Wisconsin – with it’s complex Farmer-Labor / Progressive / Tea Party / Populist / Cheesehead permutations – gives us a neat window into the Trump / White Nationalist /Blow Up Things movement. In 2016, Wisconsin flipped toward the Republican Party presidential candidate for the first time since 1988, breaking a string of seven consecutive Democratic Party victories.
In 2012, Barack Obama handily carried the state, despite the presence of Wisconsin native son Paul Ryan on the Republican ticket as the vice-presidential nominee. Obama carried the state with 1.62 million votes. Mitt Romney received 1.41 million votes.
In 2016, Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in Wisconsin by a margin of 27,000 votes. Even while winning, Trump actually received about 2,500 fewer votes than Romney harvested in 2012 while getting thumped by Obama. Hillary Clinton, however, received 240,000 fewer votes than Obama did in 2012, an extraordinary retreat for the Democratic Party. With 90,000 fewer votes cast in Wisconsin in 2016, and an additional 150,000 votes going for third-party candidates, we can understand the Wisconsin as a tragically lost opportunity for the Democratic Party.
Let’s look at some of the dynamics at work at the county level (for this analysis, I have relied upon the extraordinary County Health Rankings and Roadmaps website). Counties are a good place to assess demographic shifts. Unlike Congressional districts, which are mechanical instruments of political will, counties possess stable territorial boundaries and an organic integrity that allows us to map the social systole and diastole of the nation’s beating heart.
Consider the two smallest counties in Wisconsin –