Two “cousin” states follow different paths: Minnesota goes Democrat, Wisconsin goes Republican

A look at the twin ports of Duluth, Minnesota and Superior, Wisconsin highlights the political differences between the two states:

In 2013, Wisconsin’s lawmakers cut income taxes. They approved an expansion of school vouchers. They passed a requirement, portions of which are now being contested in court, that abortion providers have admitting privileges at local hospitals and that women seeking abortions get ultrasounds. They rewrote iron mining rules to ease construction of an open pit in Northern Wisconsin.

In Minnesota, lawmakers sent more money to public schools, raised income taxes on the highest earners, increased the tax on cigarettes and voted to add new business taxes. They allowed some undocumented immigrants to get in-state tuition for public universities. They legalized same-sex marriage.

“It’s staggering, really, like night and day,” said Lawrence R. Jacobs, a political scientist at the University of Minnesota. “You’ve got two states with the same history, the same culture, the same people — it’s kind of like they’re cousins. And now they’re looking across the border and seeing one world, then seeing something else entirely on the other side.”

This sounds like a good natural experiment for social scientists to look at. If the states share similar backgrounds and geography, perhaps the differences in outcomes over the next few years can be attributed to the different political parties in control. Unfortunately, the article is pretty impressionistic thus far and doesn’t offer too many concrete differences in life. Perhaps not enough time has passed – or perhaps the differences in daily life still might not change that much for most residents.

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