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Charlie Sykes: Sykes Writes

The Cheesehead Revolution Rises

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It all comes back to Wisconsin: "Rising Generation of Wis. Stars Grabs GOP Reins"


In an interview on the eve of the Republican convention, Priebus was asked by RCP what’s in the water in his state these days. “It’s not the water, but it might be something in the beer,” he quipped. “Or maybe the bratwurst. Anyway, we’re calling it the ‘Cheesehead Revolution.’ ”

Counter-revolution might be more like it. The RNC chief’s banter aside, something is going on in the Midwestern state that produced Robert M. La Follette, and it’s not another Progressive Party movement.

In 1932, Wisconsin was one of the states that Justice Louis D. Brandeis had in mind when he wrote that one the “happy incidents” of federalism was “that a single courageous state may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.”

Make no mistake, in his oft-mentioned metaphor -- usually abbreviated as “laboratories in democracy” -- Brandeis was lauding laboratories of liberalism. But that’s the funny thing about a social science lab: You can grow anything you want in them; or, to be precise, anything the voters support.

The GOP’s new trio of big cheeses from Wisconsin, currently serving as the idea factory for the party, view themselves as the corrective to eight decades of excess liberalism -- that is to say, excess liberal spending. To them it’s not ironic that their vision would take root in the Land of La Follette -- it’s logical. It’s also appropriate that, for the most part, they are more interested in fiscal conservatism than the culture wars.



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