Sep 21, 2014

Generic Fascism and the Mystical Small Farmer in Wisconsin

Politicians Cowed by Big Ag, Reactionaries and Racists in America's Dairyland as an Authoritarian Politics Emerges

Updated: See also Real Farms versus Farm Businesses (Ikerd): "Farmers historically have held positions of high esteem in the U.S. and in much of the rest of the world. Thomas Jefferson, for example, believed strongly that the 'yeoman farmer' best exemplified the kind of 'independence and virtue' that should be respected and supported by government."
In the realm of Cincinnatus tilling the soil, and the mystical Volk, is the small farmer in rural Wisconsin holding traditional (white) communities together through sheer work and ethics against the alien influences of the City (Milwaukee) and the University (Madison).

This is not an early 20-century description of Wisconsin.

This is Wisconsin today, where bigots combined with corporate money are attempting to transform Wisconsin into a One Party state.

The myth of the small farmer is of course absurd; the fact is small farming operations are a dying business replaced by rapacious corporate dairy operations that inject liquid cow manure into Wisconsin lakes and streams beyond the carrying capacities of both land and the water.

Dead Zones result, and unless Wisconsin has a radical change of course dead lakes and rivers will follow.

Younger generations, the current teenagers, look upon bigotry as a relic, a mark of derangement, but its roots run deep. Polluting the environment is equally irrational and sociopathic.

I was raised in a rural Wisconsin community: Fond du Lac, provincial, heavily German and overtly racist where "Nigger"and "Jew" jokes were openly shared in public accompanied with varying degrees of malice, where public elementary schools brought in kids from Milwaukee so Fond du Lac's generations' exposure to African-Americans was not limited to Brewers and Bucks games, and visits to the Milwaukee Zoo.

This 1970s program in Fond du Lac, Fondy, was the public teachers' idea.

Today, many rural Wisconsinites are only a few generations removed from farming and the prominence of the myth of the small Wisconsin farmer endures in the declining Wisconsin rural populations where few African-Americans reside.

Cynical race-baiting politicians know well the demographics.

Voters in "urban areas," to borrow a remark by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Janesville) made shortly after his 2012 defeat as vice-presidential nominee of the Republican Party, (Shear, Steinhauer, NYT; November 13, 2012), must have cost Mitt Romney Ryan's home state in Ryan's expressed view.

Ryan is a 2016 presidential aspirant, and his political ally, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, pretends to presidential ambitions even as Walker faces a 50/50 chance of defeat for his reelection bid in November.

Scott Walker

Walker is of course is heavily bankrolled by rightwing industry, but the evangelical Walker relies on a voter coalition of authoritarian reactionaries opposing marriage equity, voting rights, organized labor, women's choice, and public education.

Though Wisconsin lacks public ritual reenacting the myth of the disappearing small farmer, the iconic imagery of the small farmer is pervasive, and has been appropriated by Wisconsin Big Ag, emphatically the Dairy Business Association, a steadfast funder of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and Scott Walker.

"We don’t need to look far to see all the positive icons about farming, particularly dairy farming in Wisconsin. We celebrate dairy farming with bucolic scenes embroidered and displayed on our walls, we memorialize dairy farming on both the front and back of every vehicle registered in this state ('America’s Dairyland')," Gordon Stevenson, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources' Chief of Runoff Management from 2001-2011, said in an email."But lurking behind the embroidered scene of the red barn and roaming chickens, a CAFO may be found. Contaminated wells and dead fish [in lakes and streams] just aren’t good subjects for embroidery."

Neither are Wisconsin's 19th century abolitionist and underground railroad history, nor the Milwaukee sewer socialists appropriate fare for the Wisconsin tableau, this history isn't celebrated much except in the urban areas.

Meanwhile, as the Wisconsin gubernatorial election approaches an increasingly authoritarian, anti-education track, the Grand Ole Party targets political opponents through public policy while demonizing teachers, Milwaukee, consumer attorneys and Madison in an unprecedented gubernatorial campaign.

Scott Walker now proposes urine tests and public humiliation for disfavored recipients of public aid, as ridiculing rightwing talk radio "provide(s) open microphones for Walker and his legislative allies to gin up fear and anger among their conservative suburban and smaller-town Wisconsin listening audiences," as noted by Jim Rowen, a Wisconsin writer and politico in an important warning of the Southern Strategy employed in the North.

Small farmers still exist, and a sustainable farming movement is beginning to thrive. Citizen groups fight back.

Scott Walker and a neo-fascist coalition are a dangerous underground movement, fueled by hate, funded by corporate money and now dark money as Walker and his movement target the right of their political opponents to participate in the polity.

It would serve the Wisconsin people to acknowledge this reality of Wisconsin politics.

Breaking an out-and-out fascist coalition requires candid and repetitious political activity by citizens who know but remain silent.

As for Wisconsin waters, the Department of Natural Resources under Scott Walker offers market-driven calls for more Dairy production with no plan for protecting the water, an abandonment of the charge protecting the 15,000 lakes, the trout streams and aquifers.


  1. A very interesting piece.
    I was born in Chicago but came of age in Fond du Lac.
    I cant say I agree completely with your assessment of bigotry then but will say Ive heard more of it in rural bars today than then.
    Ive been involved in farming at one level or another all of my adult life. (We actually had a farm near Mt. Calcary).
    Id love an opportunity to share some of my experiences with you as I think the current mega farm boom is headed for a mega farm bust.
    The financial interests behind it are to blame. The owners (if thats what they are) are mostly clueless idiots who have bought into the farming-as-industry myth.
    This has happened before in the 20s and 30s and the result will happen again too.
    Just wait for it.
    Contact me!