Interesting piece by Alec MacGillis in the New Republic on Scott Walker’s rise and the way that his political persona and base is rooted in the polarized landscape of metro Milwaukee.
There are some interesting nuggets about Walker’s early forays into student politics at Marquette, including the gem that he earned the name “Niedermayer” (after the uptight villain in Animal House). But the treatment of the rise of talk radio, the racial and economic segregation of Milwaukee and its suburbs, and the significance of resentments about taxes and a public sector perceived to benefit Milwaukee’s black residents are the real takeaways.
This resonates pretty strongly with something I’m writing about the 1990s tax revolts in Fulton County, and I have to point out this passage:
According to studies by the Brookings Institution and Brown University, the Milwaukee metro area is one of the top two most racially segregated regions in the country. The WOW counties were voting Republican at levels unseen in other Northern suburbs; one needed to look as far as the white suburbs around Atlanta and Birmingham for similar numbers.
Indeed, MacGillis refers to something that I’ve written about here before: that metropolitics are a great framework for understanding the contemporary tone and agenda of conservatism. The tumult over stripping collective bargaining from state workers was a surprise only because people hadn’t observed Walker’s tenure as Milwaukee County executive:
Nationally, the tumult was described as a kind of alien visitation on Wisconsin’s paradise of Upper Midwestern civility. In fact, the episode had simply brought the polarization between the WOW counties and liberal Milwaukee and Madison out into the open for the first time.