A Wisconsin native who identifies as a progressive advocate contrasts the history of his state with the drastic changes during the past decade that have surprised politicians, journalists, academics, and countless voters.
What will it take for Democrats to win again in Wisconsin? For starters, a compelling message and clearer understanding of what they’re up against. New York–based writer Dan Kaufman contributes on both accounts in this debut book, which mines Wisconsin’s past for hopeful glimpses of a progressive future ... There’s much in here that an audience of coastal liberals will find illuminating and inspiring—although only the masochists will enjoy the book’s opening pages, a recount of the events of November 8, 2016, as experienced by one Wisconsin Democratic assemblywoman ... if Democrats are to make a broad comeback in Wisconsin, they will also need to look toward a cast of candidates who are largely ignored in The Fall of Wisconsin ... These omissions reflect a major unresolved challenge for Kaufman’s thesis. He urges us to look toward Wisconsin’s past for a roadmap to the future, but all the heroes he identifies were white males ... But...as long as white working-class voters maintain their power to swing elections, Kaufman’s The Fall of Wisconsin will be an indispensable guide for activists who wish to have any hope of taking on the vast Republican infrastructure.
The election night map in 2016 brought many surprises, but none more stunning than Wisconsin's switch from blue to red—marking its first vote for a Republican presidential ticket since 1984 ... Michigan and Pennsylvania also ended long Democratic streaks that night. But the Badger State was the big shock, because Barack Obama had carried it twice by comfortable margins and Hillary Clinton had led all through the fall in the most respected statewide poll ... President Trump himself has since seemed fixated on his Wisconsin win, if fuzzy on the details. Last month, while visiting that state, Trump claimed to have been the first Republican to win there since Dwight Eisenhower in the 1950s. (In fact, the GOP's presidential nominee won the state five times between Ike and Trump: Reagan in 1984 and 1980 and Richard Nixon in 1972, 1968 and 1960.)...But the president is not the only one getting Wisconsin wrong. Assumptions based on fleeting impressions have long led outsiders to misinterpret what goes on between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi ... enter Dan Kaufman
Many readers may be unfamiliar with the events detailed in Kaufman’s book, though they were reported by the Wisconsin press as they unfolded. To those who have closely followed these goings-on, little here feels like a revelation. To his credit, the author did a lot of his own interviewing, though his prose would have benefited from fewer references to that fact. There are many interview mentions ('Over coffee at the tribal casino . . .') that do little to add substance to his storyline. Kaufman introduces us briefly to a lot of people, some of whom never reappear in the pages. Despite his evident research, Kaufman commits small errors of fact ... The book’s larger flaw is that Kaufman seems so eager to press his thesis from his own prismatic view that his story suffers from distortions by omission ... In his epilogue, Kaufman pivots. After lamenting all along that conservative forces are in control, unabated, he muses in his final paragraph that several people who oppose [Gov. Scott] Walker’s agenda, [Randy] Bryce chief among them, 'might reclaim the state they knew and loved.' The prediction belies his book’s internal logic, but it illuminates Kaufman’s hope for the state where he grew up.