On March 9 Wisconsin was feeling the bern by extension of Michigan’s upper peninsula, the oddly shaped attachment on top of the mitten we call the America’s Dairyland. Michigan gave presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, a historic win.
He beat predictive front-runner, Hillary Clinton, even after she was polled with a 37 point lead. To put that into perspective, Hillary Clinton beat Barack Obama in New Hampshire by just over a 8 point Obama lead.
The 2016 Presidential race has been about the unexpected, and going against norms. All the usual suspects have been wrong in predicting what would happen. Previous GOP “front-runner” Scott Walker dropped out almost immediately, having the third shortest Presidential run in US History. GOP establishment favorite, Jeb Bush, was sent back home to Florida packing away his campaign ‘exclamation point’ and trading it in for an emoticon frowny face. Even Donald Trump, who was the man almost all party officials and news commentators wrote off as irrelevant, has now become a front-runner and the man to beat, constantly surging in polls.
No one can predict what will happen, only what could happen. One thing that rings true is that the current political system, that began with the election of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, is flipped on its head. The establishment candidates, thought to easily secure a smooth nomination, have succumbed to outsiders who have been able to make vocal the political issues that most mainstream candidate would not have dreamed of talking about.
So what does this mean for Wisconsin? America’s dairyland has always been a battle state. Historically a mix of progressives and family values. The local political climate aside, it has always been a very forward thinking state, just like our state motto, “Forward” plainly states.
What makes the campaigns of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump so unusual is that they have both tapped into the idea of America, and the promise made to its citizens. The promise of a powerful America, a job creating America, an inclusive America. The have tapped into the reality that those promises have not been met or have been taken away from so many U.S. citizens. They are tapping into the anger and distrust of the establishment, whom these people have accused of lying to them. They were promised that their vote as individuals were part of the struggle for the betterment of themselves and the country.
Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders both are aware of this portion of America and have tapped into it. Trump prefers to prey on the fears of terrorism and immigration as his backing, while Bernie Sanders chooses to unify with messages of compassion and human rights.
Many think Sanders clinched the victory in Michigan by tapping into the local sentiment and frustration that citizens of the Mitten State are going through. In the last debate, he knocked agreements like NAFTA for sending many jobs outside the U.S. decimating the auto industry. Sanders also went after Clinton supported Wall Street bailouts, pointing out that the reckless actions of giant banks are somehow less accountable than someone who cannot afford their mortgage payments. And, finally, Sanders attacked Michigan’s governor over his negligence in creating the city of Flint’s water crisis, which has lead to the poisoning of hundreds of children, causing irreversible brain damage.
Wisconsin’s upcoming primary election is April 5th, and all the patterns of the Sanders strategy can be applied in the Badger State. We too have had problems with job growth. General Electric just outsourced 350 jobs to Canada. Johnson Controls is cutting over 3,000 jobs in the next two years. Oscar Meyers cut 1,000 jobs, and Ashley Furniture got a $6 million tax credit with a condition that allowed it to lay off half its workforce. NAFTA certainly has had no small role in some of these job losses. Some studies have shown that since passing the Right to Work law, Wisconsin has had 10,000 layoffs due to plant closings and economic challenges.
From the Wall Street created mortgage crisis, homeownership loss has affected the Wisconsin area just as bad as the national average. A current study found that homeownership is at two decade low. And because of the Flint, Michigan lead water crisis, Milwaukee is looking at its own infrastructure problems. Property owners, along with the city of Milwaukee, are facing a bill up to $511 million in lead water pipe replacements.
The latest Wisconsin election polls have Bernie Sanders at either a 43-45 deficit against Hillary Clinton or a virtual dead heat, with Bernie leading at 43.9 to Hillary’s 43.3. This may appear to be good news for Hillary supporters, however, Michigan’s March 9 example means anyone could win. Polling methods have not adjusted with the pace of technology, with heavy reliance on land lines, are leaving out a large portion of the population whose opinions are not being heard.
Maybe the polls were correct and the Sander’s campaign tapped into the feelings and frustrations of Michigan voters, pushing him over the edge at the last minute. If Wisconsin’s polling is leaving out these Sander’s supporters like Michigan did, then if he can tap into the same maligned voter bast of the Badger State he could earn another election victory.