If Wisconsin Can't Be Nice, Who Can?

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If residents of Wisconsin, a state known for niceness and cheese, are letting their inner sociopaths out, is there any hope for the rest of us? A bleeding-heart liberal from one of the most wholesome states in the union slapped Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in the face for conceding to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in the recall election Tuesday night. "She was upset about him giving the concession speech while she still felt there were votes to be counted," 2 News' Terry Sater reports on the conversation between Barrett (pictured above) and the slapper. "He looked at her and said 'I'd rather you hug me' so he leaned down thinking that she was going to hug him and she slapped him… The mayor really was just stunned that she slapped him." Well so is America! 

"I wonder how Democratic officeholders and their professional class feel about having a grassroots base that is, at least in some parts, psychotic enough to resort to physical violence upon their own candidates for acknowledging reality," writes the National Review's Jim Geraghty. That's right: Wisconsinites' lack of civility has become so appalling that it can shock a political writer whose own publication had to fire one of its writers two months ago for writing an essay about avoiding black people in public.

Sure, in the last two years, much has been written about the polarization of America, and the ugliness of politics. (Many credit Newt Gingrich with changing the norms of Washington so it became acceptable to demonize your opponent. It's fitting that this is the election cycle, for about two weeks, in which Gingrich was the leading candidate for the Republican presidential nominee.) But Washington is like a magnet for sociopaths. The decline of civility in Wisconsin is far more unsettling. Note these stunning niceness statistics.

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1. Wisconsin has some of the most intensely brainy metro areas in the country, as The Atlantic Cities' Richard Florida explains. It's home to two of the top 25 smartest cities, including Madison, which ranks as No. 4. And that's not just because it's a college town, as the study controlled for age. Nerds are not supposed to be mean.

2. Wisconsin is comfortably outside America's "neuroticism belt," which stretches from Maine to Louisiana, according to a 2008 study of 620,000 Americans by Cambridge University.

3. Wisconsin is one of the highest ranking states in extroversion and agreeableness, the Cambridge study found.

So what happened to these Midwestern sweethearts? Maybe it's because Wisconsin has had seven elections in the last 14 months. Even the sweetest kid can get ornery when he's all tuckered out.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.