Nationwide, rural white communities are overwhelmingly Republican. The Driftless Area that extends into Iowa, Minnesota, and Illinois — “Driftless” because the glaciers missed it, leaving a landscape of rolling hills, looping streams and narrow valleys — contains the largest cluster of blue and purple counties in rural, white America. It boasts the nation's greatest concentration of Obama-Trump counties -- places that voted for Obama in 2012 and Trump in 2016.And among that segment of counties in Southwest Wisconsin, Gilbert notes that the most interesting is Richland County, which was among one of those "Feingold-Trump" counties, and while it is ancestrally Republican at the state government level, it still has had wild swings in the last 25 years of statewide elections.
In a very partisan age, the region is dominated by neither party. Like its serpentine roads and rivers, its voters wind this way and that. Last fall, five of the seven southwestern counties voted for Republican Trump for president and Democrat Russ Feingold for the U.S. Senate. Six of the seven voted for Obama twice before swinging to Trump.
Weak party loyalties help explain a history of big election swings. Two of the past three presidential races have featured mammoth partisan shifts in the region — in a Democratic direction in 2008 and a Republican direction in 2016. Trump won the seven-county area by 3 points, four years after Obama won it by 18.
Gilbert notes in the article that many of the voters he talked to in this part of the state indicated their vote was more against Clinton than for Trump, and many of the people quoted in the article express disgust at the current politics in DC, and feel their needs are not being listened to.
And then there were the most conflicted Trump voters, many of them self-described independents. They had qualms when they voted for him, but couldn’t support Clinton and were drawn to at least one part of the Trump package: his business background or outsider mantle or rejection of political correctness or vow to put America first.And I have little doubt many of these people are equally disgusted by politics at the state level in the Age of Fitzwalkerstan, especially as their local schools and roads continue to be defunded while the state gives away billions in tax cuts and Foxconn-style handouts to corporations. Given that almost all of SW Wisconsin is entirely represented in the Legislature by Republicans, and with 4 GOP Assembly seats and 1 GOP Senate seat up in 2018, you'd think Wisconsin Democrats would have an opening to tap into that rightful frustration, and attract voters with an agenda that actually deals with the GOP-inflicted problems that have hit this area hard.
These are the Trump voters who are most critical of him today. Some, like Obama-Trump voter Nell Justiliano of Spring Green, now have meager expectations of his presidency.
“I did vote for him. It was really hard … We have been stuck in a political rut on every level,” she said.
But “I’m so embarrassed by what a (expletive) show it is. Because it is a (expletive) show,” she said, citing the turnover in the administration, deriding Trump’s diplomatic and leadership skills, and bemoaning his behavior.
And that agenda doesn't have to have a "Democratic" label with it. All it has to be is an agenda based on competent, clean government, giving people a fair paycheck for a day's work, adequately funding rural schools while ending the tax dollar-funneling voucher scam, and restoring the DNR as a place that protects our scenic rural areas and maintains habitats for hunting and fishing.
These things formerly didn't have partisan labels attached to them, and the everyday person doesn't like to think of themselves as partisans (even if they vote for the same party all the time). Framing these as our common values and HEARING AND RESPONDING to what these people are saying would go a long way toward a Dem win in 2018, because we know Scott Walker and company won't
The last item that grabbed me out of Gilbert's article was that false consciousness still exists in that part of the state, as some of the individuals mentioned that they admired Trump as "a businessman." It was a vomit-inducing statement in several ways, most of al because it seemed to indicate that these people thought Trump was a builder that knew construction instead of the reality of Drumpf being the trust-fund baby that traded real estate assets for a living and went bankrupt 4 times while stiffing contractors. In fact, Drumpf is little different than hedge funder Mitt Romney, except that he's probably dumber and definitely less articulate than Mittens, and SW Wisconsin HATED Romney.
Showing Trump as an out-of-touch fool and Walker as an amoral corporate puppet who couldn't care less about rural Wisconsin would seem to be a logical attack by Dems to win in the Driftless Area. It would also have the added benefit of being true.
Anyway, read Craig Gilbert's article, and see what you can get out of it.