"Masterful." —Jane Mayer, best-selling author of Dark Money
The Fall of Wisconsin is a deeply reported, searing account of how the state’s progressive tradition was undone and Wisconsin itself turned into a laboratory for national conservatives bent on remaking the country. Neither sentimental nor despairing, the book tells the story of the systematic dismantling of laws protecting the environment, labor unions, voting rights, and public education through the remarkable battles of ordinary citizens fighting to reclaim Wisconsin’s progressive legacy.
A deep blue state has turned choleric red with far-reaching consequences, according to this incisive study of Wisconsin state politics. Journalist Kaufman examines the collapse of Wisconsin's left-liberal heritage in the 20th century the state pioneered welfare policy, labor rights, and environmental regulation, and Milwaukee had a socialist mayor for decades after the 2010 election brought Republican governor Scott Walker to power. The state became a laboratory for right-wing nostrums, Kaufman contends, as Walker and the Republican-controlled legislature stripped public-sector unions of collective bargaining rights, gutted environmental protections, cut taxes, and slashed education funding. Kaufman interviews labor organizers, Democratic candidates, Republican operatives, academics, Native environmental activists, and others. He spotlights both the long-term Republican strategy of taking power in states, aided by right-wing think tanks and deep-pocket donors like the Koch brothers, and the mistakes of Democrats who alienated their working-class base with Republican-lite policies; he focuses cogently on the decline and suppression of unions as the key to Wisconsin's rightward lurch. Kaufman's leftist leanings sometimes make his analysis seem one-sided, and the book's invocations of Native American spirituality when discussing environmental policy feel awkward. Still, the author's vivid reportage and trenchant insights illuminate America's changing political landscape.