January 16, 2010
Bonfire tea party has a message for Washington: NO!
Organizers of Saturday's first-ever Bonfire TEA Party had hoped 500 people would show up at the farm of organizer Lora Halberstadt's parents in Franksville.
They were satisfied five or six times over. Crowd estimates varied between 2,500 and 3,000 -- it was impossible to count all the people, young and old, who crowded onto the lawn of what used to be a working farm. The bonfire was off in one corner -- it burned throughout the chilly afternoon and definitely was the place to stay, except that the speakers were on a stage facing in the other direction.
McCrary kept the growing crowd entertained with patriotic songs.
The speakers had similar messages: no to President Obama's healthcare plan; no to big government and taxes; no to climate change legislation; yes to the "the people" retaking control of the government.
Applause lines were plentiful -- they went to statements in favor of the Bill of Rights, gun ownership, term limits. One Wisconsin politician got more than his share of boos -- the mere mention of Sen. Russ Feingold galvanized the crowd, over and over. There were many flags waving, and many picket signs. The present administration took most of the lumps, but there was at least one sign knocking "Repulicrats."
Because Racine TEA Party, sponsor of the event, has a non-partisan designation, politicians and candidates from all parties were invited to make short statements. Feingold was invited, but he turned down the invitation; had he come he would have met a number of candidates who are running against him. TEA, by the way, stands for Taxed Enough Already.
Star of the rally was Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, a k a Joe the Plumber, who came to fame during the last presidential campaign after questioning candidate Obama and later campaigning on behalf of John McCain (whom he later criticized). But his message Saturday was that the words "liars and thieves pretty much describes all politicians." Wurzelbacher spoke in favor of education and reading, carrying a large book bag to the podium -- books as varied as a biography of John Adams and novels by Ayn Rand.
Larry Gamble, a retired Air Force Lt. Col., spoke on behalf of the Oath Keepers, which is comprised of military, police and firefighters who list the orders they will not obey: such as orders to disarm the American people, conduct warrantless searches on Americans, impose martial law on any state. (More here.) He noted that the Bill of Rights requires the "consent of the governed," and said "the governed are fed up."
Milwaukee Pastor David King, in his invocation, expressed the hope "that this nation will once again be for the people and by the people." He urged citizens "to take this country back."
Mark Block of Americans for Prosperity, which co-sponsored the bonfire tea party, noted the growth of such events since the first ones last April. (Racine's was on April 18; see here.) "If elected officials aren't listening," he said, "they will in November."
Adele Weeks, a teacher, spoke about climate change -- Al Gore's was another name guaranteed to garner a boo or a laugh -- and pointed out that the data from the University of East Anglia in England had been thrown away and misrepresented. She said CO2 -- a target of climate change legislation advocates -- "is beneficial to mankind."
State Rep. Jim Ott, R-23rd District (and former weatherman), ridiculed Gov. Jim Doyle's legislative proposals for windmills and the adoption of California emission standards with a comedy skit involving the governor and frozen grapefruits falling on his head in Florida. He said the governor's windmill plan involves generating more expensive electricity, and then buying it back and calling the purchase job creation. "It's feel-good legislation," he said. As for Doyle's plan to have the DNR administer the new regulations, Ott noted that "the DNR is having trouble merely counting the number of deer we have."
Racine County Board Supervisor Van Wangaard (a candidate for the state senate) condemned the present state budget, saying it added $3.2 billion -- "billion, not million" -- in new taxes and fees. "We need to take back our government," he said, asking if there was anyone in the audience who had received a 6.2% raise this year, like the state's. No one raised a hand. "We are being taxed enough already," he said. "Let's send a message."
Robert Taylor, a candidate for the U.S. Senate from the U.S. Constitution Party, echoed the "take the country back" message, but then went far beyond the norm with a call to make English the official language of the U.S., dissolve all laws relating to the ownership of firearms, end the federal income tax, and on and on -- far longer than the allotted three minutes per speaker. "We need to get Washington out of our schools and leave education to us," he said. "We need to get the U.N. building off American soil..."
Dave Westlake, another candidate for Senate -- he's the Republican who campaigns in blaze orange -- told the crowd "the Founding Fathers would be proud of you. If they knew what was going on today, they'd be ashamed.... If they'd see a 2,000-page healthcare bill, they'd say, 'Burn, Baby,Burn.' If they'd see the efforts to control our lives, they'd say, 'Burn, Baby, Burn.' ..."
Terrence Wall, a third Senate hopeful, said, "The American dream is being taken away from us by Washington." Sen. Feingold, he said, "campaigns one way in Wisconsin; then votes another way in Washington (doing what Nancy Pelosi says)." Wall, noting that Feingold had been invited to Saturday's event, said, "he doesn't like to listen." Wall owns property that Feingold leases for an office, and he laughed that the senator's aide tried to get out of his lease after Wall announced his candidacy. Whatever else happens, Wall said, he enjoys seeing Feingold's rent check each month.
Rob Kieckhefer asked of Feingold, "Who does this arrogant ass work for? He doesn't work for 'we the people.' "
Dr. Traci Purath, a neurologist who practiced in Ireland, compared that country's socialized medicine to the U.S.'s ... and found it wanting. "There's not enough to go around under socialized medicine," she said. She said Wisconsin and Ireland have comparable populations -- but there are 65 neurosurgeons in Wisconsin, but only 9 in Ireland. "There will never be another tax cut in the U.S. if this healthcare bill is passed," she said, because people will object to money being taken away from medical care.
State Rep. Robin Vos, R-Caledonia, criticized the Obama healthcare bill, saying it would not reduce costs and gave away "60 billion to the unions."
Vicki McKenna, the Milwaukee talk radio host, said "nobody would have believed that over 3,000 people would gather" like this.