A new website launched by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute today provides one-stop shopping for followers of politics in Wisconsin. “Tweet Wisconsin” collects the Twitter feeds of Wisconsin’s elected officials, candidates, and interested political groups in one place, where fans of politics can see what they’re saying and interact with their politicians.
“A lot of what’s going on in politics is happening on Twitter,” said Christian Schneider, (@cmschneid19) senior fellow at WPRI. “Often times, politicians are talking to themselves, and updating the public in real time as to what’s happening. Now the public has easy access to all that up-to-the-minute info in one place,” said Schneider.
With Twitter, political observers can post observations of up to 140 characters. With increasing regularity, politicians have been using the service to forgo the filter of the media to communicate directly with their fans. Many times, they use the service merely to call attention to articles, pictures, or videos they find interesting. “I was skeptical of Twitter to begin with,” said Schneider, “but I quickly realized that this is where politics happens these days – and it really helps to see what politicians are really thinking.”
The list of twitter feeds currently featured on the site include as many candidates, elected officials, and groups as could be identified. If you are a candidate or group and want to be included in the Tweet Wisconsin public feed, feel free to e-mail your username to firstname.lastname@example.org.
To view the site, one doesn’t have to be a member of Twitter or any other social networking service. The Wisconsin Policy Research Institute can be found on Twitter at @wpri.
To see the new site, click here.
Visitors to the Wisconsin Supreme Court chambers last Friday thought they were watching oral arguments in an action taken against Justice Mike Gableman by the Wisconsin Judicial Commission. In fact, they were watching something very different.
At issue was a television advertisement run by Gableman’s campaign in 2008 that criticized then-Justice Louis Butler for being soft on crime. The ad dealt with Butler’s time as child molester Reuben Lee Mitchell’s defense attorney, accusing Butler of freeing his client so he could then go on to molest another child. In fact, Mitchell served out his entire term and only molested another child after his initial term was over.
For an hour on Friday, justices debated whether Gableman violated the Wisconsin judicial code with his ad by making what they believed to be a “false” statement. For most of the proceedings, attorneys representing both the Judicial Commission and Gableman parsed whether the true statements made by Gableman in the ad, when put together sequentially, rose to the level of being “misleading.” Liberal Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson waited a full 110 seconds before interrupting WJC executive director James C. Alexander’s opening statement – from then, she essentially made all of Alexander’s arguments for him. (By the end of his testimony, all Alexander could say was “yes” when Abrahamson asked him if he agreed with her.)
Of course, such consternation over campaign ads is rare in politics. There is actually a Wisconsin Statute that criminalizes false statements in campaign advertisements – and while enforcement is often threatened, it is virtually never actually used. (However, Gableman is charged with violating judicial code, not statutes.) If the state law against campaign misrepresentations was actually enforced, most of the Legislature would be behind bars (instead of just Jeff Wood.)
All one has to do is quickly peruse the Wispolitics Adwatch website to pick out some preposterous television ad claims. For instance, in 2008, the Democratic National Committee actually ran an advertisement saying Congressman Paul Ryan wanted to “end Medicare.” Yet it appears no members of the DNC ended up being dragged before a court to explain themselves. (Nor should they be.) In 2009, a group supporting Abrahamson herself ran an advertisement saying her opponent at the time, Judge Randy Koschnick “sides against victims.” Yet no one recalls Abrahamson rushing to the Judicial Commission to condemn the crass electioneering from which she herself benefited.
This just shows that the charges against Gableman aren’t really about Gableman at all. They are merely about nullifying the results of an election that Abrahamson and the other liberal justices think they should have won. The true irony is, that by decrying Gableman’s attempt to criticize Butler’s liberal use of loopholes, the left wingers on the Court are trying to open up a loophole that defense attorneys can drive the Capitol building through. Defense attorneys are now trying to file motions to have Gableman recuse himself from criminal trials based on his television ad – a move that would leave the Court deadlocked 3-3 on many controversial criminal rights matters. So while the public voted for a justice they believed would uphold the criminal law, Abrahamson has figured a way to overturn the will of the people by silencing Gableman’s vote.
Furthermore, if Abrahamson’s actions against Gableman are successful, future candidates will live in fear of the Judicial Commission, and what the WJC will allow them to say in campaign commercials. It’s no secret that Abrahamson has a stranglehold on the WJC – she appoints four of the commission’s nine members – so it may be up to Abrahamson to decide in the future what conservative judicial candidates are allowed to say. (In the meantime, she will continue to be able to tell people in her ads that she’ll solve their housing problems, whether or not a case is brought before the Court.)
This case ceased being about Mike Gableman long ago – it is merely a crass attempt to inject politics into the branch of government that purports to be above the vulgarity of politics. The Court shouldn’t allow itself to be bullied, and dispense with this foolishness post-haste.
Let me go on record. The Tea Party movement is wonderful. It gets people involved in the political process who normally never would. It forces viewpoints into the public that are sometimes hard to find. And Tea Parties irritate just the right people. They are on their way to being the most important movement for conservatism (or libertarianism, in some cases) in the past twenty years.
I attended the Tea Party at the Wisconsin State Capitol last weekend, and filed this video report. It was a great event – as I documented, plenty of colorful people showed up. It was funny – many of my liberal friends e-mailed me to express shock that I was “hard” on the Tea Partiers, while my conservative friends universally liked the friendly jabs I took. (My goal is to one day have an obituary headline like H.L. Mencken’s: “Mencken, Critic of All, Dies.”) I figured these are my people – I can kid with them a little, right?
In any event, despite the steaming bowl of wonderfulness that Tea Parties bring to American political discourse, there are always ways to improve them. As I walked around and observed the festivities, I jotted down a few things I think could help build on the great event that the organizers put together this year:
1. RECALIBRATE THE LANGUAGE
I hate paying taxes. You hate paying taxes. But several of the speakers took this meme to the next level, saying taxpayers are being “raped” and that taxpayers have become “slaves.” And they said it over and over and over.
Let’s be clear: paying exorbitant taxes is not like being raped. And the government taking more of your income, as damaging to your wallet and the economy as it is, is not akin to slavery. (Nobody on a boat headed to America from Africa in the 1800s was saying “boy, I hope they don’t tax my capital gains.”)
There are plenty of reasons to be irate about paying high taxes in order to fund wasteful government spending. But a truly skilled speakers can relay that outrage without slipping into offensive hyperbole. Using words like “rape” and “slavery” only serve to marginalize the great movement that has been built to this point.
2. CANDIDATES AND ELECTED OFFICIALS – IN OR OUT?
In years past, it seems like a conscious effort has been made to keep elected officials and candidates from speaking at the Tea Party rallies. But every now and then, one will slip into the mix. This year, Ron Johnson, who is thinking about taking on U.S. Senator Russ Feingold, was given a platform to speak, while other candidates were left off the docket. (Johnson’s speech was really good, incidentally.) Last year, fiscal dreamboat Paul Ryan spoke to the crowd, but other elected officials fighting for conservatism at the state level weren’t allowed to speak.
It seems one of the themes of the Tea Parties is that they aren’t connected to specific candidates or political parties. Sure, they’ll get behind candidates with whom they agree (they are in the process of endorsing candidates all over the country), but many of their members have just as much animosity towards Republicans as they do Democrats. Tea Party organizers should make it more clear what the standard is for allowing current elected officials to speak – there are plenty of state officials that would be really good.
3. COUNTRY MUSIC
Not all conservatives like country music. Just stop it. It’s almost like the musical selection is being written by what Keith Olbermann thinks right wingers would want to hear.
4. THE CULT OF PERSONALITY
Much has been made of former Governor Tommy Thompson’s appearance at the Tea Party in Wisconsin last week, where he announced he would not be running against Democratic U.S. Senator Russ Feingold. In some respects, Tommy injected free-market conservatism into areas of state government that badly needed it (school choice, welfare reform, etc.) But in other areas, Thompson represents exactly the type of politician that Tea Partiers despise. Even Thompson’s staunchest defenders wouldn’t necessarily consider him thrifty with taxpayers’ money.
But when Tommy wanted to speak at the Tea Party, the organizers were stuck with a quandary: Do we exclude the most popular politician in the state, even if he’s only there to serve his own purposes?
Thompson’s appearance weakened the message of the Tea Party – it told attendees that the event was more about personalities than ideas. Tommy’s announcement sucked media attention away from the people who had traveled to Madison from all over the state to be there, and focused it all on himself. And the fact that his speech led people to believe he was going to run, then pulled the rug out from under them, just discouraged the crowd.
In the future, organizers should reconsider if they’re going to allow their well-meaning event to be the host for individuals to latch on to serve their own purposes. It happened this year, and damaged the event.
5. EASY ON THE MEDIA
Nothing gets a crowd of conservatives riled up (and rightfully so) than speakers slamming the liberal media. And speaker after speaker did just that. It was ironic, however, that they did so while dozens of media cameras were right there at stage side, and while just as many nattily-attired reporters were roasting under the hot sun all day covering the event. We can rip them all we want when they pass on lefty talking points (and I will continue to do so), but on this day, they deserved credit for being there. Chastising the media when they’re right there in front of the stage covering you looks self-defeating. (Samuel Alito just mouthed the words, “I agree.”)
Seriously – who’s ever heard of a Wisconsin event where thousands of people get together and there’s no tailgating? Someone figure out the grilling rules for the Capitol lawn and let’s fire up the bratwurst.
7. LAUGH A LITTLE
Last week, speaker after speaker strode to the stage, veins bulging, demanding we take our country back. (By the way, the new Tea Party Drinking Game involves taking a drink any time any speaker says “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” You’d be drunk in 15 minutes.)
It might be a nice change to have some speakers that can use a little humor to make their points. The stereotype of conservatives is that they are angry and humorless. While there’s plenty of reason to be angry, there’s also enough reason to laugh at what’s been going on in America. It disarms people and makes the speaker seem smarter than they probably are. Plus, it would be a nice change of pace from the apocalyptic rhetoric we get from the rest of the speaking lineup.
8. TELL US WHAT TO DO
While some of the speakers mentioned some specific issues (Apostle David King, for instance, denounced the “ding dongs” in the Legislature about to pass a bill making it easier to commit vote fraud), many of them discuss conservatism and limited government in the abstract. Many of them go on at length about the Founding Fathers (including an interminable speech by a guy dressed like Thomas Jefferson) and recite passages from the U.S. Constitution. (Rule of thumb in politics: 90% of people who start talking to you about the true meaning of the Constitution are lunatics.)
More emphasis should be given to what people can do RIGHT NOW. The Founding Fathers are great, but Ben Franklin isn’t crawling out of his crypt to stop the global warming bill in the Wisconsin State Legislature. The people in the crowd on the capitol lawn have to do that. Immediately.
It would be helpful if the groups organizing the Tea Party had a framework for taking action on important bills right away. Schedule visits to legislator offices. Form a Political Action Committee and get people to donate to it while they’re all standing right there. Give them the tools they need to go back home and start making a difference.
9. TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING
It seemed like there were a dozen speakers on the docket last Thursday. (I’m not sure how many there ended up being, but it was in that area.) The crowd seemed like it would have been just as happy with maybe five or six high-caliber speakers, as opposed to a dozen speakers of varying quality.
10. FEWER SIGNS THAT REFER TO BENDING OVER AND GRABBING ONE’S ANKLES
This one is self-explanatory. I would pay cash money for people to avoid providing me with this visual.
The Tea Parties are on a roll – and getting people involved in spreading the message of limited government is always a good thing. But they could certainly build on those successes, and focus that discontent into actual change. And I’ll certainly be there next year to help. Until then, we should all be grateful we live in a country where we can go buy a sandwich that uses two fried chicken patties as buns.
God bless you, Founding Fathers.
For further evidence that the New York Times isn’t even trying anymore, take this paragraph from a story today about what polling says about Tea Partiers:
“Their fierce animosity toward Washington, and the president in particular, is rooted in deep pessimism about the direction of the country and the conviction that the policies of the Obama administration are disproportionately directed at helping the poor rather than the middle class or the rich.”
Right – people are angry because Obama is helping the poor at the expense of the rich. Pity the poor rich people of America – who will hear their cries?
What neither of the reporters seemed to grasp (and yes, it took two people to write this story) is that conservatives believe the best way to help the poor is to provide them with employment opportunities. When government taxes businesses excessively, they have to shed workers. When government taxes individuals excessively, they have less money to support businesses, who then can’t give low-income people jobs.
But major newspapers will keep covering conservatives as if they’re some kind of alien life form that has just landed and formed their own colony. They do, after all, only make up between a third and a half of our country.
The big news around the conservative blogosphere today is this dope who decided to announce that he wanted to infiltrate tea parties and yell racist things, in order to make “tea baggers” look bad. (I would suggest he yell things like “black children deserve to stay in terrible schools!” since that is actually his party’s platform.)
Something smells here. It’s just too stupid to announce publicly that you’re going undercover to make your opponents look bad. Now, if any nutjob at any tea party in America says anything intemperate, tea partiers have an instant out. “It was liberals trying to make us look bad!” (And trust me – if any idiots show up with “Obama is Hitler” signs or whatever, they will be covered. I wrote about last year’s tax day rally, and there were a couple of “those” people there – and naturally, they showed up on every local newscast.)
So in the end, this guy publicly urging the infiltration of tea parties is actually doing his opponents a big favor. Which made me think that this might be an elaborate ruse. Maybe this guy is actually a conservative operative, who urges people to become liberal operatives, then blows the whistle on his plan in order to help conservatives. Basically, he’s a triple agent. It’s brilliant. In fact, it seems likely, given that it’s too smart to have been thought up by any of these lefty troglodytes.
This is also a big win for actual racists, who can now show up at the tax day rally and yell whatever they want with impunity. For these people, just do us a favor – wear a Nancy Pelosi t-shirt. Thanks much.