This past Saturday marked a change for the now-annual Wisconsin Tax Day Tea Party in Madison, Wisc. While thousands turned out — an organizer said it was 6,300 — it wasn’t the masses that had showed up in the pouring rain last year to see Andrew Breitbart and Sarah Palin cheer them on. The tone among the attendees was markedly different–more tempered and positive compared to the battle cries of last year.
The counter-protesters, which last year had come in drones to shout down Governor Walker, were down to a few grisly operatives–this year there were 100 of them at best. They stayed on the outskirts of the protests, marching in their counter-circles and observing from afar.
So with the sun shining over the crowd at the epicenter of the battle between small-government conservatives and union-backed leftists, it was clear that the movement is down to its essence on each side.
On the one side, what Breitbart referred to as his “army of Davids”–the Tea Party activists. Last year he had received some flack for shouting in the midst of his fiery speech that the near-frothing leftists in the crowd could “go to hell.” Despite the best efforts of the speakers on Saturday, from BigJournalism’s Dana Loesch to Wisconsin radio host Vicki McKenna, the crowd wasn’t seeking war cries this time, but patriotic, positive messages like the little boy who led them in the Pledge of Allegiance.
If the Tea Partiers, down to their core constituencies, were a bit mellowed in their anger, the slack was taken up by the others in attendance–the small contingent of counter-protesters who until recently had been marked by the overwhelming support from unions nationwide. Wisconsin has become their ultimate battleground, too, and the anti-Walker bus brigade has been bringing people from as far as Canada to ensure a big crowd for the cameras.
Not so this year, as the only remnants of last year’s cavalcade were the hardcore union and fringe leftists operatives. (A bonus for those of you who relish the caught-on-camera idiocy sometimes on display among these lefties: a little birdie reports that the infamous You Know Ja headliner has been found again this year, video to-come.)
Three observations about the Madison battleground, now distilled into its core elements:
1. The sides of the battle are fully entrenched. No longer attempting to convince each other, they kept to their sides, with the Tea Partiers clearly seeking positive messages and the leftists full of vitriol and hate.
2. The Tea Party is all grown up. They knew how to handle the lone infiltrators–a flag-stomping union heavy who wandered in the crowd was immediately surrounded, peaceably, on all sides with signs obscuring his.
3. There is less distinction between the Tea Party and the Republican party. With the tempering of their fire, also evident was the weakening of their position. One the outskirts, a Paulian argued with a Tea Partier over Romney being the father of Obamacare (sign of things to come….).
Last year I drove back to Chicago with Andrew Breitbart after his appearance at their Tax Day Tea Party last year. He worried over having said “go to hell,” and basked in the glow of his (first?) in-person conversation with Sarah Palin, whom he adored.
That car ride Andrew had said the Tea Partiers were a movement of anti-activists. That their fire came in opposition, not in being a movement of activists themselves. One year later, his image was captured on signs throughout the crowd, but his army of Davids was quieter and more grown up.
Was Andrew right that this is an anti-activist movement?