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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)

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  386 Ratings  ·  73 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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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
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
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).
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Read for a class. Very informative and useful.
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.
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.
Jan 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
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.
Ryan Sloan
Jan 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics
I think this is the book many people wanted Hillbilly Elegy to be and/or pretended Hillbilly Elegy was. I enjoyed reading Elegy as a memoir (and could relate to some of what he described), but I had some problems with the way his narrative and argument were constructed. What made for a good memoir made for a less-good social science piece.

This book, on the other hand, was comprehensive, thoughtful, and well-reasoned. I felt at all times like Cramer was committed to representing the facts truthfu
Jim Gold
Mar 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
The author, a professor of political science at the U. of Wisconsin in Madison, traveled to a number of small towns in rural Wisconsin between 2007 and 2012 and interviewed small groups (mostly older men) about what they thought the major issues were in their community. Conversations with these "breakfast clubs" revealed strong resentment towards the urban areas of Madison and Milwaukee.
These people felt, whether rightly or wrongly, that their communities did not get their fair share of decisi
May 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The dichotomy of us vs. them is very much at work in politics. The book offers the idea, that you do not vote on the basis of facts nor for purely ideological reasons, the book shows how people in rural (and deprived, struggling areas) vote from a perception of identity - of who they are and where they are placed in the world. Here enters resentment.
Rural voters exhibit a strong resentment toward those who are not like them - the not-us are city dwellers both the affluent and well educated,who
Cramer's work has enjoyed much mainstream attention and for good reason. Cramer provides insight into the rise of the right wing in the once progressive stronghold of Wisconsin. Her fieldwork was already in motion when Scott Walker came to power and when the 2010 worker uprising and occupation of the state capital occurred providing much fodder for discussion amongst all the groups of people with whom she spoke. While I found Cramer's concept of rural consciousness compelling and an important pi ...more
Ann Cooper
Dec 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book presented the rural points of view in many interviews over a period of years from the recession to the last election. The opinions expressed were summed up as "resentment." Many rural Wisconsinites had the feeling that they were given short shrift by Federal and State government, by state agencies, notably the department of Natural Resources, and by the state university in Madison. They had seriously negative views of urban dwellers and of cities in general. When the author examined th ...more
Mar 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
This is an important book. Picked it up 2 months ago and put it down after 10 pages - it broke my heart to learn and realize that my Wisconsin, the state I love, is a place where many of the people personally resent others in the state.

So finally, I was able to pick it up again (after my heart healed a little) and read it through. The research is an ethnography, where the researcher/writer spends time in situ, spending time with nearly 40 groups of people in 29 different rural Wisconsin communit
Leonard Nakamura
If you are interested in populism and the current political mood that created Trump, read this book. It is based on a political scientist from UW Madison who for several years traveled to rural areas in Wisconsin to talk to groups of people who were already regularly meeting together as neighbors. We thus see them conversing in their natural habitats. Cramer wants to learn and helps us to see how these people are thinking when they oppose taxes and government spending, even when they are net ben ...more
Dan Sperling
Jun 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like most people I woke up on November 9th and suddenly realized I needed to get woke to rural America. The waitlist for Hillbilly Elegy, White Trash, and Strangers in Their Own Land at my local library was two or three months, so clearly amidst the urban library-going public, the interest is there. Joking and my transparently smug urban condescension aside, it was an interesting read. If anything, I felt that the conversations the researcher had with her subjects were a little too short. I want ...more
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
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
Ashlyn Stelmach
May 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So I finished this book last night because the last writing assignment was due last night. This book was actually pretty good but it's just not my cup of tea. If I didn't have to read it for class, I definitely wouldn't have chosen it but it was good. It really brought voting patterns to light for me, not just in Wisconsin, but in the nation as a whole. I knew she had to explain what she was doing in the novel BUT she didn't have to write it like, "I will show you ____ by doing ____." Like I get ...more
Christopher Mitchell
May 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
A very good discussion of an important piece of what is driving political polarization. I think Cramer did a good job putting structure around her many conversations and drawing out similarities. However, I was struck that there was no discussion of national media - particularly cable TV "news" and talk radio. She did discuss local media in examining its level of rural consciousness but I cannot help but think that national cable news and talk radio have had a very strong influence in how people ...more
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“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
“I draw attention to a kind of politics in which people do not focus their blame on elite decision makers as they try to comprehend an economic recession. Instead, they give their attention to fellow residents who they think are eating their share of the pie. These interpretations are encouraged, perhaps fomented, by political leaders who exploit these divisions for political gain.” 0 likes
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