Research News

Cap Times publishes excerpts from Cramer's new book, 'The Politics of Resentment'

March 28, 2016

An article earlier this month by UW-Madison's Katherine Cramer appeared in The Capital Times and was headlined, “Wisconsin's rural consciousness: Exploring a place-based sense of injustice.”

Cramer is a political science professor and director of the Morgridge Center for Public Service, which is administratively housed in the School of Education. She is also an affiliate of the Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education (WISCAPE).

The Cap Times article is excerpted from the first three chapters of Cramer's new book, “The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker,” published by The University of Chicago Press in April.

In the article, Cramer interviews Wisconsin residents from small rural towns about rural injustice. Her article begins with interviewing “The Downtown Athletic Club,” a group of middle-aged, former public school teachers from a small central rural Wisconsin town.

Kathy Cramer
Cramer writes: “This group — 'The Downtown Athletic Club' as they called themselves — opened my eyes to rural consciousness. That first morning with them, I passed out Wisconsin Badgers football schedules and other tokens of gratitude and asked if it was OK to turn on my recorder. They said sure, I pushed the record button, and I bumbled out, 'I’m interested — what are the big concerns for people living up here?' ”

“The big issue I think for our whole nation is the discrepancy between … oh, the common economics and the CEOs of corporations, where the top of the corporations are taking off profits greater than ever before in history, when the companies may be challenged, or the product line may be challenged,” says Gary, a member of The Downtown Athletic Club. “There’s still that huge amount of money for the people at the very top. And that’s really driving a bigger separation between the richest in America … and the common belief is that we’re losing the middle class.”

Cramer writes: " 'Rural consciousness' is the term I am using to describe a strong sense of identity as a rural person combined with a strong sense that rural areas are the victims of injustice: the sense that rural areas do not get their fair share of power, respect or resources and that rural folks prefer lifestyles that differ fundamentally from those of city people."

“The big thing that affects the rural areas in the last 15 years is the change in the agriculture where you don’t have the mom-and-pop farms anymore. They’re all corporation farms. Where people used to make their livings on 80–140 acres of land, I mean it’s … now, 80 acres of land is hobby land, it’s not a living,” Gary says. “I retired with my farm, and I have 75-80 cattle. Thirty cows, when I was a kid, could feed a family. Now 30 cows is a big hobby. I mean, the amount of income off of that versus expenses is not very great, so it just changes … And part of the problem with agriculture is we have perishable goods. It’s not like a barrel of oil you can let sit there for 10 years. The milk has to go, that cheese has to go, pretty much. The livestock has to be slaughtered, has a short lifespan. There’s so many things where people can set the process, whether it be gasoline or whatever it is, but farmers are typically — somebody else is setting the price for the farmer.”

To learn much more about Cramer's work, check out the entire article for free on the Cap Times website.