The Fall of Wisconsin: The Conservative Conquest of a Progressive Bastion and the Future of American Politics by Dan Kaufman:
Wisconsin’s embrace of a social safety net was made possible, in part, by the region’s hundreds of thousands of Scandinavian immigrants and their descendants, who tended to be receptive to it. La Follette’s progressives forged a durable rural-urban coalition in Wisconsin, while Minnesota created the first Farmer-Labor Party, in 1918. Scandinavian immigrants in the United States followed progressive reforms in their home countries closely. When Norwegian women won a series of legislative victories in the early twentieth-century, culminating in the right to vote, Norwegian-American women began agitating for suffrage in the United States. The interconnectedness went both ways; Scandinavian governments built welfare states that dissuaded many people from immigrating. That migration cut off abruptly in 1924, when the Immigration Act established a national-origins quota based on the 1890 census. “America must be kept American,” President Coolidge said in his State of the Union address the previous year, ending the great wave of Scandinavian migration that had helped build a “people’s home,” both in the Upper Midwest and in Scandinavia.
Despite this, Wisconsin’s progressive ethos was entrenched and often bipartisan. In 1967, Governor Warren Knowles and the Republican-controlled senate and assembly enacted legislation granting collective bargaining rights for all state employees. Even Governor Tommy Thompson, a conservative Republican, crafted a new state program in 1999 to provide subsidized health insurance for low-income families with children. But after the 1976 Supreme Court case Buckley v. Valeo outlawed limits on campaign spending, Wisconsin’s politics, increasingly shaped by money, started becoming more like the politics of other states, a similarity that would be exploited by powerful national interests aligned with a new kind of politician.
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