Don't "Misunderestimate" Wisconsin

MADISON -- Sarah Palin graced Wisconsin with her maverickness on a cold, wet Saturday where counter-protesters outnumbered Tea Party supporters. Wisconsin Wave held an early rally on the opposite side of the capitol, giving progressives a platform for the day but ending in time for attendees to march in opposition to Palin's speech.

Wisconsin Wave Braves Snow

Walker Puppet Apr 16Despite the Wisconsin Wave event's separation from the Tea Partiers, Palin was on everyone's mind. For instance, in discussing Madison's months of protests, Madison Mayor-elect Paul Soglin asked, "Do you know what I see when I look out there?" Before he could give the answer, a crowd member yelled, "Russia!" (Soglin's intended answer was "democracy"). Hundreds of protesters brought hand puppets to the event, illustrating the theme "Walker and Palin are corporate puppets" of the Koch Brothers and other corporate interests.

As with past rallies, police and firefighters demonstrated in opposition to Walker's plans. Speaking from the stage, firefighter Joe Conway of Firefighter's Union Local 311 compared the fight between "Walker, Palin, and Koch" and unions to the legendary boxing match between Sonny Liston and Cassius Clay (later known as Muhammad Ali). He noted that all commentators at the time thought it would be a one-round fight, but Clay was the one standing after six rounds; Conway declared that "At the end of the day, we will be the one standing in the capitol!"

tea party corporate shillsRally organizer Ben Manski asserted that progressives embodied the spirit of the original Tea Partiers, who had come together against one of the largest multi-national corporations of their time. As CMD has reported, the East India Company was extremely cozy with the British government circa 1773, and because the corporation was having financial difficulties, Parliament granted it a trade monopoly in the American colonies -- essentially a bailout for the troubled corporation. Although the corporate protest was fueled by a variety of issues, the East India Company bore the brunt of colonial rage in large part due to the corporation's close relationship with the British government. Manski pointed out that the December 16, 1773 "party" was the "largest direct action against a corporation in the history of the world!"

Skinning a Moose

Soon after the Wisconsin Wave event concluded, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin took the stage on the other end of the square. Despite controversy over the Koch brothers' influence in Wisconsin, the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity sponsored the pro-Walker rally, and bused in Tea Party supporters from across the state. Protesters' chants, cow bells and noise makers drowned out much of Palin's speech.

Palin's abbreviated gubernatorial term inspired signs that read "Walker: Pull a Palin and QUIT!" Palin, though, had her sights set on her next gig, saying in her speech that "the 2012 election begins here."

Palin also asserted that Walker is "not trying to hurt union members. Hey, folks! He's trying to save your jobs and your pensions!"

Madison firefighter Stephanie Donhauser disagreed. She pointed out that "even [Senate Majority Leader Scott] Fitzgerald admitted that this was not about the budget, but about busting unions and making it so Obama won't be reelected."

The 2012 election begins here, indeed.

See also Jennifer Page's coverage of the rally.