High intensity, low turnout in Madison

HIGH INTENSITY, LOW TURNOUT IN MADISON…. Former half-term Gov. Sarah Palin (R) — remember her? — headlined a conservative rally in Madison yesterday, apparently hoping to generate support for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) far-right agenda. More interesting than the message, though, was the turnout.

Attendees heard fairly predictable rhetoric. Palin, for example, insisted that Walker’s anti-union agenda is “not trying to hurt union members.” The Fox News personality also excoriated congressional Republicans for not being even more intransigent. The whole thing was organized by the Koch brother’s right-wing Americans for Prosperity, and Palin spoke behind a podium with a sign that read, “I am AFP.”

But who exactly heard all of this?

Away from the stage, the passionate arguments went right on, each side claiming the upper hand, the larger crowd, the right side of history. The police estimated a crowd — at its highest point — of about 6,500 people, though it was uncertain how many of those were Tea Party supporters and how many were there to protest. Either way, the figure was far smaller than the tens of thousands of demonstrators that had been reported around the Capitol on several days in recent months.

At the height of progressive protests in February and March, tens of thousands braved the elements to condemn the Walker agenda — and wouldn’t leave. Yesterday, Palin led a parade of odd right-wing figures, at an event paid for by powerful billionaires, and about 6,500 people showed up.

And of those 6,500, most of those in attendance were there to oppose Palin and her far-right allies, not support them.

It’s a reminder about the changing tide. When Tea Partiers organize a rally and bring one of their highest-profile stars to headline, but are nevertheless outnumbered at their own event, which suffered from poor attendance anyway, it’s not a good sign.