Friday, December 2, 2011

Badger State Polarization

A couple of weeks ago, we mentioned race as being one of the ongoing factors effecting the concept of "good government." Here's a more concise explanation of that phenomenon:
[W]hy all this excitement in Wisconsin? I suspect what we're seeing is a manifestation of the remarkable mix of political traditions that has long defined that state, with on the one hand, its deep progressive, even socialist, roots going back to the transplanted Yankees and northern European immigrants who settled it; and on the other hand, its nearly as well-established strain of deep conservatism that has at moments strayed into nativism and demagoguery, most notably in the person of Joe McCarthy. Jason DeParle's superb history of welfare reform, "American Dream," set in Milwaukee, notes another feature of the state that surely helps explain its polarized politics: the Great Migration got to Wisconsin later than anywhere else. While Southern blacks were pouring into othern northern cities at midcentury, Milwaukee was still overwhelmingly white in the 1950s; it was only later, in the 1970s and 1980s, that a second wave of migration carried African-Americans to Milwaukee, mostly from Chicago. This means that metro Milwaukee is further behind in the cycle one has seen in other cities, where, after an initial white flight, the suburbs are now themselves growing increasingly diverse and Democratic. Milwaukee hasn't moved as far from its initial white flight phase, and its suburbs -- not all, but most -- remain a hotbed of Republican votes (and, not incidentally, home to some virulently conservative talk show radio shows.)

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