Why I am one of the voters that helped Wisconsin go blue

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Media: Courtesy of Shawna Konieczny

Shawna Konieczny is a junior IDIP major from Medford, Wisconsin.

By Shawna Konieczny, Staff Writer

Four years ago, I had just turned seventeen. I was balancing the stress of school at Medford Area Senior High in Wisconsin, a social life, and the mental toll from losing three grandfathers within the year. But all those emotions had nothing to do with politics or the fact that Donald Trump had just been elected the 45th President of the United States. 

Growing up, politics was rarely ever a topic of conversation in my family. I knew my parents were Republicans. Still, we never discussed policies or candidates. It was a given that conservative ideology was the best ideology.

However, since arriving at college and meeting new people from different backgrounds, I’ve heard stories and opinions that opened my mind up to new possibilities. I was able to develop  stances that reflect my personal values. It is because of these newfound beliefs that I voted from Democratic nominee Joe Biden this year, helping Wisconsin flip blue.

In many towns in my home state, there’s a certain mentality that if it isn’t happening there, it’s not happening anywhere. My father and stepmother, both Wisconsinites, believe our day-to-day lives aren’t heavily impacted by the person in the office. My mother and stepfather, on the other hand, tie their political beliefs to their religious practices. “Republican values are Christain values,” my mother often told me. Now, as a former Christian and queer woman, I disagree with the ideals my mother would preach, which include pro-life and anti-LGBTQ+ beliefs.

While I would never align myself with Trump’s values, I can, to a certain degree, understand his appeal in rural Wisconsin. He’s painted himself as a leader for the “everyday American,” and his straight-forward language makes him relatable and easy to understand. This helps explain why his supporters are so quick to believe everything he says, even if it has no factual basis.

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Wisconsin’s political races have become especially competitive in recent years, making it one of the battleground states in this year’s presidential election. With the exception of President Barack Obama’s two victories, the margin of difference between two candidates in Wisconsin has been less than one percent since 2000, according to the nonpartisan political site 270towin

Before Trump won Wisconsin in 2016, the state had gone blue in every election since 1988. It flipped blue this year with a margin of just about 20 thousand votes, giving Biden 49.6 percent of the state’s vote over Trump’s 48.9 percent. 

During the 2016 presidential election, 69.5 percent of people voted for Donald Trump in Taylor County, where I live. That is the second highest percentage of voters that voted Republican in the state. Four years later, Trump gained more than one thousand additional votes in Taylor County, deepening the red surge in the region. 

Despite everything that Trump has said and done in the past four years, I am not surprised by this result. I have witnessed increased support for President Trump from people from my hometown, especially within this past year—pandemic and all.

While some people tease me for how much time I spend on Facebook, it’s the perfect window into the minds of these neighbors and peers. As the election grew closer, I’d see my Facebook friends post about why they support Trump. Being in the minority as one of the 2,600 people from my county who voted for Biden, these posts and Facebook fights would often be a source of morbid fascination for me.

The heightened division in the country has increased the tension between friends and families as people seem to be forced to choose between the far right and the far left, with little room for mutual understanding. After Trump claimed his loss was due to voter fraud, I saw an overwhelming amount of people on Facebook take his side and try to discredit millions of mail-in ballots that were being counted throughout the week. 

There was one post in particular from Saturday, the day news organizations declared Biden the winner, that stood out to me. My Facebook friend explained why they felt Wisconsin should have gone red, posting a long run-on sentence along with a map of election results where only 14 out of Wisconsin’s 72 counties in the state went blue. Many of the comments explained the concept of population density, asking users to look at the number of votes rather than the number of red counties. One Trump supporter commented about the post’s many grammatical errors, saying that “If we’re going to look like intelligent Trump supporters, we should at least know how to spell.” 

Ridiculing people’s education level is a common theme I’ve noticed in Wisconsin. The United States has seen a trend where people with higher education are more likely to vote for a Democratic candidate than if they only had a high school diploma. In the state of Wisconsin, less than 30 percent of residents have at least a bachelor’s degree. When looking at the people I know from my hometown, the majority of those who are attending college right now campaigned against Trump and now are celebrating Biden’s victory. Whereas many who stayed in the area after high school are mostly Trump supporters. 

Being restrained to the hivemind of Wisconsin growing up didn’t leave me with a lot of room to develop my own opinions. It was a dangerous combination of being naive and misinformed. Thankfully, I have had the privilege and the opportunity to explore the world beyond my state. I have seen how important it is to care about what goes on in government—something I didn’t comprehend four years ago.