Well, that settles that.
Former Wisconsin governor Tommy Thompson won’t be running for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Sen. Russ Feingold, telling the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel earlier today that his family didn’t want him to make one more statewide run. While Thompson’s announcement is news all by itself, his appearance at today’s “Tea Party” anti-tax rally in Madison had bigger implications, as it exposed a rift within the groups that make up the “Tea Party” movement. As I noted earlier today, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Dave Westlake had some harsh words about Thompson’s appearance at the rally, and as Cory Liebmann of Eye on Wisconsin points out, a leaked email from Kirsten Lombard, director of Wisconsin’s 9/12 Project, shows a deep rift within the “Tea party” movement about that movement’s association (at least here in Wisconsin) with old-school Republican politicians like Tommy Thompson:
I’m writing to you on behalf of Tim Dake and myself regarding AFP’s announcement that Tommy Thompson will be the main speaker at the Tax Day Rally tomorrow morning.
First, of all, it is now clear, based on media reports, that Tommy will be using tomorrow’s appearance to test the waters in regards to getting into the senate race. He’s basically come out and said that he’ll know after tomorrow whether he’s running. Tim and I have talked to many of you already, and we are aware that many people are feeling betrayed. I for one was incredibly frustrated and angry when I heard the news. We were promised by AFP that they would not use the Tax Day Rally stage as a stump for candidates. But that is exactly what Mark Block has done in booking Tommy–turned the stage into a political wind sock, and therefore, effectively, a stump. One could make the argument that Ron Johnson was also a bad choice of speakers in this regard since he’s talking about getting in the senate race if Tommy doesn’t.
Second, regardless of whether Tommy runs or not, we now have a large problem on our hands. As things now stand, thousands of people will arrive for the Tax Day Rally tomorrow only to find politics as usual in the form of a progressive Republican on the stage. This situation is extremely dangerous to us. It sends the wrong message about who and what we are as a movement. And it potentially compromises the trust that many have now begun to place in the vision and commitment of conservative grassroots in this state.
Let’s be perfectly frank. Mark Block, the current director of AFP, is an old-guard Republican. He is still inured in party politics and has not made the paradigm shift that you and I have made. He’s still thinking in terms of Rs and Ds–not constitutionalism versus progressivism.
Tim and I are requesting an immediate response from you. In order to have an impact, we need to be unified on this issue.
Do we stand in agreement that having Tommy Thompson speak is the wrong thing?
If so, Tim and I need you to call Mark Block now and voice your opposition. He needs to understand now that he is irresponsibly playing with our reputation, that co-opting grassroots events for political/GOP gamesmanship is not acceptable, that he has compromised our trust in doing this thing, and that if this bad decision is not immediately undone and rectified (meaning, someone else speaks in Tommy’s place), there will be consequences in the relationship between local grassroots and AFP moving forward. Again, we need to be polite but very firm.
Here’s Mark’s cell number: 262.XXX.XXXX
If Mark asks what the consequences will be, tell him only that that is currently being actively discussed amongst the coalition members, but he should be assured that action will be taken.
The next matter we need to decide is what the more immediate consequences will be if Mark chooses to move ahead with having Tommy speak.
Again, we have choices.
1) We can threaten to pull out of the event. I’m not a big fan of this plan since AFP could perhaps quickly replace a lot of the local grassroots speakers with other GOPers. That would leave no way to counterbalance party nonsense with solid message.
2) We can either voice our displeasure and/or demonstrate it with a show of signs, or walk away when Tommy comes on the stage, taking as many people with us as we can. There has been some concern about such a strategy giving the enemy a chance to point to infighting in the movement. But actually, it’s not infighting. It’s a divide that’s existed for some time now between the GOP and the grassroots. We would simply be rejecting what we see as an attempt to co-opt the movement and any statements/press releases could reflect that fact.
3) We can allow Tommy to speak, remaining entirely polite but unexcited. Giving him only a lukewarm reception tomorrow, we could possibly follow up with press releases, distancing ourselves from him the next day.
We are open to other suggestions, but we need them quickly. You can either email Tim or I or contact us by phone. I believe you all have Tim’s number already, but I can be reached at the cell phone listed below.
Thank you for standing together as a coalition.
The Wisconsin 9/12 Project