Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Why the Upper Midwest Hates Trump

 

Trump-WisconsinThe 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.

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  1. Hammer, The Member

    I just figured they were a bunch of GOPe shills. Why else would someone oppose trump?

    TDS, Jon.

    • #1
    • April 1, 2016, at 4:29 PM PDT
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  2. WI Con Member
    WI Con Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    That’s a pretty accurate characterization of folks here. I don’t understand why he did as well in the South. I didn’t think that New Yawk shtick would go very far in the genteel South but it did.

    I thought not liking ill-informed ‘d-bags’ was a universal value. Oh well.

    • #2
    • April 1, 2016, at 4:30 PM PDT
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  3. Profile Photo Member

    “Amen” I say to you.

    With a childhood spent in Wisconsin, a recent fine dining experience at Al Johnson’s (extra Lingonberries), and numerous discussions with relatives in the state, I can confirm all you have written is true.

    There is a significant bias against New York (and New Jersey as well), and Trump’s schtick is lost on the denizen’s of the upper Midwest.

    • #3
    • April 1, 2016, at 4:36 PM PDT
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  4. MBF Member
    MBF Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Conservatives in Wisconsin have seen up close and personal what happens when we get control of all branches of government. We’ve had a machine gun splattering of real conservative reforms over the last 5 years. We’re so incredibly close to achieving that on a national level, which is why the whole Trump circus, and anyone that speaks kindly of it, is worthy of contempt. They will destroy everything and give full control back to the left.

    • #4
    • April 1, 2016, at 4:49 PM PDT
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  5. Fredösphere Member
    Fredösphere Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Good point about Michigan. Detroit and its suburbs are essentially foreign territory from West Michigan’s point of view. (And then there are the Yoopers. Don’t get me started on the Yoopers.)

    • #5
    • April 1, 2016, at 5:15 PM PDT
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  6. 4CuriousJohn Thatcher

    WI Con:That’s a pretty accurate characterization of folks here. I don’t understand why he did as well in the South. I didn’t think that New Yawk shtick would go very far in the genteel South but it did.

    I thought not liking ill-informed ‘d-bags’ was a universal value. Oh well.

    I’ve been scratching my head on the South question as well

    • #6
    • April 1, 2016, at 5:31 PM PDT
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  7. GirlWithAPearl Inactive

    Wisconsin born and raised here. This is a very good and accurate summary of the German/Scandi ethos and demeanor. I imagine Trump would be very uncomfortable in midwest crowds.

    MBF: your statement says it all. Scott Walker is such an unsung hero, which by the way he doesn’t seem to mind. But it is tragic that an orange casino don with the help of our high rolling hotshot media was able to make men like Walker invisible, and so many others. We do have Paul Ryan in his crucial position which is great comfort.

    I really think the jig is up for Donny, and the cheeseheads will seal his fate with a Velveeta hammer. T’will be interesting to see how the big man from New York handles a long, slow summer of humiliation and growing scorn.

    • #7
    • April 1, 2016, at 5:33 PM PDT
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  8. 4CuriousJohn Thatcher

    MBF:Conservatives in Wisconsin have seen up close and personal what happens when we get control of all branches of government. We’ve had a machine gun splattering of real conservative reforms over the last 5 years. We’re so incredibly close to achieving that on a national level, which is why the whole Trump circus, and anyone that speaks kindly of it, is worthy of contempt. They will destroy everything and give full control back to the left.

    Couldn’t agree more on being so close we can smell the cheese across the room

    • #8
    • April 1, 2016, at 5:34 PM PDT
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  9. Kim K. Member
    Kim K. Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I thought it was Iowa Nice!?!? As in, “Mr. Zootstra, we’re calling to inform you that your barn is on fire, your cattle got run over on the highway, your soybeans got hailed out, and your wife ran away with some carnies.” Mr. Zootstra – “ok, you betcha, thanks for the call.”

    Although you may be on to something when you say “Upper Midwestern traits have faded as the residents are Americanized.” I shudder whenever I hear my parents say something about meeting someone and “sharing” when they mean talking. Dutch people don’t share!!

    • #9
    • April 1, 2016, at 5:34 PM PDT
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  10. 4CuriousJohn Thatcher

    GirlWithAPearl: Velveeta hammer

    My new favorite WI Polictical term. “Velveeta Hammer”. Thanks GWP. where in God’s country did you grow up?

    • #10
    • April 1, 2016, at 5:38 PM PDT
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  11. tigerlily Member

    GirlWithAPearl:I really think the jig is up for Donny, and the cheeseheads will seal his fate with a Velveeta hammer. T’will be interesting to see how the big man from New York handles a long, slow summer of humiliation and growing scorn.

    From your lips to God’s ears.

    • #11
    • April 1, 2016, at 5:48 PM PDT
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  12. GirlWithAPearl Inactive

    Curious John: I’m 55 this month, born and raised in Appleton till age 14. Then Wausau till age 30ish. Then began our trek South, first to Chicago suburbs then Atlanta and finally Birmingham where we’ve lived for 15 years. Thinking about moving back to Cheeseland but my husband turns into mush if the temp drops below 60 degrees. He’s one of those wussy flatlanders from Chicago.

    • #12
    • April 1, 2016, at 5:58 PM PDT
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  13. Jon Gabriel, Ed. King
    Jon Gabriel, Ed.

    GirlWithAPearl:
    I really think the jig is up for Donny, and the cheeseheads will seal his fate with a Velveeta hammer.

    That is the best line ever.

    • #13
    • April 1, 2016, at 6:00 PM PDT
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  14. Benjamin Glaser Inactive

    I descend from Germans that settled in northeastern Colorado and that description pretty much nails my grandfather, my father, and me.

    It is genetic as well as learned behavior.

    • #14
    • April 1, 2016, at 6:11 PM PDT
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  15. Palaeologus Inactive

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: The only exception to this is Michigan, where the lion’s share of voters reside in the rust-belt southeast corner.

    And only Kasich campaigned.

    I get it, largely this was a timing thing: Rubio had to win FL and was flailing after failing to win VA, Cruz didn’t really buy that he could win MI.

    Still, Kasich was the only guy really campaigning against Trump in MI.

    In 2012, I was inundated with robo-calls from Santorum, Romney, their pacs, and occasionally the Paulbots. The tv ads were ubiquitous.

    In 2016, 95% of the ads I saw were for Hillary or Bernie, there were no robo-calls (that left messages, anyway) or actual “touches.”

    • #15
    • April 1, 2016, at 6:18 PM PDT
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  16. Seawriter Contributor

    WI Con: I don’t understand why he did as well in the South. I didn’t think that New Yawk shtick would go very far in the genteel South but it did.

    I think it may have to do with the number of folks who moved to the southeast from New York and New England. The Sun Belt has grown. The Rust Belt has shrunk, and Rust Belt thinking has come south with those leaving the North. Same sort of reason Texans worry about the Californians moving to Texas.

    Seawriter

    • #16
    • April 1, 2016, at 6:25 PM PDT
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  17. The Reticulator Member

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: 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.

    I also thought they brought a lot of European radicalism (socialism) with them. Many of them had been through the events of 1848.

    The radicalism came more from Scandinavia and East Europe than from Germany, but some of it came from Germany, too. That’s why these states were a hotbed of agrarian populism in the 1880s and 1890s, why the Democrats in Minnesota are the Democrat Farmer-Labor party, why Wisconsin was a center of old-time progressivism, etc.

    Not saying that Ted Cruz is a socialist. Far from it. But it might be why these people are unwilling to elect status quo Republicans, whether they are loud-mouthed ones like Trump or those of the Kasich variety. I would like to think so, anyway.

    • #17
    • April 1, 2016, at 6:46 PM PDT
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  18. Doug Watt Moderator

    My wife’s family history is Norwegian. They all settled in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Nebraska. At a family reunion after listening to family stories about life as pioneers in those godforsaken places I asked what the hell was wrong with going to San Diego. I was met with silence.

    I’m reminded of this book.

    • #18
    • April 1, 2016, at 7:19 PM PDT
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  19. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    GirlWithAPearl: I really think the jig is up for Donny, and the cheeseheads will seal his fate with a Velveeta hammer.

    No one… and I mean nooooooo one has used the words “cheese” and “Velveeta” in the same sentence since J.L. Kraft died in 1953.

    But on the other hand…

    Cheese

    • #19
    • April 1, 2016, at 7:23 PM PDT
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  20. The Reticulator Member

    Doug Watt: My wife’s family history is Norwegian. They all settled in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Nebraska. At a family reunion after listening to family stories about life as pioneers in those godforsaken places I asked what the hell was wrong with going to San Diego. I was met with silence.

    Maybe the silence was because they had good enough sense not to do it, unlike some of those of my family who settled in those states and then moved to San Diego.

    (My apologies to any of my California cousins who happen to see this. Just kidding! Sort of.)

    • #20
    • April 1, 2016, at 7:28 PM PDT
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  21. Roberto, Crusty Old Timer LLC Member
    Roberto, Crusty Old Timer LLC Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Seawriter:

    Same sort of reason Texans worry about the Californians moving to Texas.Seawriter

    A bit more worry would be no bad thing.

    You have to search hard to find someone in CA giving Texas the least bit of praise. But the reality here is what it is, more unaffordable and more insane by the day. While Texas is not often on the lips as the first state to relocate to at times it is and Austin is always mentioned as favorable territory. A beachhead if you will.

    • #21
    • April 1, 2016, at 7:31 PM PDT
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  22. Benjamin Glaser Inactive

    As my great-grandmother once said, “The only thing between Wray, Colorado and the North Pole is a fence post in Saskatchewan.”

    • #22
    • April 1, 2016, at 7:36 PM PDT
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  23. Eeyore Member
    Eeyore Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: Granted, these Upper Midwestern traits have faded as the residents are Americanized and job seekers from the rest of the country world move in.

    Many of the new folks are not bringing in self-reliance and stoicism as cardinal values.

    • #23
    • April 1, 2016, at 7:39 PM PDT
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  24. Doug Watt Moderator

    You can say what you want about Garrison Keillor but he is a good storyteller.

    One of my favorite Lake Woebegone stories is when a parishioner goes to Father Emil and complains that he cannot get rid of the skunks underneath his front porch. Father Emil tells him to put lutefisk underneath the porch.

    A week later after Mass the parishioner tells Father Emil the skunks are gone, but then says, Father I cannot get rid of the Norwegians.

    My wife’s Norwegian relatives loved this story, go figure.

    • #24
    • April 1, 2016, at 7:41 PM PDT
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  25. SpiritO'78 Member
    • 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.

    Not sure if Illinois counts as ‘upper Midwest’ but those were pretty much my learned rules as well.

    • #25
    • April 1, 2016, at 7:50 PM PDT
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  26. CuriousKevmo Member

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: Don’t use 100 words when zero will do.

    Man I wish this would take hold more broadly. Seems all that I do anymore is suffer the bloviations of my colleagues.

    • #26
    • April 1, 2016, at 8:19 PM PDT
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  27. James Lileks Contributor

    We’re wary of those slick-talking salesman types ’round these parts.

    mrtrump

    • #27
    • April 1, 2016, at 8:26 PM PDT
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  28. The Reticulator Member

    EJHill:

    GirlWithAPearl: I really think the jig is up for Donny, and the cheeseheads will seal his fate with a Velveeta hammer.

    No one… and I mean nooooooo one has used the words “cheese” and “Velveeta” in the same sentence since J.L. Kraft died in 1953.

    But on the other hand…

    Cheese

    I’d like to see any of the other candidates wear that as well as Ted does. Bernie, let’s start with you.

    • #28
    • April 1, 2016, at 8:32 PM PDT
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  29. Tuck Inactive

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: …paska…

    Where are the editors when you need them?

    • #29
    • April 1, 2016, at 8:55 PM PDT
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  30. James Lileks Contributor

    The Reticulator: I’d like to see any of the other candidates wear that as well as Ted does. Bernie, let’s start with you.

    Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at a luncheon at the National Press Club on Monday, March 9, 2015 in Washington. Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, is considering running for the 2016 Democratic nomination as a liberal alternative to Hillary Clinton, focusing on income inequality and climate change. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

    • #30
    • April 1, 2016, at 9:00 PM PDT
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