobama with the "O" replaced by a hammer and sickle! After all, any black president who was once a community organizer is by definition a communist!

More of the communist theme. I doubt many of these folks could even define communist, but they know one when they see one.

When calling Obama a socialist or communist just isn't enough, there's always the terrorist card.

...Anti-Christ works too.

Let's see, Obama, Hitler, Marx... Wait a minute, where's Saddam Hussein? I guess the crazy right-wing sign painters must be slipping...

I asked this guy if his sign meant that he also opposed laws restricting abortion. He said "Oh no. That's completely different..." He also had no idea how much other western countries spend per capita on health care, or how life expectancy and other healthcare outcomes compared. But he sure knew that government-run healthcare doesn't work and will destroy our country!

Yeah, impeach those damn congressional socialists! All ... one of them!

A sore loser.

There were a few birthers, but not as many as I expected.

Scot Ross and the One Wisconsin posse. They were able to get right up in back of the speaker's platform with their signs. The AFP folks actually had to protect Scot and his crew from the teabaggers. Guess they didn't want a fight to spoil their carefully constructed media image of moderation and rationality.

Right-wing American political philosophy summed up in one sign. We're all just helpless victims of God and the wealthy...


Anonymous said...

Of course right wing organizers have more money than they left wing ones. They have jobs. You can't rent a jumbotron with your QUEST Card.

MAL said...

As the fool's commnent above demonstrates, the rightwing has a confused message.

Obama is a socialist-communist-anti-Christ and should not sve the financial sector and save capitalism.

After 911 in Madison, we had a bunch of rightwing whacks show up at an event and then try to recall Madison School Board member Bill Keys because Keys was against forced reciting by students of the Pledge of Alligiance. They made a lot of noise and susbsequently got their collective ass handed to them.

Same thing as these morons. They will make a lot of noise (as you say formualating coherent sentances is difficult for them) and then they will get slaughtered.

Obama won Wisconsin by 14 percent [remember all those "elitists" who voted for him].

So they staged an event. Big deal. Congrats.

Their hero, George W. Bush, managed to do more harm to this country than any single president before him. Hey, I wonder how many of these folks, and it seemed that they were all white people did you notice, voted for Bush.

The racism is just below the surface. Hey, Anonymous, how do you feel about black people? And who are you?

Russell Wallace said...

Jobs? Are you serious, Anon? All I saw on Wednesday was thousands of of right-wing wacko conservative slackers who would rather whine and cry about getting their asses kicked last fall than go to work and earn an honest living.

Sorry, couldn't resist.

When it comes to money, Anon, it's not really about organizers having jobs. It's about who paying for things. Kind of helps to have Exxon and Phillip-Morris bankrolling the Tea Parties through front groups like AFP.

Of course, they aren't doing it out of the goodness of their generous corporate hearts. But since you all seem to believe that multinational corporations have the God-given right to screw us and our country, why would that bother you?

L. E. Lee said...

hilarious post Russell!

Anonymous said...

That "Keep your laws off my body" sign is absolutely priceless. More than anything else I've seen...that one says it all about these people.

Anonymous said...

From the tone in this blog, I can tell YOU are part of the reason this country is going down the crapper. You have no idea what we stood for at this rally. I am saddened that this country's educational system has made you so ignorant.

Russell Wallace said...

Actually, our country WENT down the crapper because of you and people like you. Now we're just trying to clean up your mess.

You're big on "responsibility", so how about taking some. Admit that your political philosophy has utterly failed. That the market won't regulate itself. That corporations care about profits, not about you or me or the good of our country. And that we were smart enough to figure all that out while you were busy waving flags and yelling "Bring it on!" as thousands of good Americans died in an unnecessary and pointless war. Admit that your selfish and short-sighted beliefs are responsible for almost everything you're now so busy protesting about.

And if you can't do that, then just shut up and get the hell out of the way so that Obama and the rest of the grownups can get back to work repairing all the damage that you guys have done to America.

Russell Wallace said...

You know, listening to conservatives and libertarians blame everybody but themselves for the mess we're in kind of gets me agitated.

It's like when one of my kids does something really wrong, and then blames someone else when the shit hits the fan. Understandable and somewhat excusable behavior in a young child, not so much in a supposedly adult teabagger.

Anonymous said...

I don't get why everyone is just being so ungrateful and instead of joining together to help things out to overcome this economy people would rather waste their time doing some very lame protest that is no good and just making our president look bad making it seem like if its really all his fault that our state is like this.
i think we should all take some time & think about what were doing for a change instead of blaming Obama

viagra online said...

Even though that this event was organized by the better way, the results were not so good, because they ignored the petitions we ask for.

Anonymous said...

True grass roots efforts like this take time. It is unfortunate that their fears and predictions had to become realized for the voters to turn out like they are today. Feingold and Obey can go help Harry Reid find work in Obama's jobless recovery they mortgaged our future for. The Tea Party's version of "Quantitative Easing" begins Nov 2, 2010 by putting some fiscal responsibility back into the Capitols.

Shady said...

I think they know in bug lines what communism is, and there're rich guys not wanting to give away anything they get.

obama is compared to hitler (who wasn't socialistic, by the way), lenin (who was), stalin, the antichrist (believe watever you want) and more 'bad' things. well while i don't think Obama is a socialist (his health care ideas are, but for each socialistic idea there are 3 non-socialistic ones), I think your country (America) needs some socialism.

these are the rich. for each of them, 2 people die on the streets every day, and noumberless live in poverty.