Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Who Wins Prairie du Chien Wins the White House

That would be Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, whose French name means "prairie dog," and which is located where the Wisconsin River empties into the Mississippi River, third oldest town in the state founded by Europeans (the French) after Green Bay (originallly Fort Nicolet) and Portage, also located at crucial spots long used by the Native Indians for river transport.  It is also the county seat for Crawford County, with Grant County just across the Wisconsin River.

Many argue that Wisconsin is the ultimate swing state, based on that if all the states go as they did in 2016, Trump would stilll win if he loses PA and MI, but wins in WI.  It might be that Bernie in particular could swing AZ because of his strong support among non-Floridian Latinos, but even with that, Wisconsin is clearly about as crucial and swingy as any state in the Union.  How it goes is likely to align with the ultimate outcome in the electoral collage, at least as things stand now.

So why is Prairie du Chien so crucial?  Well, aside from several industrial cities, notably Erie, PA and Yongstown, OH, the parts of the nation that did the largest amount of chanigng their votes between 2012 and 2016, with then at least partly moving back towards Dems happen to be southwestern Wisconsin and northeastern Iowa across the Miisissippi from SW WI.  While much of WI is now pretty rigidly partisanly fixed, not so true in the past, this area is up for grabs and swinging back and forth at lot.  What matters in the rest of the state has more to do with base turnout issues, such as African Americans in Milwaukee and some other cities turning out a lot more in 2012 than in 2016.  But as of now, it looks like what goes on in SW WI looks to indicate how the state will go and thus how the ntional outome will go.

This is an area I think that continues to reflect a continuation of the "good government" tradition od the state examplified by the late senator, squeaky-clean William Proxmire (D-WI).  It seems to the part of the state that suddenly turned against Clinton in 2016 after James Comey came out with his report that she was again under FBI investigaation 11 days before the 2016 election. Maybe the lower black turnout would have done her in, but it looks to me that the sudden change in SW WI really sealed the deal.

I am looking at four counties in the Southwest in particular, moving from SE to NW: Lafayette, Grant (in the actual SW corner  of the state), Crawford, and larger La Crosse.  All four went for Obama more strongly than the state as a whole in 2012 but more strongly for Trump in 2016 than the state average.  Then three of the four went for Dem governor winner, Tony Evers, in 2018, who won by  hair over Scott Walker, 49.5% to 49.4%.  Of these four, Lafayettw went for Walker, while LaCrosse went way stgonly for Evers.  The two sticking more closely to the state outcomes, but showing large swinging weere the other tow Crawford and Grant, with Praiirie du Chien on their border, hence its significance.

I show the state totals for Dems for the three elections and the outcones for those two counties below.


2012 Dems 52.83%

2016 Dems 46,45%

2018 Dems 49.5%

Crawford County

2012 Dems 59.22%

2016 Dems 44,24%

2018 Dems 51.83%


2012 Dems 56.04%

2016 Dems 41.25%

2018 Dems 50.19%

Heck, Grant in ths SW conrner may track it slightly more closely than Crawford, but county seat Lancaster not as cool sounding as Prairie du Chien, and that small city is just across the river from Grant. So more generally, as those two counties go, so probably will the state and the nation.


Dems might want to put serious money into ads in Dubuque, Iowa.  It is right across the Mississippi from Grant County, WI and covers much of this swingy paert of Wisconsin.  Also, northeastern Iowa is also almost as swingy as that part of Wisconsin, with Dubuque County going for Dems in 2021 56.5% to 41.8% GOP but  then in 2016 going for GOP 47.2%  to Dems 47.2%.  Most Dems are writing off IA but it is a former swing state, and the senate race there may be crucial to taking the senate.  I see with Bernie as candidate Dems taking ME, CO, and AZ while losing AL for senate, meaning they need one more beyond that, with best bets being either NC or IA. Anyway, putting a lot of ad effort into Dubuque, as well as LaCrosse, may well be critical in the end for both the White House and the Senate.

Barkley Rosser


2slugbaits said...

Interesting, but according to the Census Bureau those two counties are quite white, low income and don't have a lot of college graduates. Crawford has a lot of folks 65 and over.


rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

I think the fact that they are older is why they look like the older tradition of Wisconsin in being more into good government and a clean version of the state's progressive tradition.

Anonymous said...

What a fine analysis.

Thanks so much.

Anonymous said...

Your English rendition of "Prairie du Chien" is not quite right. "Dog's prairie" is more apt. As you must know, there are not now, nor in human memory have there ever been, prairie dogs in southwestern Wisconsin. If you left Prairie du Chien heading due west in search of prairie dogs in their natural habitat, you would not encounter any until you had gone nearly halfway across Nebraska. The dog referred to as "Chien" was an actual canid, not a barking rodent.

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

You are partly right, Anonymous. I have double checked. You are wrong about the location of prairie doge; they did extend east to the Mississippi River, where P du C is. But while maost think (and I was told when I lived in Wisconsin) that the town was named for prairie dogs, it turns out it was named for an Indian chief whose name translated to "dog" and he lived in the prairie. So it is Prairie of the Dog, referring to him.

Anonymous said...

Thanks as always, Barkley Rosser...

Peter Dorman said...

Thanks for clearing up the true meaning of Prairie du Chien. As a sort-of French speaker, this has always bothered me. (Also that Prairie du "Sheen" business.)

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

Peter makes a point I was going to make, which he knows from having lived in Wisconsin. The pronunciation of that city's name is indeed "Prairie du Sheen." No kidding. Several other Fench city names in the state have also been Anglicized, although some have remained unchanged, notably "Eau Claire" (French for Clear Water).

I'll add some early history about Prairie du Chien. As I noted it was set up by the French on the site of an existing site of importance to the Native Indians in their trade system of river transport where the Wisconsin River enters into the MIssissippi River. What was going on there was basically fur trading, with the furs ultimately going upriver across the Eastern Continental Divide from the Mississippi basin into the Great Lakes and out the St. Lawreence River to Europe.

The French there had a tendencyto intermarry with the Native Indians, which also went on at Madeleine Ilsand in Lake Superior, with the descendants of these marriages coming to run the the fur trade. After 1763 when the French lost control of Quebec and the outlet to Europe, these traders formed links with British who took over the lower reaches of the St. Lawrence River.

When the American Revolution came, that western edge of Wisconsin on the Mississippi River officially came under control of the newly independent US. However there on the ground the local Franco-Indian fur traders conrinued to send the furs out through the British traders based in Canada.

It was the War of 1812 that finally brought this situation to an end. At the end it was then Colonel Zachary Taylor , a distant relative of mine, who was sent in to take control of Prairie du Chien for the United States (and control of its fur trade). He oversaw the building of the Villa Louis, now the main tourist attraction there. Of coursr Taylor would later become US president as a Whig, only to die in office in 1850 to be replaced by Millard Fillmoee.

So there is a bit more on the history of this town with the "sheen" that may well indicate who enters the White House next January, if I am right.

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

If the competition between Biden and Bernie remains unresolved by then, some are arguing that the Wisconsin primary may end up olaying a decisive role, much like it did in 1960 between JFK and Hubert Humphrey. If so, again, watch swingy southwestern Wisconsin and Prairie du Chien for who will get the nod in the end.