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.
On Election Day in 2016, pundits were confident that Wisconsin would be a 'blue wall' that would lead Hillary Clinton to victory. The next day, however, revealed a different story. Instead of showing Clinton the same support they had given Obama in the previous two presidential elections, Wisconsin went for Trump by 22,748 votes ... Political commentators were flummoxed. How could Wisconsin, historically the most progressive state in the Union, have turned overnight to the right? ... According to journalist Dan Kaufman, the answer is that the shift did not occur overnight. A native Wisconsinite now based in New York, Kaufman argues that Wisconsin’s swing to Trump is the product of a decades-long effort by conservative think tanks, PACs and donors to dismantle Wisconsin’s progressive ethos and replace it with a right-to-work, anti-regulatory government. The result, according to Kaufman, is a gerrymandered state with weakened environmental laws, poor educational results and increased poverty ... Kaufman weaves recent political events, Wisconsin history and the stories of real people caught in the political whirlpool—union leaders, Native Americans, grassroots organizers—into a meticulous and compelling exploration of a consequential political metamorphosis. It is essential reading to understand how we arrived where we are today.
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
The Fall of Wisconsin: The Conservative Conquest of a Progressive Bastion and the Future of American Politics the Brooklyn-based journalist and Wisconsin native Dan Kaufman shows how the state became a conservative test case. As the head of the right-wing, Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation told him, 'Wisconsin is a laboratory for the rest of the country.' ... As Kaufman makes clear, though, the notion that Wisconsin in 2016 was some sort of Democratic stronghold showed just how complacent Clinton and the liberal establishment had become. Trump, sensing an opportunity, made an aggressive play for the state. Clinton, in stark contrast, sent surrogates instead of showing up herself. Kaufman describes her as not just out of touch but quite literally not there ... You can sense Kaufman’s mounting outrage, even if he’s quiet about it. His prose is somber and subdued. The most incensed he gets is in an earnest paragraph about Hillary Clinton and her 'negligence of Wisconsin,' in which any bile could pass as indigestion.