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The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker
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The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker

(Chicago Studies in American Politics)

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  612 ratings  ·  102 reviews
Since the election of Scott Walker, Wisconsin has been seen as ground zero for debates about the appropriate role of government in the wake of the Great Recession. In a time of rising inequality, Walker not only survived a bitterly contested recall that brought thousands of protesters to Capitol Square, he was subsequently reelected. How could this happen? How is it that t ...more
Paperback, 225 pages
Published March 23rd 2016 by University of Chicago Press
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Trish
The subtitle of this academic study is “Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin & the Rise of Scott Walker.” Katherine Cramer visited rural groups in extra-urban parts of Wisconsin for five years to see how people perceived the government in Madison and if it was serving their needs.

What she uncovered is a vast resentment of country folk towards their urban counterparts: rural dwellers believed their tax dollars were siphoned off to pay for government employees in the cities who in turn created regula
...more
Neil Purcell
Nov 09, 2016 rated it liked it
Hard to read really - I skimmed some of it and dipped into it in several places. Seemed to make the same points over and over about how white people, mainly lower middle class and of middling educational accomplishment, who live in rural communities across Wisconsin, are resentful of public employees, immigrants, minorities and people who live in cities - all of whom are believed to get more than their fair share of public resources, to have more of a voice in politics and government, and to be ...more
Molly
Jun 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a lifelong Wisconsinite and 11-year Madisonian, I suppose I am in the prime market for this book about the way our state's rural-urban divide has played out on the political stage. While I grew up in what was generally considered a small town, it was nevertheless a town of just over 10,000 people less than an hour away from Madison; which is to say, I grew up with little to no idea of what life was like for those in the northern third of WI. I still don't and that was partly why I picked up t ...more
Brett Rohlwing
Apr 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
This author lucked out covering this topic at such a pivotal moment in Wisconsin politics. It's too easy for a liberal-minded person such as myself to make assumptions about those who choose to support Scott Walker and the current Republican dominance. This book challenged many of my assumptions and helped me understand perspectives I normally might dismiss as irrational or illogical. I only wish the author had discussed the role of media (e.g. talk radio) in shaping the consciousness of many in ...more
Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin
As the saying goes the best books tell you what you already know. Rural people see themselves as a group who thinks it doesn't get its fair share and that undeserving city folk, minorities, unions get too much. They resent the people they perceive as undeserving of money and power they have in the cities. They view the pie as limited and that they are engaged in a zero-sum game and they will be damned if they let those they deem undeserving of getting their chunk. The author uses a lot of politi ...more
Maxwell
Jul 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Easy five star. She did an excellent job with the research and in relaying it in digestible bites. I love how she breaks up the narrative with actual conversation.

It was insightful to me as someone who is a native Wisconsinite and passionate about politics. I consider myself as having grown up in rural Wisconsin, but Cramer shows that people who live in the northern third of the state really consider that different from, say, my hometown of Lodi (population: 2,800 25 minutes north of Madison).
...more
Chuck Kollars
Jul 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Report of very interesting research into how people make political decisions. However to say this book (similar to 'Hillbilly Elegy') "explains Trump" (which the author herself does _not_say_) is a gross over-interpretation.

The research was begun in the early 2000s and continued for quite a few years. As a result, the timing was perfect to analyze the rise and attempted recall of Scott Walker. And as the book was not only timed right but also thoroughly presents an unfamiliar viewpoint, it's of
...more
Aaron
The third and final book in the "Why do they hate us?" trilogy, the Politics of Resentment joins Hillbilly Elegy and Strangers in their Own Land as explorations of the Trump voter's sociology. Whereas the latter two look at Kentucky/Ohio and Louisiana, Resentment looks at Wisconsin. I read it with a very particular question: why did the Blue Wall fail?

Two big ideas stand out to me, the first is the main theme that Cramer has: rural consciousness is a valuable, important thing. People who don't l
...more
Charles J
In the past few years, a variety of liberal academics have adopted a "Gorillas in the Mist" sensibility when trying to understand conservatives.  Like Dian Fossey, they creep, wearing a ghillie suit, through thick and steamy jungles alien to them, hoping to grasp what it is that makes these creatures tick.  Sometimes they become fond of these primates, and in their own clumsy way, try to improve their lives by protecting them from threats they appear too dumb to see.  Like Fossey, most of them a ...more
Moses
Mar 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ethnography
I didn't expect an ethnography of rural voters to be gripping, but Cramer did a really good job of explaining and justifying her methodology clearly, and then providing the goods. Her research was careful, and self-aware, and the story of the difference between what she expected to find and what she did find is fascinating.

Much like with Hillbilly Elegy, this book is pointed to as a way of understanding the election of Trump. Unlike with Hillbilly Elegy, this was somewhat written with that in mi
...more
Dave
Nov 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
I'm not sure if interviews consisting of groups of aging, anonymous, rural coffee klatch "down and outers" is the best way to distill what's going on in Wisconsin politics. But it's the route taken buy this University of Wisconsin- Madison investigator. The results are a bitter brew indeed, infused with big city hate and small town belly ache. With conversation steeped in animosity and mistrust of all things "different" from one's self. Different from the rural way of life. Does this kind of tho ...more
Lada
Jul 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
The snippets of conversation and their interpretation were interesting and too few. On the other hand, the accompanying explanation of why and how the research was done, and how the study participants perceived the author, was a bit over-long.
Brian Mink
Nov 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In the year leading up to the Trump upset few predicted the historic anomaly of Trump's victory. Few understood the political, social and cultural underpinnings of Trump's rise to the White House. Kathy Cramer early on based on very meticulous and thorough research into the collective minds of rural Wisconsin identified the reason(s) for politics in the age of Trump. Unfortunately, like most academic works the media and pundits paid little attention, even though it foretold the outcome of the 20 ...more
Eric Bottorff
Didn't get four stars because at times it was repetitive almost to the point of being condescending, which is kind of ironic given the project she is undertaking here. That being said, the exploration of what she terms "rural consciousness", though problematic in certain respects, will certainly restructure my thinking in important ways.

Essential reading in the Age of Trump.
Monica
Nov 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is THE book if you want to understand Trump's election.
Austin Barselau
Jan 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Katherine J. Cramer’s The Politics of Resentment is the indispensable book to explain Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 election. Kramer, a political ethnographer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, performed a statewide survey of Wisconsin in 2007 and 2008, prior to the fractious recall attempt on Governor Scott Walker. Cramer’s field work suggests that the prominent divide, at least in Wisconsin, is between rural and urban residents. Rural folk, she gathers, view the world through the len ...more
Rob
Sep 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Using an innovative, ethnographic methodology, Cramer listens to small groups of people trying to make sense of politics through their informal conversations. Visiting with each group more than once over several years, she uncovers a social identity they share that she dubs "rural consciousness" which is characterized by a learned distrust of liberal-urban elites who are seen as inimical to their way of life. This identity, more than any principle, she argues, is what inclines them to vote in wa ...more
Liz
Jul 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Being a proud Wisconsinite from a "rural" county (as assigned by Dr. Cramer) I was eager and excited to read this book. I left the state during the time of her case study and recently returned. While I wasn't surprised at the us vs. them resentment, I was still surprised and kind of hurt because I, myself, am a public employee. I value the last line of her book, where she encourages "us" not to vote on party lines, but to vote for people who represent us because the people who we think are repre ...more
Rebecca
This is an excellent study of how people understand politics in rural Wisconsin, and is applicable to understanding what Cramer calls "rural consciousness" elsewhere. My only criticism of the book is that she writes off media as an influence too early, and does not mention right-wing talk radio as a potential element in the way the people she talked to interpreted such things as taxes and public employee unions.
Amber
May 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: library-ar, teaching
This book was so frustrating (and not just because of her ridiculous use of 'folks' - it is not endearing or in any way likely to make rural people see you as "one of us", so stop). This book is frustrating because it portrays rural people realistically. Having grown up very rural and now living rural again I connected with so much of what she said.
Kali
Jun 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read for a class. Very informative and useful.
Jessica
An important book, but perhaps overly dry and academic. The most interesting takeaways for me were:

* rural folks feel looked over and left behind by government and perceive that the majority of their tax dollars leave the community and never come back, whether or not this is actually true

* the common narrative that people vote Republican because they're rich or believe they will/can be someday is flawed. The conversations Cramer observed suggest that Republicans have been so successful because t
...more
Kb
Jun 10, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
So this book was hard to read after reading Evicted, which followed Milwaukee residents who were unable to pay for rent. So reading about all these old white dudes talking about how rich everyone in Milwaukee is was pretty galling.

Anyway, the book demonstrates how horrible the US political system is at dealing with the needs of the poor/working poor in any area. And because their needs are not met, their resentment turns towards the government and those they see as not deserving, which is prett
...more
Eric Dodge
While the methodology was quite compelling I didn't find the content of the conversations to be particularly revelatory. This is coming from someone whose family is made up almost entirely of former and current rural Wisconsinites, so take that with a grain of salt.

I would have liked to hear a lot more about the changes in the agricultural economy of the state over the past 30-40 years and how that is linked with the decline of rural communities. I also thought it was an oversight that property
...more
Anna
Aug 13, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I didn't dislike this book, but nor like I actually "like it"- thus the rating. Some good info here, but as someone who grew up in rural Minnesota it all sounded fairly familiar. The part that wasn't as familiar to me was the insights from the groups in the largely tourist communities. I know it's politically focused, but it would've been good hear even more about the "why" people feel the way they do - including more about the farm economy and how its changed rural areas.

The book feels written
...more
Liz
Apr 01, 2017 rated it it was ok
I stuck with this book because I am a native Wisconsinite, who grew up two towns away from the author, and am equally dismayed by the rise of divisive politics there. The rural resentment that the author details makes perfect sense to me, and is by no means unique to the Badger State. However, I doubt that many general readers, even other liberals who've fled their home states for the comfort of the metropolitan coast, would want to read the book in full. It's very academic in style and the exce ...more
Marissa
I liked the premise and found her conversations with folks around the state interesting. It was occasionally frustrating to read statements/perceptions that weren't true and I suppose that's why it's better for her to be out there listening to people rather than me, b/c I'd try to argue which would defeat the whole purpose. ;) Things did seem to get redundant so it could have probably been tightened up a bit. The lessons are important though - folks in gov't need to do a better job listening & a ...more
Lisa
Jan 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Fascinating book that illuminates the rural communities of Wisconsin and a "rural consciousness" that basically explains the recent election. In fact, it seems that rural vs. urban is more important a factor than political party, at least in Wisconsin. Very informative and well written book.
Gary Froseth
Jul 07, 2019 rated it it was ok
Cramer’s conclusions were virtually self-evident given her methodology. Coffee Klatches are notoriously negative. I wonder why some groups were visited repeatedly while others received just a single visit. No far-reaching conclusions should be made from this study.
Marisa Z.
Thought provoking but the author belabored the point.
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The young adult genre continues to lead literature in embracing new voices, championing all types of diversity, and, well, just really app...
81 likes · 38 comments
“In Door County, the “thumb” of Wisconsin, I heard a similar thing from a woman taking part in a conversation after a church service: Having been raised and grown up here, it has gotten to the point that I think Door County is becoming very elitist. Thank God I have a home. I was lucky enough that my husband and I had worked for it and paid for it before he died. On my wages, I could not have bought a home by myself. The cost of all of the surrounding land has become so expensive because of all the people who don’t live here more than six weeks out of the year, and build three-quarter-million-dollar homes, million-dollar homes, and basically visit, and so they’ve driven the property values so high that those people who have lived in a home their whole lives and were able to afford, can no longer afford because the tax rate has gone up so high. The wage scale is not that great in Door County. People say, “Well, you know, you make a good living.” No. And they somehow get the impression that we go to the gas station and we pay less for our gas, and pay less for our food because we live here. Ah, wrong! We pay the same price [laughter], but we don’t make the wages, and we’re paying for what has been driven up, and it’s—I see it as a real hardship. I’m fortunate, but I look at my children and my grandchildren and I wonder will they be able to live here and own a home? Maybe they’ll be able to rent, but to live here and own a home and take pride in that? That’s scary. Really is scary.” 0 likes
“In addition, when they talked as if city people lived by different values, they were not emphasizing abortion, or gay marriage, or the things that are typically pointed to as the cultural issues that divide lower-income whites from the Democratic Party. Instead, the values they talked about were intertwined with economic concerns.” 0 likes
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