Wisconsin: A Bipolar State

by Jonathan Hobratsch

This is a brief blog about the bipolar nature of Wisconsin. It’s been a state that’s routinely elected very progressive and very conservative politicians. The primary on Tuesday looks to fulfill that, as Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz are expected to win these states. Additionally, the senatorial race between Ron Johnson and Russ Feingold is a similar ideological match up.  Many socialist politicians have been elected in Wisconsin.

Below, I’ll list some notable names that support the paragraph above. The list is incomplete, but it will give you the basic political dichotomy of the state:

Progressive Liberals:

  • Thomas Amlie, progressive Republican US Rep, 1931-1933, 1935-1939.
  • Tammy Baldwin, Democrat, senator 2013-present; US Rep 1999-2013.
  • Victor Berger, Socialist US Rep, 1911-1913, 1919, 1923-1929.
  • Gerard Boileau, progressive Republican US Rep, 1931-1939.
  • Nelson Dewey, Democratic governor, 1848-1852 (1st governor of Wisconsin).
  • Russ Feingold, Democrat, US senator, 1993-2011.
  • Bernard Gehrmann, progressive Republican US Rep, 1935-1943.
  • Daniel Hoan, Socialist mayor of Milwaukee, 1916-1940.
  • Merlin Hull, progressive Republican US Rep, 1929-1931, 1935-1953.
  • Philip La Follette, progressive Republican governor, 1931-1933, 1935-1939.
  • Robert La Follette Sr., progressive Republican governor, 1901-1906; senator 1906-1925; US Rep 1885-1891; Wisconsin’s preferred presidential candidate in 1912 & 1924.
  • Robert La Follette Jr., progressive Republican senator, 1925-1947.
  • Orland Loomis, progressive Republican governor-elect, 1942 (died of a heart attack).
  • Francis McGovern, Republican governor, 1911-1915.
  • Gaylord Nelson, Democratic governor, 1959-1963; senator 1963-1981.
  • William Proxmire, Democratic senator, 1957-1989.
  • Harry Sauthoff, progressive Republican US Rep, 1935-1939, 1941-1945.
  • George Schneider, progressive Republican US Rep, 1923-1933, 1935-1939.
  • Emil Seidel, Socialist mayor of Milwaukee, 1910-1912.
  • Isaac Stephenson, Republican senator 1907-1915; US Rep 1883-1889.
  • Gardner Withrow, progressive Republican US Rep, 1931-1939, 1949-1961.
  • Frank Zeidler, Socialist mayor of Milwaukee, 1948-1960.


  • Ron Johnson, Republican senator, 2011-present.
  • Joseph McCarthy, Republican senator, 1947-1957 (“McCarthyism”).
  • Charles Pfister, Wisconsin Republican Party Boss, c. 1890-1910s
  • Paul Ryan, Republican US Rep, 1999-present; Speaker of the House, 2015-present; VP nominee, 2012.
  • John Coit Spooner, Republican senator, 1885-1891, 1897-1907.
  • William Vilas, Bourbon Democrat senator, 1891-1897; US cabinet member 1885-1889.
  • Scott Walker, Republican governor, 2011-present.
  • Alexander Wiley, Republican senator, 1939-1963.

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Would Trump be less a polar opposite from Sanders than Cruz?

    Also, the term “Arch-Conservatives” is hilarious (especially when contrasted with the benign term “Progressive-Liberals”). Is the “Arch-” supposed to evoke a connotation of villainy for the uneducated reader? –Paul


    1. historymonocle says:

      “Arch” isn’t a negative connotation. It just means prime, major, high-ranking. I use it in the same way that the more ideologically pure Federalists were called Arch-Federalists and High Federalists. I didn’t want to put High Conservatives, since high has a double meaning now. So no villainy. I nearly put regressive conservatives, not necessarily as an insult, but because the very conservative Wisconsin politicians primarily work to undo 20th century progressive legislation and protocol. So it’s actually an accurate, logical term in this sense; although, insulting at the same time.

      I also believe there is a start difference between a liberal and a progressive. A progressive thinks about making changes with the future, sometimes far future, in mind. A liberal, in my opinion, is someone that just adheres to the current liberal platform. Think Nancy Pelosi. She will follow the party line, but she’s not going to push for any far-thinking plan.

      Yeah, Trump isn’t as ideologically distant as Cruz is to Sanders. I wrote this post because Cruz is expected to win Wisconsin. Trump is actually ideologically unreliable. Based off his various opinions in the last 20 years, he could be center-left and he could be far-right, depending on the day. While Sanders and Cruz are fixed at far-left and far-right.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. So, extreme liberals are “progressive-” while extreme conservatives are “arch-“? Even if I agreed with you (and I might), it still seems like an unfair shake for the conservatives you listed. I’m just intrigued by the subliminal effect of language in this case (which, again, seems to go back to connotations and/or diction). There’s no shame in having an opinion. There’s also no shame in subtly attempting to influence readers. I don’t think we can ever lose all bias (and we shouldn’t).

        I suppose I take issue with those much less informed than yourself who bandy about the “Arch-” prefix because it not only sounds erudite but also seemingly condemns that to which it is connected.


        –Paul 🙂


      2. historymonocle says:

        Arch shouldn’t have a negative connotation, though. Think of archbishop or archangel. I’m using it in that sense. I’ll gladly insert another adjective if you can think of one to go for someone that is “severely” or “radically” conservative. I just can’t think of a soft adjective for it. Progressive is merely to be proactive about moving forward. Regressive is the only word I can think of for Conservative primarily trying to undo progressive reform, which is primarily the goal of the Wisconsin conservative. By using arch, I tried to use something somewhat dignified but also denoting more than just a conservative. Think of a word that you find more neutral, and fits the specific kind of conservative they are–something as accurate as progressive is for these liberals–and I’ll gladly place it. I could just be drawing a blank on a word. I can’t think of anything.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I’m merely playing the devil’s advocate (in its sense as a Catholic institution to prevent groupthink). My main point is that I don’t think you would be happy if someone called progressives archliberals. Archenemy, arch-villain, and arch-nemesis seem far more common today in general speech than archbishop or archangel. The latter two are mainly the province of the Christian religious community (though archangel is at least applicable for all the Abrahamic religions).



  2. historymonocle says:

    I guess the term arch-liberal wouldn’t bother me, even if I were called one, because I know the original connotation for the term. I’m considering changes the term in the blog to Superconservatives, is that worse or better than arch-conservative to you?


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