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'Minority Rule' explores Wisconsin's central role in reshaping US democracy

Cover of 'Minority Rule' by Ari Berman.
Cover of 'Minority Rule' by Ari Berman.

Wisconsin has frequently led political trends in the U.S. The Progressive Party of the early 20th century can be credited with creating the first social security program, unemployment insurance, and primary elections. Wisconsin was the first state to recognize public sector unions, but it also led the way in dismantling the rights of these same unions.

Over the past few decades, Wisconsin Republicans have succeeded in insulating themselves from the ballot box through a variety of methods that have made it more difficult to hold politicians accountable. Author Ari Berman explores these tactics and its impact on politics in his book "Minority Rule: The Right-Wing Attack on the Will of the People and the Fight to Resist it."

He explains that through gerrymandering and other voter suppression tactics, like the voter ID law and limiting voting hours, Wisconsin Republicans have been able to control much of state government despite representing far fewer citizens.

"Instead of being a purple state, instead of being a 50-50 state, it was a state where— until recently —Republicans controlled basically every branch of the government and more than that they controlled so many key state institutions, as well," Berman explains.

Minority Rule outlines the different ways Republicans were able to do this over the past few decades. He explores the impact of more onerous voting restrictions, Project REDMAP, and the re-insertion of big money donors into both political and judicial races.

These tactics extended to the fight to overturn the 2020 election results, in favor of then-President Donald Trump, who lost the election.

"Wisconsin really was ground-zero for a lot of anti-democratic engineering," says Berman. "The conservative right... they never succeeded in overturning the election, they never succeeded in decertifying the election, but they've succeeded in pushing the Republican party to the right, making a lot of people believe things that are untrue and destabilizing democratic institutions in the state."


Joy is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.