The tea party people are a curious lot. They have selective memory when it comes to history, and their slogans are sometimes unintentionally ironic – like the well-publicized one about keeping the government out of my Medicare. That’s why at first, I was surprised to hear that the tea-sippers had invited Tommy (or, perhaps he “volunteered”) to talk last Thursday.
Along with the likes of Vicki McKenna and that shadowy group that calls itself “Oath-Keepers”. Why would these people who claim to abhor big government tolerate – much less invite – Tommy G. Thompson to their party? It bothered me for half the weekend, until I thought a bit more about it.
As my friend and YourNews colleague Bill Wineke has pointed out, Tommy is a dinosaur, from the era when the two major political parties respected each other and worked with each other, and the kind of politics Tommy practiced when he governed Wisconsin resemble the current policies of the Obama administration. Tommy, as Bill points out, just doesn’t fit with the Republican Party any more.
We like Tommy because he has the aura of the regular fellow about him. While he is a highly educated man, with a Juris Doctor degree from the UW, he talks like a man who struggled to get through high school. As governor, he taxed the living daylights out of people. (How do you think Miller Park got built?) He’s a cheerleader. He loves to say stuff like “where Eagles soar and Harleys roar and the Packers score”. And we know he loves our state.
This is a man who broke down in tears when he announced that he was answering President Bush’s call to Washington to run Health and Human Services. He loves Wisconsin. But now, he’s a Washington power-broker, who makes literally millions of dollars a year trying to help clients get millions of dollars from the federal government.
How on earth does a man with Tommy’s record fit in with the tea party people?
He doesn’t. But they seem not to know it. This is a group that reveres Sarah Palin. She railed at President Obama’s plan to reduce our nuclear stockpile, saying we need a return to the Reagan days. Yet Reagan suggested repeatedly, 25 years ago, that we reduce our nuclear stockpile by a third – the same thing President Obama is proposing.
Wasn’t Tommy the man behind Medicare Part D – which the tea party people should be calling another example of a “socialist government program”? And what about the huge bureaucracy Tommy made even bigger with his “W-2” Welfare-to-Work program in Wisconsin? Isn’t he one of those socialists the tea partiers hate?
Why was Tommy at the tea party? Because there’s no real place for him in what the Republican Party has become in this state, even though he’ll still be prominent at all their gatherings. And because he has a born politician’s love for giving speeches to crowds. He can still whip ‘em up.
Even if, like last Thursday, his very presence mocked the event.