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The next big primary contest is Wisconsin. According to the Marquette Law School poll, Cruz is leading Trump by 10 points, a number confirmed in the latest Fox Business poll. In fact, Trump’s Wisconsin unfavorability rating is at a whopping 70 percent. Trump is leading nationally, so why is the Badger State so opposed to him?
One reason is the unique experience of Wisconsin Republicans. They’ve been through the political wringer with the thuggish protests of Scott Walker’s reforms, bitter recall elections, and unethical investigations of his supporters. The voters are in no mood for another round of political unrest, and are well briefed on the ideological underpinnings of conservative policies. When Trump repeated progressive lies about Walker’s record and tangled with popular local radio hosts, voters were not amused.
But there is something deeper at work. Find Wisconsin on a map and look to the left. In neighboring Minnesota, Marco Rubio beat Trump by 15; Cruz beat Trump by 8. Next door to Minnesota and Wisconsin is Iowa, where Cruz won and Rubio nearly came in second. While Trump can win in most parts of the country, the Upper Midwest is not buying what he’s selling. The only exception to this is Michigan, where the lion’s share of voters reside in the rust-belt southeast corner.
Most of us have heard of “Minnesota Nice” — the friendly, reserved, play-by-the-rules behavior favored by that state’s residents. But Wisconsin has a similar Scandinavian (though more German) culture, as do North and South Dakota. When the Upper Midwest of Europe relocated to the Upper Midwest of the United States, they brought their politeness, understatement, and emotional restraint with them.
All of these characteristics are diametrically opposed to the Trump ethos of baseless braggadocio, histrionic complaint, and conflict as first resort. Critics of Minnesota Nice cast it as barely masked passive-aggressiveness, but active-aggressiveness is considered not only unseemly, but unmanly.
Scandis find virtue in stoicism. When you’re shoveling a sidewalk buried in three feet of snow, your neighbor doesn’t want to hear your complaints — especially since she’s 68, has a bum leg, and cleared her driveway before the sun rose. Just do what needs to be done, and would it kill you to put a smile on your face?
I grew up in a Finnish family originally from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, so my four-foot-ten grandma (who lived to 100) instructed me in all the cultural norms, often punctuated by some choice cuss words from the old country:
- Don’t draw attention to yourself.
- Don’t use 100 words when zero will do.
- Don’t exhaust people with your problems; they have enough of their own.
- Deal with it.
There’s no room for boasting, tough talk, or threats — speak through your actions instead. If you have more than others, hide it so people don’t think you’re a [Finnish expletive]. Mrs. Gunderson is 68 years old and has a bum leg; shovel her driveway before you take care of your own.
Granted, these Upper Midwestern traits have faded as the residents are Americanized and job seekers from the rest of the country move in. But unspoken social contracts are a tenacious thing, especially when the brutal climes of the American steppe reinforce them each year.
New York values are not Iowa values. And they sure as paska aren’t Minnesota or Wisconsin values.