K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Rural Wisconsin is red and angry

Steven Walters:

The UW-Madison political science professor, an Ozaukee County native, was stunned by what northern Wisconsin residents told her in diners, coffee shops, back rooms and barns between 2007 and 2012.

“I did not expect to hear it, but many of the people I listened to in rural areas exhibited a multifaceted resentment toward urban areas,” Professor Katherine J. Cramer writes in her new book, The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker.

“That resentment was part of a perspective. I call it rural consciousness. It is a perspective rooted in place and class identities that convey a strong sense of distributive injustice.”

WHAT IS “rural consciousness”?
“First, rural consciousness was about perceptions of power, or who makes decisions and who decides what to even discuss. Second, it showed up with respect to perceptions of values and lifestyles. Third … it involved perceptions of resources or who gets what.”

Cramer listened over a period that spanned the end of Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle’s second term, the first two years of controversial Republican Gov. Scott Walker and his Act 10, Walker’s survival of a recall vote, and the Great Recession. She left her UW office to bravely walk, often unannounced, into informal gatherings that bond rural residents and transmit gossip and perceptions.