Tom Paine wrote at the toughest moment of the American revolutionary struggle: “These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”
On Saturday, in Madison, Wisconsin, there was plenty to be thankful for.
Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, the paid spokeswoman for the tepid Tea Party movement, jetted into Madison for what was supposed to be a victory party. Unofficial returns released Friday for the state’s highly controversial Supreme Court race show the candidate of conservative Republican Governor Scott Walker leading his until-recently-unknown challenger by a 50.2 to 49.8 margin prior to an anticipated recount. And, though implementation of Walker’s anti-union agenda remains stymied by a court order, the governor is freshly returned from a star turn before a Congressional committee in Washington where every effort was made to suggest that he had effectively overwhelmed the mass opposition that his proposals have inspired in Wisconsin.
That’s not much in the way of good news for Walker, whose personal approval ratings have tanked, and whose Republican legislative allies now face recall elections that could cost the party control of the state Senate. But the spin doctors were ready to claim some kind of momentum.
All that was needed was a great big rally to seal the deal, or so Walker’s allies and funders—particularly the billionaire Koch brothers, who paid for Saturday’s event via their generous donations to the group Americans for Prosperity. And Palin was brought in to pull the crowd.
As it happened, she did pull a crowd—but most of those present were critics of the Palin-Walker agenda.
Walker may have had Palin—even if the governor chose to attend a bridge-naming event outside Madison, rather than be photographed with the Alaskan. But Walker’s critics had the numbers.
Madison’s ABC News affiliate reported that “pro-union labor supporters surrounded smaller groups of tea party members waiting for former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to appear outside the Wisconsin Capitol” while the NBC affiliate reported: “A solid core of tea partiers were near the stage, but they were flanked on all sides by union protesters who have dominated protests at the Capitol for months. The tea party folks had the microphone, but the crowd had the volume, literally and figuratively.”
What happened? Wasn’t Palin supposed to be the rock star that rallied conservatives on what she called “the frontlines in the battle for our country”?
When Palin got to the frontlines, she was greeted not with a warm embrace but with a throngs of Wisconsinites holding signs that read: “Grizzlies Are Not a Native Species,” “The Mad Hatter Called… He Wants His Tea Party Back,” “I Can See Stupid From My Condo” and “Wisconsin Loves Tina Fey!”—a reference to the comic who famously parodied Palin on NBC’s Saturday Night Live.