The title of this post was the campaign slogan of Eddie Ben Elson, one of the most colorful characters in Madison’s history. He announced his 1970 campaign for Dane County DA in the nude at the Dangle Lounge, a long-since-disappeared strip joint downtown, telling anyone who'd listen that we ought to obey only the "good" laws.
More on Eddie in a moment.
The “Only Obey Good Laws” bit came to mind when I read an account of the important business our state’s Republican Party will be dealing with at its convention in Milwaukee this weekend.
For the uninitiated, the Republican Party was born right here in Wisconsin – as the logo above points out – in, I believe, an old schoolhouse in Ripon. ‘sconnies know that Ripon is pronounced RIP-en, but it pops up every so often on national broadcasts, where the nooz person invariably says “ri-PAHN”.
Among the important business our state’s Republicans will discuss this weekend is a much ballyhooed proposal to “reaffirm Wisconsin’s right to secede from the union” – hence the image at the top of this post, which I’ve dubbed “Cheesehead Secession”. The image is from The Daily Beast. You never know when it will be important to secede from the union. Best to make sure all ‘sconnies are aware that if the need should arise, the Republicans will be ready to guide us. I think they borrowed the notebook on this from Governor Perry in Texas.
And there’ll be the sideshow put on by one of the looniest Democrats Madison has produced since good old Eddie Ben Elsen, namely Brett Hulsey. Here he is in a Fox News photo (above) preparing to hand out KKK hoods to the Republican conventioneers this weekend.
But back to the “good laws”. Another important piece of business the Republicans will take up this weekend is something – I can’t get a clear read on the exact wording – about Wisconsin being able to ignore federal laws. The ones we don’t like, I guess.
The Republicans have been doing this sort of thing for a long time – putting up items for discussion that are so far out of left field that they’re not even in the ball park. Like the time a few years ago when they put up a proposal to never hold their convention in a building that did not permit carrying concealed guns.
So let’s talk a bit about Eddie Ben Elson. (The photo of Eddie above is from the Wisconsin State Journal.) My friend Doug Moe, who’s been writing great stuff in the public prints in Madison for decades, probably knows more about Eddie’s history than anyone. The year before Eddie announced his candidacy for Dane County DA in the nude on stage at the Dangle Lounge – with the “Only Obey Good Laws” slogan – Eddie ran for Mayor of Madison. That was in 1969, and among his campaign promises in that campaign was a plan to paint the city’s police cars in psychedelic colors. Hey – it was still the 60’s. That sort of thing was big back then.
Another of Eddie’s stunts was selling tickets to the Comet Kohoutek in 1973. Eddie, like many others at the time (others who may or may not have been under the influence of psychedelic drugs) believed the comet was actually an intergalactic spaceship, coming to Earth to save only the chosen ones.
Yes, Eddie Ben Elson would be right at home at the Republican convention in Milwaukee this weekend. Even though he was decidedly a very liberal personage, he’d fit right in with the arch-conservative fringe that comes up with these schemes to secede and ignore federal laws.
Eddie passed away in February of 1983 – carbon monoxide poisoning, in his car, in the driveway of his home in McFarland. My friend George Hesselberg wrote a wonderful obit for Eddie. I can't find a link to it right now or I'd post it here.
Eddie's long gone, but his spirit is still very much alive this weekend, at that gathering in Milwaukee.