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...

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Teabaggers are Coming to Madison...

...and Appleton, Eau Claire, Fort Atkinson, Fond Du Lac, Lacrosse, Racine, and Wausau. See below for links and details.

I find the Tea Party movement quite interesting. A prime example of how conservatives are manipulated by their corporate and political masters. While I'm sure that a few Tea Parties really are local grassroots efforts, most are organized and funded by conservative astroturf organizations and the GOP. Very well funded, judging by what I see here in Madison. More on that GOP connection in a later post.

When I mention the rather obvious top-down organization of the Tea Parties to my conservative friends, one of the standard responses I get is "So what, you do whatever MoveOn tells you to do!" Now, I've organized several anti-war events through MoveOn, including two that were attended by over four hundred people, so I know a bit about how this stuff works. The only support I got from MoveOn was access to their web tools to list my events. That's it. No money. No staff. No logistics support. No training. No Rush Limbaugh or Fox News hyping things 24/7. And absolutely no help, or even recognition, from the county or state Democratic Party.

Now compare that to the upcoming Madison Tea Party. Somebody is putting up mighty big bucks for this event. Several tens of thousands of dollars from the looks of it. Free buses from all over Wisconsin. Free parking and shuttles from the Allient Energy Center (a great idea, but not cheap). A big sound system and crew. Professional web presence and PR. All very nice, but not very grassrooty.

So, who's paying for all this? Americans for Prosperity appears to be the major culprit. AFP is basically a corporate-funded astroturf group that has an anti-government, anti-tax, and anti-regulatory agenda. They seem to particularly have it in for environmental regulations. Just like Exxon-Mobil, although I'm sure it's just a coincidence. AFP also has strong ties to the Republican Party, which might explain why they didn't make a peep when George Bush was destroying our economy and turning a huge suplus into record deficits. Be a good dittohead and repeat after me: Republicans good, Democrats bad. Republicans good, Democrats bad. Republicans good, Democrats bad...

Here are all the Wisconsin Tea Parties I know about. This site has the biggest list I've seen, although it doesn't include them all. Given how paranoid, bigoted, and violence-prone many of the teabaggers already are, I'd suggest giving them a wide berth.

Still, it might be kind of fun to yell "Get a job!" if you just happen to be passing by...


Appleton - Fox Banquets, 111 E. Kimball
April 15, 5:30 pm - 7:00pm

Eau Claire - City Hall
April 15, 12:00 noon - 3:00pm

Fort Atkinson - Municipal Building, Main Street
April 15, 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm

Fond Du Lac - Veterans Park (across from City County Government Building)
April 15, 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm

Lacrosse - Location TBA
April 15 - Time TBA

Madison - Capital Square
April 15, 11:00am - 1:00pm
(Facebook page)

Racine - City Hall
April 18, 2009 - 12:00 - 1:00pm

Wausau - City Square Downtown
April 15, 2009 – 5:00-7:00pm
(Facebook page)