The Fall of Wisconsin] laments the state’s recent trajectory and chronicles ‘the conservative war’ on its political legacy.… Sharply reported."
New York Times Book Review - Michael O’Donnell
"Absorbing.… [Kaufman] presents the state as emblematic of nationwide trends."
Boston Globe - M.J. Andersen
"Belongs with well-known recent studies such as J.D. Vance’s
Hillbilly Elegy and Arlie Russell Hochschild’s Strangers in Their Own Land."
"A deep, heartbreaking dive into a state’s shift to the right tells the story of national politics in miniature."
"Kaufman’s taut primer on Wisconsin progressivism hits his mark.… [A]n indispensable guide for activists who wish to have any hope of taking on the vast Republican infrastructure."
Los Angeles Review of Books - Jake Wertz
"A highly readable, thoroughly engrossing report."
National Book Review - Jim Swearingen
In structure and tone,
The Fall of Wisconsin nods to George Packer's The Unwinding, which chronicled disillusionment and malaise in American institutions. Kaufman's book is full of sharply reported details…
The New York Times Book Review - Michael O'Donnell
A deep blue state has turned choleric red with far-reaching consequences, according to this incisive study of Wisconsin state politics. Journalist Kaufman examines the collapse of Wisconsin’s left-liberal heritage—in the 20th century the state pioneered welfare policy, labor rights, and environmental regulation, and Milwaukee had a socialist mayor for decades—after the 2010 election brought Republican governor Scott Walker to power. The state became a laboratory for right-wing nostrums, Kaufman contends, as Walker and the Republican-controlled legislature stripped public-sector unions of collective bargaining rights, gutted environmental protections, cut taxes, and slashed education funding. Kaufman interviews labor organizers, Democratic candidates, Republican operatives, academics, Native environmental activists, and others. He spotlights both the long-term Republican strategy of taking power in states, aided by right-wing think tanks and deep-pocket donors like the Koch brothers, and the mistakes of Democrats who alienated their working-class base with Republican-lite policies; he focuses cogently on the decline—and suppression—of unions as the key to Wisconsin’s rightward lurch. Kaufman’s leftist leanings sometimes make his analysis seem one-sided, and the book’s invocations of Native American spirituality when discussing environmental policy feel awkward. Still, the author’s vivid reportage and trenchant insights illuminate America’s changing political landscape. (July)
"Full of sharply reported details…[
The Fall of Wisconsin] laments the state’s recent trajectory and chronicles ‘the conservative war’ on its political legacy."
New York Times Book Review - Michael O'Donnell
"Dan Kaufman chronicles how his home state—the birthplace of progressivism, Aldo Leopold’s land ethic, and Earth Day—was transformed into a showcase for right-wing ideology.
The Fall of Wisconsin is illuminating, unsettling, and profoundly relevant."
"Through the microcosm of one state Dan Kaufman does a masterful job explaining what’s happened to America, and why. It’s not a happy tale, but it’s an important one."
"Dan Kaufman, a native son, will take you deeper into this story than I would have thought possible. Tirelessly reported, full of heroes and their tormentors, it’s a devastating portrait of a beautiful, besieged state reeling into the Trump era."
The Fall of Wisconsin, Dan Kaufman shows how the state became a conservative test case…Clean air, clean water, good schools: The public infrastructure that was considered common sense for Wisconsinites has been attacked by the right as if it were a red menace…Kaufman believes that Wisconsin’s extreme makeover portends something scary for the rest of us."
The New York Times - Jennifer Szalai
"What was the matter with Kansas is now the matter with Wisconsin. Once one of the most liberal states in the union, on election night 2016 Wisconsin was the state that put Trump over the top. How did such a big change happen, and what should we do about it? For starters, read this book—and let these agonizingly true stories sink in."
"Kaufman burrows badgerlike into the politics of America’s Dairyland, unearthing the personal histories of its people: an ironworker turned activist, a conservation biologist, a Native American tribal elder. In doing so, he reveals Wisconsin’s transformation from a 'pioneering beacon' of progressive policies, responsible for the nation’s first worker’s-comp and unemployment-insurance programs, to ‘a laboratory for corporate interests.'"
O, the Oprah Magazine - Michelle Hart
The Fall of Wisconsin shows that the most important story in American politics was hiding in plain sight—how the progressive bastion of the upper Midwest turned into Alabama-with-snow. With elegant ferocity, Dan Kaufman tells a story that is rooted in the soul of Wisconsin but relevant to the whole country as well."
A Wisconsin native who identifies as a progressive advocate contrasts the history of his state with the drastic changes during the past decade that have surprised politicians, journalists, academics, and countless voters.As Kaufman reports, Wisconsin's progressive ethos had been taken for granted over so many decades that it seemed entrenched not only within the Democratic Party, but also most segments of the Republican Party, as well. For example, a Republican governor and Republican-controlled legislature favored collective bargaining for state employees, and a different Republican governor created accessible health insurance for poverty-level families with children. The author marks the beginning of the shift away from widespread progressivism to 1976, when the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed limits on contributions to political candidates by individuals and groups. The money from anti-labor union forces and other self-identified right-wing radicals—many from outside Wisconsin—chipped away at historical progressivism. Early in the book, Kaufman identifies Scott Walker as the leading agent of change. Walker moved to Wisconsin in third grade, when his father became minister of a Baptist church in the town of Delavan. By the time he entered college at Marquette in Milwaukee, Walker aggressively advocated tax cuts for the wealthy and outlawing abortions. He never completed college, later proudly citing his lack of a degree. Walker entered electoral politics as a Republican state legislator, later choosing to seek, successfully, the top executive job in Milwaukee County. In 2009, when Walker's anti-union fiscal cutbacks vaulted him into contention for governor, he won. Two years later, he survived an attempt to recall him from the governorship. As Kaufman focuses on Walker as governor, he advances the narrative by weaving in stories about avid Walker opponents from the shredded Democratic Party. Paul Ryan, Hillary Clinton, and other prominent national figures appear throughout, but this is not a book focused on Washington, D.C. Still, these tales from one state have national implications.Kaufman's disdain for Walker and other hard-line conservatives is clear, but his research underlying the antipathy is solid and important.