Inspiring Crazy Comments from Conservatives: A
You can judge the potency of Madison's pro-public-employee demonstrations by how badly they've been misrepresented among conservative commentators. On Fox News, Sean Hannity portrayed the overwhelmingly peaceful and reasonable protesters at the Wisconsin Capitol as spewing "violent rhetoric" so violent, in fact, that "we cannot show you on the air." (But, really, just take our word for it, they're absolutely vile.) Glenn Beck insisted that the protests are not about Gov. Scott Walker's attempt to abolish union rights, but about unions seeking to create "chaos" and "a new world order" in cahoots with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Myself, I didn't notice any members of the Muslim Brotherhood at the rallies. Were they the ones disguised in those Teamster jackets?
Attracting National Political Figures: C
MSNBC's Ed Schultz arrived to cover the protests and, shamelessly, to hype himself. (Yes, he really did show footage of demonstrators chanting "Thank You Ed! Thank you Ed!") Jesse Jackson, who spoke on Friday, isn't small potatoes. But he's expected to show up in situations like this, the way a plumber is expected to show up when your drain is clogged.
Saturday's Tea Party counter-rally couldn't even muster that level of star power, just Joe the Plumber who, now that I think about it, might have been in Madison to fix a clogged drain. Sarah Palin, a rumored speaker, simply emailed a statement to be read at the rally. A nutty demagogic statement, but still.
I'd be willing to raise the grade in this category if Barack Obama showed up to speak, as some have suggested. (Hint, hint.)
Staying on Message: A-
It's stunning to see a crowd of 70,000 people all determined to make rational arguments. Well, mostly all. The grade must be docked a half-point for the handful of protesters comparing Gov. Scott Walker to Hosni Mubarak and Adolf Hitler.
If Walker ends up invading Illinois and enslaving its people, I might concede the argument.
Improving the Average Madisonian's Ability to Get a Cornish Pasty: F
Imagine my shock when I walked into Myles Teddy Wedgers on the Capitol Square and found them sold out of pasties. It has also been impossible to get into any other restaurant downtown as protesters gorge themselves after a long day of demanding that Gov. Walker sit down at the negotiating table. (Actually, that's the only kind of table that's been empty all week). The one upside: Union supporters from around the world have been calling Ian's Pizza and paying to have slices delivered to protesters at the Capitol.
If the rallies succeed in ushering in an era of free Ian's Pizza, I will deem them a success.