November 2012

The Badger paradox

Winston Churchill once described Soviet Russia as “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”

Apparently, so is Wisconsin: We are a state that elects and re-elects conservative Scott Walker as governor and then five months later sends über-liberal Tammy Baldwin to the Senate; a state that delivers a big win for Barack Obama while returning a bigger conservative majority to the state Legislature.

Our cover story deals with one aspect of this duality — the alternative universes of deeply red Waukesha County and deeply blue Dane County. We’ve asked German political scientist Torben Lütjen to examine the way the two counties embody the deep political divide of our divided state. Professor Lütjen, who is in the midst of writing a book on such polarization, argues that of the country’s 3,000-odd counties, the Waukesha/Dane divide best illustrates what is happening to the country demographically and politically.

Addressing a second intriguing part of the Wisconsin puzzle, Warren Kozak explores the roots of the state’s current political prominence, asking, “What is it about big ideas and the state of Wisconsin?” In his piece, “Badger exceptionalism,” Kozak traces the history of Wisconsin’s unique role as a laboratory of democracy from the days of “Fighting Bob” La Follette to the rise of Walker and Paul Ryan, young leaders who are “writing whole new chapters of the state’s history books … and the country’s as well.”

As I argue elsewhere in this issue, the results of the November election mean that Wisconsin will continue to play a central role in American politics as an incubator of conservative ideas, reforms and leadership.

— Charles J. Sykes

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30 Miles: And a World Apart

Dane and Waukesha Counties embody the bitter partisan divide in the nation. By Torben Lütjen


Que Pasa Republicano?

To win again, the GOP needs to appeal to Hispanics. By Christian Schneider


Badger Exceptionalism

From open primaries to school choice, Wisconsin has led the way for the nation. By Warren Kozak


Serving Whose Interests?

When teachers are elected to school boards, they have two conflicting masters. By Mike Nichols


Badger State (Still) Rising

Dispatches: By Charles J. Sykes


Still the Fighter

Howard Fuller's allies have changed over the years, but not his commitment to the poor. By Sunny Schubert


Power Up!

Wisconsin's rickety power system nearly collapsed in 1997. What followed was a rare case of our often-feuding leaders uniting to meet the state's future energy needs. By Michael Flaherty


The Day of Reckoning Nears

After Nov. 6, conservative ideas are even more critical for the country. By Richard Esenberg