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What Exactly Is 'Grassroots,' Anyway?

There seems to be some confusion. Let me clarify. For starters, grassroots parallels greatness.

There seems to be some confusion. Let me clarify.

For starters, grassroots parallels greatness.

No big news flash, I was one of the organizers of the Jan. 21 Celebrate Walker Rally at Hart Park. Strictly a grassroots effort, and one of historic proportions – possibly the largest of its kind in the state, bringing 4,000 Walker supporters together in the the same place.

What force of nature could rev up a rally of this magnitude to inspire this many people to stand outside in the middle of winter for three hours?

The answer is: grassroots. Sure, there have been larger rally turnouts, but not at a grassroots level. So this raises the question, what is grassroots anyway?

The term, when I first heard it, reminded me of some sort of hippie revolution. I pictured tree huggers minus the bras, all singing to the rhythm of their sway. In my minds eye, I imagined them holding signs that said things like, "Grassroots For World Peace."

Admittedly, a make-love-not-war type of occurrence I want no affiliation with. But shortly thereafter, I heard the term a second time from a conservative comrade (I know how you liberals love when I use that term to refer to my friends). He told me of an upcoming "grassroots" event to be held at the Capitol in support of Gov. Scott Walker. My immediate thought was shock, assuming he referred to a large group of converted flower people who now stand behind our fearless leader. I asked him to please let me in on the term "grassroots event."

According to Wikipedia:

"A grassroots movement (often referenced in the context of a political movement) is one driven by the politics of a community. The term implies that the creation of the movement and the group supporting it are natural and spontaneous, highlighting the differences between this and a movement that is orchestrated by traditional power structures.

"Grassroots movements are often at the local level, as many volunteers in the community give their time to support the local party, which can lead to helping the national party. For instance, a grassroots movement can lead to significant voter registration for a political party, which in turn helps the state and national parties."

So when was this movement born? The entry goes on:

“The earliest origins of the use of 'grass roots' as a political metaphor are obscure. In the United States, an early use of the phrase 'grassroots and boots' was thought to have been coined by Senator Albert Jeremiah Beveridge of Indiana, who said of the Progressive Party in 1912, 'This party has come from the grass roots. It has grown from the soil of people's hard necessities.'"

I thought about the theory of growing from the "Soil of people's hard necessities." It's not like our courageous politicians are inept. But they are only human, after all. And the great conservative activism organizations can only do so much with the gridlocks of a 501 structure.

Don't get me wrong, they move metaphorical mountains, but they too, need some extra hands. Plus, as a citizen's group we are not bound by the red tape of a fundamental non-profit structures. But this begs the question, what about profit? It's no secret that to host a rally of 4,000 people had its overhead. And certainly something had to be in place to make fundraising legal. So who paid whom? That's a good place to start.

The baseline overhead was in excess of several thousand dollars. We needed to raise money. There were insurance, permits and park rentals that needed to be covered ahead of time. And then the cost of food for the speakers, tents, porta-potties, a PA system, signs and a special security staff to keep the prowlers at bay.

We needed a formal political action committee to be formed. And so, Onward Wisconsin PAC was born, with a suiting name. And the funds came in generously to cover the lion's share of our needs. The rest was loaned by several organizers in the position to so.

The day of the rally, a team of dedicated comrades did one heck of a bake sale to cover the remaining cost. Yes, that's right, we paid for a major event with an old-fashioned bake sale. Nothing like conservative women and their baked goods to get the job done.

When we first launched the idea, we had a vision of an intimate gathering of 100 people or so. We would need no security or insurance, or things of that nature. There was no overhead in the infantile stages. But, obviously, this notion passed with yesterday's news. The next thing we knew, every conservative on Facebook, invited every conservative they knew. And they invited some, and the invitees did the same, and so on. Not long after, we were nearing 1,000 confirmed attendees. It was growing from the soil of people's hard necessity.

At that point we had to line up an impressive speaker schedule. I’m proud to take credit for Jerrid Madden, the 16-year-old new generation conservative, who left his mark on the entire crowd, liberal protesters included. To see Jerrid's inspiring speech, go to the event page here, http://www.walkerstandswithus.com/video.html.

But what about booking some big-name featured speakers? Two of our core coordinators would own this task single-handed. I was worried with the adverse political climate, and I wondered who would brave the cold to stand outside to speak without getting paid – and for a grassroots group affiliated with no one of official standing.

I was worried if it would be viewed as a potential PR nightmare by the politicians under such public scrutiny at this time. I mean, what if it's disastrous – and just before the open season of recall elections?

Today, I sit here recalling how all of them gambled – and won. As did we as the event organizers. We invited 17 speakers thinking maybe three would brave it. Hindsight proves we were way off. Of the 17 speakers invited, 17 accepted – including former Gov. Tommy Thompson, First Lady Tonette Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch. But the star-studded cast of the day goes on and on. Did I mention it was cold outside?

In the days following the rally, I was chocked up every time I got an e-mail about Jerrid, or when I heard him mentioned on the news, or in the papers, and even brought up by a caller on the Vicki Mckenna show. And it's grown from there. I am humbled to have become a face of the movement, if you will, with regular media appearances, like this one, http://fox6now.com/2012/02/03/gov-scott-walker-to-meet-with-milwaukee-co-d-a/, and this one (another grassroots movement with legs), http://fox6now.com/2012/02/05/facebook-group-wants-to-write-in-walkers-name-on-dem-ballot/. Either way, grassroots turns out to be a very unstoppable force in itself. Never underestimate what grows in the soil of need.

In closure, I summarize the grassroots movement with the following statements from several comrades and rally organizers...

"Grassroots means you're able to inspire and impress someone who may be thousands of miles of away (Wyoming)."

"Grassroots is selling bakery to pay for your porta-potties."

"When people get together as a grassroots team, we are family. Everyone working to achieve one main goal. It is not about race, sex, religion, but based on the political beliefs."

"Grassroots is forming lasting friendships with people who you may never have had an opportunity to know otherwise - it's about coming together with a common goal and finding out just how much good and decency is in each and every one of you."

"Grassroots is bringing together a ragtag group of Facebook friends for the common purpose of creating the best event ever, and becoming lifelong friends in the process."

"Bakery that was made from scratch by people who asked for nothing in return."

"Grassroots is a stay at home mom (Meg Duffy) calling State Senators and asking them to hang out in a park in the middle of January- and not stopping until they said yes."

And in a private message, "All gave some, Noelle, Paris and Meg gave all."

How truly humbling. I think I speak for all of my grassroots allies when I say that we hosted the rally without one self-centered motive. This wa about a need. From the soil of our own treasured community the grassroots grow. And grow, and grow. We are silent no more, and I got news for you – I'm proud to say there's not a weed among us (except for Lisa Weed, that is).

So if you were one of the 4,000 patriots that attended the Celebrate Walker Rally – I extend my heartfelt gratitude to you – and your 3,999 comrades. Stay tuned, the grass is lush and lucrative.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

James R Hoffa February 16, 2012 at 07:42 AM
BTW - I personally thought that Palin was the best thing that McCain's campaign offered!
Satori February 16, 2012 at 04:01 PM
"Did you get picked on in high school?" ...seriously, who says that? Usually not adults.
Randy1949 February 16, 2012 at 04:40 PM
@Satori -- Usually the kind of people who did the picking and still consider high school the glory days. It's often followed by the ever-popular, "I bet you're posting from your parents' basement." Politics is for adults. Even when teenagers are participating, it's for teenagers who think like adults and behave accordingly. When I'm confronted with middle-school behavior, it leads me to think that the issues have been examined with and equal lack of depth.
Lyle Ruble February 16, 2012 at 04:59 PM
@Randy....I have a suggestion for you and others who are frequenting Noelle's temper tantrums, leave it be. Her style only operates when she is able to suck people in to opposing her diatribes. If she refuses to engage in an adult manner, then refuse to cooperate by avoiding her rants. Eventually, the opposition will decline to nothing and she will only be preaching to the choir. That will sustain her ego for awhile, but in the long run it will not be sufficient to feed the seething beast within. I encourage you, Bren, Keith, Satori and others to not waste your intellect. Remember from the King James version of the New Testament: Matthew 7:6 "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you."
jmcginnis16 April 05, 2012 at 08:38 PM
You do realize that Wikipedia is completely user submitted? How is that a reliable source? Anyone can edit it...

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