It wasn’t that long ago that the State of Wisconsin was one of the best governed States in the Union. The reason for this was a homegrown Progressive movement initiated by “Fighting Bob” Lafollette and a local Socialist Party that complemented its good ideas with practical political action. Daniel Hoan was one of those practical Socialists who knew how to get elected and how to govern. Here is an excerpt from the LaCrosse Tribune about Hoan, the Socialist Mayor of Milwaukee.
“I will always be true to the working class,” promised the mayor of Milwaukee in 1935.
Today, Wisconsin’s so closely associated with the nation’s resurgent conservative movement that it’s hard to imagine a major politician making such a statement. But 100 years ago, the state’s political pendulum swung far the other way. Mayor Daniel Hoan is a good example of its popular leftist leadership.
He was born poor in 1881 and worked menial jobs while taking evening classes. In 1908 he passed the bar and in 1910 was chosen Milwaukee’s city attorney. He made a name for himself prosecuting corruption and in 1916 was elected mayor. He was successively re-elected until 1940, the longest continuous socialist administration in U.S. history.
Hoan’s initiatives in Milwaukee were nicknamed “Sewer Socialism” — government-run services that improved residents’ quality of life in the most basic ways. He made public health and transportation more efficient, reformed the civil service, provided public markets and built low-cost housing.
In 1936, Time magazine claimed that “under him Milwaukee has become perhaps the best-governed city in the U.S.”