2 new Milwaukee legislators create first Socialist caucus in Wisconsin in 90 years

NOW: 2 new Milwaukee legislators create first Socialist caucus in Wisconsin in 90 years

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- For the first time in 90 years, there is once again a socialist caucus of legislators here in Wisconsin.

Political experts say Socialism has a storied history here in Milwaukee, like the namesake of the Hoan Bridge, named after the second of three Socialist Milwaukee Mayors, Daniel Hoan.

Two new legislators say they're looking to continue that tradition.

"The history of Milwaukee in the 20th century, especially the early 20th century, is really the history of socialism in the United States," said Philip Rocco, Associate Professor of Political Science at Marquette University.

Rocco says under socialist leadership, Milwaukee defined many of the features of the city that are still recognizable today.

"Many of the key infrastructures of the city, from sewers to the streets, to the public parks and beaches are really the project of socialists," said Rocco. "Their activities really garnered the city the reputation for being one of the best run cities in the United States."

In the middle of the century, the New Deal, the state-sponsored Red Scare and McCarthyism eventually slowed enthusiasm for socialism.

"But Milwaukee socialists actually survived kind of long past that," said Rocco.

Milwaukee socialists were known as 'Sewer Socialists' for their focus on local infrastructure issues, a tradition that Representative Ryan Clancy hopes to continue.

"A return hopefully to the sort of you know, wildly popular pragmatic policies that the Sewer Socialists were responsible for, sort of back in the day," said Rep. Clancy.

Freshmen Milwaukee Representatives Ryan Clancy and Darrin Madison are both Democratic Socialists and form this new caucus.

Rep. Clancy says they will mostly be caucusing with the Democratic minority in the state.

"But framing that in a different way and pointing out that sometimes the work that we're engaged in is harm reduction that we really need to go after and kind of replace the rotten system behind it," said Rep. Clancy.

Rep. Clancy, also a Milwaukee County Supervisor of three years, says he's looking to overcome roadblocks he faced locally for policies that they say will benefit working class people across the state, even if conservatives want to say his goals will lead to 'disaster'.

"Those 'disastrous' programs are things like providing attorneys to folks who need it when they're being evicted. It looks like paid parental leave; it looks like basic accountability. If these things are disastrous, I think that's a disaster that's much needed," said Rep. Clancy.

While the Wisconsin GOP couldn't be reached for comment today, Republican Majority Leader Tyler August was quoted in the AP as saying, 'Socialism has failed everywhere in the world that it has been tried [..] it is not what makes our country great."

He said his caucus is open to working with lawmakers on the left.

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