By Dave Begel Contributing Writer Published Apr 17, 2014 at 9:02 AM

I am one of those level-headed sophisticates who has always laughed at the Tea Party.

I’ve always dismissed them as a bunch of dissatisfied wingnuts who gather under the cover of darkness and say a prayer to Sen. Ted Cruz, who is the chief wingnut, unless you consider Sen. Rand Paul, and then we’ve got a tie for the Wacko in Chief.

But tremors have begun to shake through me as I sit idly by and watch the ground being gobbled up by the Tea Party in Wisconsin by four stunning political events.

First State Sen. Mike Ellis was surreptitiously videotaped by that crazy James O’Keefe, who runs something called Project Veritas. Ellis was embarrassed by political conversation in a bar that seemed to advocate something against the rules. So, Ellis resigned, providing a victory for the Tea Party and its supporters. Thus ended a 44-year career in the legislature and removed a Republican voice of reason.

If anyone wants to know about O’Keefe, just listen to what James Letten, who was the U.S. Attorney in Louisiana, had to say about Project Veritas after the organization went after him, even though he proved they were wrong in their allegations.

"You went to my house, you terrorized my wife, you're violating federal law, you're trespassing, you're a nasty little cowardly spud," Letten said last year in a video he posted. "All of you, you're hobbits. You are less than I can ever tell you. You are scum. Do you understand?"

O’Keefe did not seem to publicly object to the characterizations.

Ellis was the first of the victories for the Tea Party in the last week.

Next to fall was veteran congressman Tom Petri who has represented the Fox Valley for over four decades. Petri, a middle-of-the-road Republican faced a primary challenge from State Sen. Glenn Grothman, who has built a reputation not quite as extreme as Cruz, but then again, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It’s fair to say that Petri didn’t relish getting into a fight with the extremists on the right edge of the mantlepiece.

Grothman, of course, is the ever enlightened state senator widely known for blasting everything from Kwanzaa to equal pay for women. Here’s a few select quotes taken from Madison newspapers from the guy who drove Petri from running.

"In my personal experience, the reason most men make more than most women is that most men set themselves up or view themselves as breadwinners in the family. So, frequently it’s not unusual to have a guy working 50 or 60 hours a week and the gal’s working 35 or 40 hours a week."

"Our country is not going to survive if we continue this war on men."

"Of course, almost no black people today care about Kwanzaa. Just white left-wingers who try to shove this down black people’s throats in an effort to divide Americans."

And then there’s his rant about gay people.

"Did people even know what homosexuality was in high school in 1975? I don't remember any discussion about that at the time. There were a few guys who would make fun of a few effeminate boys, but that's a different thing than homosexuality."

"If people adhere to the tenets of Christianity, the acceptance of that sin will not be the norm. How society deals with it is going to determine to a certain extent how much that lifestyle flourishes and it should not flourish."

That was the second notch in the belt of the Tea Party, but I wasn’t all that worried until I got an email from Tom Barrett. Here’s what our mayor said.

"This week, one of Milwaukee’s most controversial politicians and darling of the far right, David Clarke, ramped up talk about running against me for mayor and started his attacks."

"Sheriff Clarke has some interesting ideas when it comes to how he does his job and how he would address Milwaukee’s challenges."

"For example, he once advocated that Milwaukee County citizens arm rather than rely on law enforcement – and he's the County Sheriff. And then went a step further and touted this dangerous message nationally.

"Clarke claims to have balanced every budget put in front of him. But his office is projected to run a $4.6 million deficit this year, and his solution – threaten to sue the county so he can spend more."

"And speaking of spending, he has already stated that he is prepared to spend over $350,000 to challenge me."

"When he comes after me, I’ll be ready. But I’d love to have your help. Help me build a Rapid Response Fund to help fend off the inevitable political attacks by making a contribution of $25 or whatever you can do today."

"We're turning things around here in Milwaukee with more people than ever, especially young talent, moving into the city. We've set major development projects in motion, making our neighborhoods safer and our city more vibrant. And our partnerships with local businesses and organizations continue to foster innovation and grow our workforce."

"And I’m not done. I will keep fighting for Milwaukee, but I’m going to need your help fending off the political attacks that are headed my way. Please make a contribution to my Rapid Response Fund today."

Tom Barrett being worried about Sheriff David Clarke is like Placido Domingo being worried about Vanilla Ice or Venus di Milo being worried about the Bronze Fonz.

Once I got through his email I was finally beginning to take the Tea Party seriously. I mean if Barrett was actually worried, so was I.

The final nail in this coffin was the news that the state Republican Party is going to vote at its convention on a resolution that says the state party "supports legislation that upholds Wisconsin's right, under extreme circumstances, to secede."

Secede? You've got to be kidding me. But upon further review, it might not be a bad idea to let the Tea Party secede and leave the hard work of government to the rest of us who have at least some common sense.

Dave Begel Contributing Writer

With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.

He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.

This whole Internet thing continues to baffle him, but he's willing to play the game as long as keeps lending him a helping hand. He is constantly amazed that just a few dedicated people can provide so much news and information to a hungry public.

Despite some opinions to the contrary, Dave likes most stuff. But he is a skeptic who constantly wonders about the world around him. So many questions, so few answers.