Illinois

In a Wisconsin town, voters fear an attack on America – Chicago Tribune

In a picturesque corner of western Wisconsin, a growing right-wing conservative movement has gained prominence.

They see America as a whole as a dark, dangerous place where democracy is under attack from a tyrannical government, few officials can be trusted, and neighbors will someday have to band together to protect each other. This is a country where basic beliefs – faith, family, freedom – are under threat.

John Kraft looks beyond his quiet rural community and sees a country many Americans don’t recognize.

And it’s not just about politics.

“It’s no longer left versus right, Democrats versus Republicans,” says Craft, a software architect and data analyst. “It’s just good versus evil.”

He knows what he sounds like. He felt the contempt of people who see him as a fanatic, a supporter of conspiracy theories.

But he is a hero of the right-wing conservative movement that has risen to prominence in this part of western Wisconsin.

Just a couple of years ago, their talk of Marxism, government repression, and secret plans to destroy family values ​​would have put them on the far fringes of the Republican Party.

But not anymore. Today, despite the failed midterm elections, they remain a cornerstone of the conservative electoral base. Across the country, candidates who believe in QAnon and candidates who believe that the separation of church and state is wrong have won. In Wisconsin, a conspiracy theorist and pseudoscience US senator has been re-elected, defeating his opponent in St. Croix County.

Take Mark Karlsson. He is an affable man who radiates gentleness, loves to cook, rarely leaves the house without a gun, and believes that despotism is hanging over America.

“There is a plan to bring us from the inside to socialism, Marxism, a communist type of government,” says Carlson, the St. Croix County warden who recently retired after 20 years at the juvenile detention center.

He was hired earlier this year as insurgent right-wing conservatives built a powerful local voting bloc fueled by fury over the COVID lockdown, vaccination mandates and unrest that rocked the country after George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer who was only 45 years old. minutes.

In two years, they have taken control of the county’s Republican Party, ousting leaders they deride as weak establishment pawns, and helped put more than a dozen people into elected office on county and city governments and school boards.

In America, the US government has orchestrated COVID fears to consolidate its power, the IRS is buying up massive stockpiles of ammunition, and former President Barack Obama may be the most powerful man in the country.

Polls today show that more than 60% of Republicans in the US do not believe that President Joe Biden has been elected in 2020. About a third refuse to get the COVID vaccine.

Carlson, a bearded, gun-toting, middle-aged white guy who voted for former President Donald Trump, knows he looks like a caricature to some. But he is not.

“I’m just a normal person,” he says, sitting on a couch next to a window overlooking the large garden he and his wife tend. “They don’t understand that we want good.”

It can be confusing. He calls peaceful black protesters “righteous” for taking to the streets after Floyd’s murder. He makes organic yogurt. He drives a Tesla. He is a conservative Christian who loves AC/DC. In a region where Islam is sometimes treated with open hostility, he says he would support the small Muslim community if they wanted to open a mosque there.

Sometimes you will hear people here talking about what they intend to do if things go very badly in America.

There are solar panels in case the electrical grid fails. There is extra petrol for cars and diesel for generators. There are shelves with non-perishable products that sometimes last for several months.

There are weapons, but this is almost never discussed with outsiders.

“I’ve had enough,” says one man, sitting in a Hudson cafe.

“I’d rather not talk to a reporter,” Kraft says.

Opinions about the violence worry people like Paul Hambleton, who lives in Hudson and works with the county’s Democratic Party.

“There’s something really wrong here,” Hambleton says.

Paul Hambleton sits at his home in Hudson, Wis., Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022. Hambleton, who is affiliated with the county's Democratic Party, says he is comforted by the results of the midterm elections, which some Republicans say could signal a rejection of Trump and its most extremist supporters.

He taught for many years in the St. Croix County town, which has grown from 43,000 in 1980 to 95,000 today. He watched how the student body shifted. The children of farmers have given way to the children of people who commute to the Twin Cities. Racial minorities have become small, but are growing.

He understands why change can make some people nervous.

“There’s a rural way of life that people feel is threatened here, a small-town way of life,” he says.

But he’s also a hunter who saw how hard it was to buy ammunition after the 2020 protests, when gun sales skyrocketed across America.

For almost two years, the shelves were almost bare.

“I found it threatening,” Hambleton says. “Because there’s no way deer hunters buy that much ammo.”

https://www.chicagotribune.com/politics/ct-wisconsin-20221130-badvbrvg4jb4rg2xdqire6h4ku-story.html#ed=rss_www.chicagotribune.com/arcio/rss/category/news/

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