Conservative talk radio in Wisconsin is pitching next Tuesday’s primary showdown as one of the best opportunities to stop Donald Trump. I’m not sure why, but for whatever reason the talk radio in that state has been opposed to Trump from the start (which is more than can be said for some of the other talk show hosts around the country). I’ve heard that due to Scott Walker’s fights against the unions in the state, talk radio has been more focused on actual substance than rhetoric, which is of course, disastrous for Trump’s campaign.
When Governor Walker endorsed Ted Cruz (which wasn’t too much of a surprise), I saw plenty of shares of the news, which reminded me of some interesting aspects of Wisconsin’s history (that’s just how my brain works).
During the Civil War, a Union force was besieged in Chattanooga in Tennessee, and they were under such a relentless artillery barrage from the Confederate Army that they lacked the horses to even man a proper artillery defense. To make matters worse, they were also being starved into submission with every “soldier’s ration was four cakes of hard bread and a quarter pound of pork every three days.” On the third day of the battle, the Union decided to launch a counterattack to distract some of the Confederate fire from the Union forces. They fought at Missionary Ridge in extremely violent hand-to-hand combat until they pushed the Confederates back, which left them in the unfortunate position of being below the Confederate line of fire. Despite having had orders to stay in their positions, the Union soldiers had no choice but to storm the Confederate positions, because they would otherwise have been wiped out. General Ulysses S. Grant saw the battle from afar, and he wanted the troops to pull back, because no thought had even been given to taking Missionary Ridge that day, because it was perceived as being suicidal. However, the 18,000 men decided to storm the ridge, to which Grant could only reply “well, it will be all right if it turns out alright.” Grant had been furious that they had disobeyed their orders, but one of his subordinates told him that “once those boys get started, all hell can’t stop ‘em.” One of the units leading the charge was the 24th Wisconsin, and it was led by 18 year old Arthur MacArthur. As they charged up the hill, the flag bearer was killed by a bayonet. Another soldier picked it up, and he was decapitated by a cannonball. MacArthur then picked it up, and shouted “On, Wisconsin!” He then proceeded to the top of Missionary Ridge, where he planted the flag, which allowed for his troops to rally to it and improbably take over the ridge.
MacArthur went on to be the youngest Colonel in the Union Army during the Civil War. He is probably most famous for being the father for another MacArthur, General Douglas MacArthur.
Why do I mention any of this? I see some parallels between the 24th Wisconsin and the role that Wisconsin itself can play in the days to come. In the same way that the 24th Wisconsin completely routed the Confederate Army, it is possible that a Cruz win in Wisconsin (which is winner take all) will blunt Trump’s momentum. The legacy of MacArthur’s rallying cry is still with us. On, Wisconsin! Is the marching song of the University of Wisconsin, and none other than John Philip Sousa has written that it is one of the finest college marching tunes.
Why have I mentioned talk radio from the onset of this article? Wisconsin’s talk radio prides itself on being different, saying that there are “No Hannity-like Fan Boys Here.” There is an extremely vocal contingent of them that have been opposed to Trump from the start, as opposed to some of the other talk radio figures out there.
By now, most people are aware that Trump unknowingly called into a talk radio show hosted by Charlie Sykes, who is a vocal member of the Never Trump movement, and it was as amusing as you’d expect. One of the issues that Sykes brought up with Trump was Trump’s criticism of Governor Scott Walker back when Walker was running for president. Wisconsin’s Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch recently said that “the [talk radio] hosts hear enough criticism about Wisconsin’s successful reforms from the left, and they’re not happy to hear distortions about them now from Donald Trump.” The fact that Trump used an attack more commonly heard from Democrats (that have been ruled “mostly false”) against Walker when Walker was still in the race still has many in Wisconsin angry.
Wisconsin may very well be one of the states that stops Trump (polling shows Cruz with the momentum), and while a lot may have to do with their contemporary politics, it’s possible that the soldiers of the 24th Wisconsin are looking down and smiling as well, saying “On, Wisconsin!”