Stephanie's Political Arena

Critiques and Perspectives on National Politics and More

Posts Tagged ‘Sarah Palin

Happy Tax Day 2011!

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Tea Party Rally 2010 in Madison, WI

It’s that time of year again!  Time to file those tax returns and, for some of us, look forward to a nice refund from Uncle Sam (not to mention breathe a sigh of relief that the federal government didn’t shut down and potentially delay those refunds).

We celebrated Tax Day here in Madison, WI the only way we know how to celebrate up here – by having a rally.  Only this time, the rally was organized by the Tea Party as opposed to the labor unions (though members of the latter group did make an appearance).  Sadly, I was buried under homework at a coffee shop the entire day and missed out, but I did acquire quite a bit of feedback (and photos) from friends who attended the Tax Day rally, which was highlighted by an appearance by former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin

Photo by David Summers

Both Tea Party members and labor union supporters braved the blowing snow and frigid temperatures in gathering at the State Capitol to listen to (or interrupt) speeches delivered by local activists and Palin.  During her keynote speech, Palin stressed her support of Governor Scott Walker, who has been in the national spotlight over collective bargaining reforms he introduced earlier this year.   

Madison is one of many cities across the nation where the Tea Party held rallies throughout the weekend.  Only within the last two to three years, the movement has gained a substantial amount of strength and influence – particularly during the 2010 election cycle – while generating an equal amount of controversy.

At about this time last year, I was working on a multimedia project for one of my classes that focused on the Tea Party, particularly its growth in Wisconsin.  I was unsuccessful in getting this published at the end of the semester, so I’ll share the final product below (I did create a slideshow to accompany this story, but for some reason it won’t upload to this site – feel free to check back later when I hope to have figured out how to post the slideshow!).

It’s Tea Time!

How the evolution of the Tea Party revolution is reshaping the American political landscape and what it could mean for the future of American politics.

By: Stephanie Kundert

MADISON – On April 15th – Tax Day – an estimated 8,000 people gathered at the Wisconsin State Capitol for a Tea Party.  But, this was not the typical English-style tea party where Earl Grey and muffins were served to the guests.  It was a rally in protest of government taxes and spending that is part of a rapidly growing movement in Wisconsin and throughout the rest of the country.

“The people of the Tea Party believe that smaller government is better government,” said Erin Decker.  A homemaker from Kenosha, Decker attended the Tea Party rally with her kindergarten-aged daughter, Eleanor.  “I think the government has gotten too big and is encroaching upon our personal liberties too much,” she added.  She also believed that the experience of attending the Tea Party rally would provide her daughter with the “best government education.  Better than any school could ever teach.”

Decker’s friend Kathy Carpenter, also from Kenosha and is unemployed, agreed with Decker.  “It is about smaller government, but it’s also about better government.  It’s about electing people who’ll listen,” she said.

The Tea Party rally featured a number of speakers such as Mark Block, the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Chapter of Americans for Prosperity; Paul Kern, a radio talk show host from Racine; Oshkosh businessman Ron Johnson, a potential candidate for U.S. Senate against Russ Feingold; Vicki McKenna, a conservative radio talk show host for 1310 WIBA in Madison; and former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson.  The primary message of nearly every speech focused on “too much government” as the speakers admonished both the Obama administration and the Doyle administration for health care reform, the banking and auto industry “bailouts,” taxes, and budget deficits.

“It is time, ladies and gentleman, for all of us to come together and take back our state and take back our country,” exclaimed Thompson, who delivered a rousing speech to the Tea Party attendees. 

McKenna later added during her speech, “This is an amazing time, a remarkable time in our history… You know for the first time what you want from this country and what you demand from this government.” 

The “driving force of the Tea Party movement in Wisconsin,” as described by Block, McKenna said during an interview, “This is the most extraordinary grassroots movement I’ve ever seen.”  She initially became involved with the Tea Party movement in February of 2009, when CNBC reporter Rick Santelli declared and organized a Chicago-style “Tea Party” rally with the Chicago Board of Trade to protest against the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (also known as the federal economic stimulus). 

She played clips of Santelli’s remarks on her radio show, prompting listeners to call in and declare that a Tea Party rally should be organized in Wisconsin.  McKenna and Block then worked together in organizing a rally that was ultimately held at the State Capitol on April 15, 2009.

“The Tea Party on the 15th [of April, 2009] that we sponsored was beyond anybody’s wildest imagination of a turnout,” said Block.  “We had expected on the best side [that] 2,000 people would show up…8,000 showed up.”

Since that first rally in Madison, Block described the “popcorn effect” that spread throughout Wisconsin.  He said the people who had attended the rally went back to their communities and began organizing more Tea Party groups. 

“These things started happening from the bottom up across the state,” he added, crediting the internet, Facebook and Twitter for aiding in the advancement of the movement throughout Wisconsin.

Soon, Tea Party rallies were held in places like Balsam Lake (with a population of 650 and a Tea Party rally turnout of 300), Appleton (3,000 attended), Fond du Lac (2,000 attended), Sheboygan (4,000 attended) and Prairie du Chien (750 attended), according to Block. 

During the summer of 2009, the Tea Party movement gained significant momentum as “the health care debate reached its fever pitch,” Block explained.  During the Congressional Recess in August, Wisconsin Congressman Steve Kagen held a townhall meeting in Green Bay where more than 700 Tea Party activists attended and angrily demanded reasons behind his support for policies such as the stimulus and health care reform. 

The townhall meeting was replayed by nearly every national media outlet, resulting in the month-long trend of angry activists appearing at other Congressional townhall meetings across the country.  U.S. Senator Russ Feingold had similar experiences as Kagen with his townhall meetings, particularly in Pewaukee.  Other members of the Wisconsin Congressional Delegation, such as Tammy Baldwin, David Obey and Ron Kind, chose not to hold townhall meetings during the recess; rather, they arranged conference calls with their constituents.

Thus, townhall meetings for the 2nd, 3rd, and 7th Congressional Districts were arranged by Americans for Prosperity and held in places such as Madison, LaCrosse and Wausau.  According to Block, 1,700 people attended the meeting in Madison, 650 in LaCrosse, and 1,400 in Wausau.  He said the turnout in Wausau was of particular significance because it is within the Congressional District of Congressman David Obey, who wrote the stimulus bill and is Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations.

When asked why he believed the Tea Party movement has gained so much attention and growth, Block responded, “People are starting to feel threatened… [and] they are taking action.”  He added, “I don’t think this [movement] would have happened had it not been for the Obama administration and the Doyle administration trying to push through radical policies so quickly.”

“The common theme [is] to the government: just leave me alone,” said Block.

Along with the media and grassroots organizations like Americans for Prosperity, academics have also taken an interest in the Tea Party movement.  University of Wisconsin Political Science Professor Ken Goldstein recently devoted a segment of his political talk show Office Hours to the Tea Party movement.  His guests for the show included UW Political Science Professor and co-founder Charles Franklin and UW Communication Arts Professor Stephen Lucas. 

First, the three academics addressed the key difference between the Tea Party movement and a political party such as the Republican Party.  “A movement is an organized collective of people seeking social, political, or economic change, usually outside of the established structures of government,” explained Lucas.  “By most definitions of a movement, the Tea Party would fit.”

Goldstein pointed out that while Tea Party activists share the same conservative base, “they’re not afraid to lash out at Republicans.”

Franklin agreed, stating that the demographic profile of a Tea Party activist does match with that of a Republican.  “But, if you put the movement in a bit of context, rewind the tape to early 2009.  Barack Obama is President.  All of the headlines are about a Republican Party in disarray: that it lost its brand [and] that it has no leadership.  In that vacuum, the Tea Party movement started to form and started to represent the anger at taxes, anger at government growth and deficits, pro-gun, pro-tax cuts, pro-shrinking-the-government.  All of those things emerged as a movement from the grassroots up.”

The key focus of the Tea Party movement, according to Lucas, is centered on economic issues.  “It emerged because of the bailout package and because of the stimulus package,” while the name Tea Party stuck because of the Chicago rally organized by Santelli.

While the movement has gained momentum and has resonated with a lot of Americans, Franklin is quick to point out that it is still in its early stages and is unknown to most people.  Through the most recent polling data, he has found that only a “miniscule” number of people actually participate in Tea Party rallies, yet a large number of those surveyed sympathize with the movement.  He found that on average, 16 percent of Americans know “a lot or a little about the Tea Party” and 9 percent identify themselves as participants in the movement.  Fifty-two percent know “little to nothing” about the movement, yet Franklin said 48 percent say they are sympathetic to the movement.  Those who sympathize with the movement will be the people to watch for, he explained.

In the meantime, even someone as active in the Tea Party movement as Block admits there is a mystery behind it.

“Those of us that are a part of the movement still don’t understand how deep this is,” said Block.  “But, for the first time in my political career – and I’ve been doing this for [more than] 30 years, there are people showing up and participating that never have in their life.”


Written by Stephanie

April 17, 2011 at 5:46 pm

Stylishly Striding and Persevering through History in American Politics

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For this particular post, I’m steering away from my usual snarky, quirky assessment of the political arena in order to hone my “diamond structure” writing skills, per my professor’s instructions for this week’s blog assignment.  Let’s see how well I can make this post “sparkle…” 

It was the end of a long, tiring, emotional, yet historic journey.  Though she would not ultimately succeed in her quest, she could still hold her head high and relish in how far she had come and the inspiration she impressed upon millions who shared her dreams (not to mention her gender).  With the primaries and caucuses behind her and the delegate votes tallied largely in favor of her opponent, it was time to concede, overcome their bitter rivalry, and lend her support for the final lap of the “game changing” race.  Who knows?  Perhaps it wasn’t meant to be this time, but maybe eight years from now…

Who could have imagined only a century ago that women of today would succeed in leaving as many cracks as they have in the “glass ceiling” of American politics?  At that time, it seemed the only roles that women could aspire to included: caregiver, homemaker, wife, mother, teacher, nurse, and secretary.  Neither then nor now are these roles to be looked down on; but, how could “equal representation” exist without elected leaders who could directly relate to the issues that matter most to women? 

An historic political stride for American women began to take shape on August 29, 1916 when Jeannette Rankin, a schoolteacher and rancher with a background in philanthropy, social work and the women’s suffrage movement, secured the Republican nomination for one of Montana’s two at-large seats for the U.S. House of Representatives. 

After running a “nonpartisan” race, Rankin ultimately won one of Montana’s two House seats, edging her trailing competitor by 6,000 votes.  Upon winning her election, Rankin said, “I may be the first woman member of Congress… But, I won’t be the last.”  Rankin served in the House of Representatives from 1917-1919 and then from 1941-1943. 

Over the course of 95 years, more than 1,000 women would follow in Rankin’s footsteps at the state and federal levels of government.

Earning the honor of becoming the first woman to serve in the United States Senate was Rebecca Latimer Felton, a Democrat from Georgia as well as a former schoolteacher.  She had initially become involved in politics through her husband’s campaign efforts and service in the U.S. House of Representatives and then Georgia’s State House of Representatives.  Felton served as a campaign manager, congressional secretary, and legislative aide to her husband until he died in 1909.

Following her husband’s death, Felton continued writing columns for the weekly newspaper she had co-founded with her husband, Cartersville Free Press.  She also wrote three books detailing her life growing up in Georgia, her involvement in Georgia politics, and the nature of life for women in Georgia.

Through these writings, Felton became a more visible figure in Georgia politics which caught the eye of Governor Thomas Hardwicke.  On September 26, 1922 U.S. Senator Tom Watson died suddenly, leaving Governor Hardwicke with the opportunity to appoint a temporary successor until a special election could be held.  Initially, he offered an appointment to Watson’s widow.  After she turned it down, he offered the appointment to Felton, who accepted.  

Since Rankin’s election in 1916, 274 women have served in Congress, according to the Congressional Research Service.  Of these elected officials, 235 (149 Democrats and 86 Republicans) served only in the House of Representatives while 31 (19 Democrats and 12 Republicans) served in the Senate.  Additionally, 8 women (6 Democrats and 2 Republicans) have served in both houses of Congress.  

Women in Congress offers an interactive map on its website that displays how many women from each state have served in the United States Congress. 

Photo located at

According to the Council of State Governments, women were first elected to state-level offices throughout the 1920s, with Nellie Tayloe Ross of Wyoming becoming the first female Governor in American history.  In 1925, she was selected to preside over Wyoming in a special election to succeed her deceased husband.  Just fifteen days later, Miriam “Ma” Ferguson was sworn in as the first female Governor of Texas (and second female governor in the nation) to replace her impeached husband (who was then barred constitutionally from ever running for office again).  Ferguson’s campaign slogan at the time was, “Two Governors for the price of one.”

The first woman to be elected governor of a state in her own right – as opposed to replacing her husband – was Ella Grasso.  She served as Governor of Connecticut from 1975-1980.  In all, 29 women (18 Democrats and 11 Republicans) have served a state governorship, three of whom were all from Arizona – including sitting Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano.  

In 1971, the proportion of women serving in state legislatures was 4.5 percent.  As of 2007, according to the Council of State Governments, women comprised 23.5 percent of sitting state legislators, with Vermont’s legislature having the highest concentration of women at 37.2 percent.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures’ Women’s Network, “Approximately 1,727 women will serve in the 50 state legislatures during the 2011 legislative session,” comprising 23.4 percent of all state legislators nationwide.

Clearly, women have succeeded in the realm of American politics; yet, one major goal remains for them to achieve: winning the presidency.

A woman has yet to preside over the United States as either President or Vice President, and the efforts continue in making this a reality. 

Geraldine Ferraro earned the distinction of becoming the first female vice-presidential candidate on a national party ticket in 1984, when she was the running mate of Democratic presidential candidate Walter Mondale.  The pair was ultimately defeated in the general election by incumbent President Ronald Reagan and Vice President George Bush.

Photo located at

More than two decades later, during the same election cycle, two more women would make a strong attempt at shattering the “glass ceiling” on their respective historic journeys to the White House.  Despite the momentum she had heading into 2008, Senator Hillary Clinton eventually lost the Democratic presidential nomination to Senator Barack Obama, who, with running mate Joe Biden, went on to defeat Senator John McCain and his running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, in winning the White House.

The 2008 election cycle marked a second milestone for Governor Palin.  Not only was she the first female vice-presidential candidate for the Republican Party, but she had also served as Alaska’s first female governor.

Heading into the 2012 presidential election cycle, two Republican women have consistently been named as potential candidates to face off against President Obama: Sarah Palin and Congresswoman Michele Bachmann of Minnesota.  Could either of them win the presidency in 2012?  What about 2016?  Will Secretary of State Hillary Clinton make another attempt at winning the presidency in 2016?  Would former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice or even Arizona Governor Jan Brewer decide to run? 

With the expansive field of potential candidates, a number of whom possess strong credentials, could 2016 be the year in which a woman becomes President of the United States?

Such an achievement would certainly make for an appropriate 100th anniversary celebration since Jeannette Rankin’s historic election.

Written by Stephanie

March 11, 2011 at 5:49 am