A Political Movement by
50
(65 Stories)

Prompted By Moving Day

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Others have written about their multiple moves and the accompanying emotional and physical toll it took on them, and I have plenty of such stories myself.  But I want to focus on only my last move — and I use the word “last” both to mean most recent and, hopefully, final (excluding spreading my ashes over Fenway Park, or something like that).

Simply put, we were desperate to move back to a deeply blue eastern state.

My wife and I moved from Connecticut to Milwaukee in 2009 so that I could take a new job as General Counsel of a large accounting firm.  The firm had offices all over the US, but its headquarters were in Milwaukee and it was clear that all the senior officers had to work from that office.  Purely by coincidence, my father had grown up in Milwaukee, so I had visited it a few times as a kid and even had a few distant relatives who still lived there.  So I knew it was a pretty nice city on the beautiful shores of Lake Michigan.  And only 80 miles from Chicago which, as my cynical brother explained when he went to the University of Chicago, “is actually a pretty cool place except for being surrounded on all four sides by the Midwest.” As importantly, my wife had very much enjoyed touring Milwaukee when we went out there for my job interviews.

So off we went — actually, my wife stayed back for nearly a year to sell our place in Connecticut in a lousy housing market, while I “commuted” weekly and lived in a one-bedroom rental apartment near my office.  And we were able to buy a beautiful home on five acres, with a lovely pool and surrounded by woods. (Your real estate dollars go a whole lot further in Milwaukee than Connecticut.)  It is my featured image.

We enjoyed our time in Milwaukee in many ways: the house, friends we made, my job, and, most surprisingly, the number and variety of cultural institutions (and good restaurants) in Milwaukee. In fact, we went down to Chicago a lot less than we had expected, particularly in light of the very good symphony and theater groups in Milwaukee.

But life in Milwaukee was never ideal; it never felt, at least to me, as “home.”  The catalyst was the holiday season at the end of 2014.  As usual, we “orphans” (i.e., without family in the area) had been “adopted” by friends there for Christmas and New Year’s celebrations, but I knew my wife in particular was missing family “back East.”  And by that time my firm had merged with another firm, its main office was now in Minnesota and, most importantly, The Powers That Be (“PTB”) were touting the fact that we had no headquarters per se.  (The fact that our new CEO lived in Tampa and did not want to move to Minneapolis certainly played into this enlightened philosophy, but so be it.)  So I asked the PTB if I could relocate and was told, in the nicest possible way, that “we don’t care where you work.”  I think they were expecting I’d opt for one of our Florida or Arizona offices with an eye towards retirement, but we chose the Boston area since the majority of our children and friends were in NY, CT or MA and we had only a tiny NY office.

Now, finally, to the point of the story.  To be sure, friends and family had a great deal of influence on our decision to move.  But, equally strong, if unsaid (especially to our friends in Milwaukee) was the role of politics.  Although Wisconsin has a long progressive reputation and is considered a “purple” state, during our time there it had been held hostage by Gov. Scott Walker and an equally odious gerrymandered majority of Republican legislators and we were revolted by what we saw going on.  And even a number of our neighbors, decent folks though they may have been in some ways, seemed to have drunk the Walkerian Kool-Aid.  Conversely, our old friends back east, reading the news from our new home, would ask us if we hadn’t somehow moved to Mississippi by accident.  Simply put, we were desperate to move back to a deeply blue eastern state.We fully understood that our votes in a purple state were more important than in a blue state — Elizabeth Warren doesn’t need us to get re-elected — but we wanted to live in an echo chamber that didn’t feel like Fox News.

So, in the summer of 2015, we were able to sell our beautiful home in Wisconsin, buy a nice townhouse near my new office in Lexington, and head east.  To be sure, we had plenty of misery in the actual move — most especially, the horrendous movers we hired (and who arrived in MA more than a week after scheduled) were a final reminder that “Midwestern Nice” can often be a thin cover for rotten behavior. But no regrets.  Indeed, though alone in my car while driving to our new home (my wife was driving our other car), I pumped my fist when I first saw the “Welcome to Mass. Turnpike” sign.

Though my wife and I still view this as our last move, in a final bit of political irony, it may not be.  We were chatting with one of our equally progressive neighbors yesterday and we were all speculating where we might move if Trump is still President a year from today.

Profile photo of John Shutkin John Shutkin


Characterizations: moving, well written

Comments

  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    John, I somehow didn’t realize that you were such a recent arrival in the Boston area. Your Milwaukee house looks quite nice and you are correct about housing values in the Midwest. Dan will occasionally look are real estate in my home state of Michigan, just for a chuckle, and is amazed at what he could buy.

    But I also totally understand and sympathize with your political motivation. Dan also makes noise about wanting to go somewhere warm in the winter, but I have no desire to go to AZ, Palm Springs, or much of FL, fearing who we might find as neighbors. And I don’t even want to think about the next election. Might have to move to London where my son lives.

  2. Marian says:

    I, too, understand your motivations, John. Red states probably wouldn’t feel like home, and so we are putting up with the hellacious (sp?) traffic and expensive costs of the Bay Area. To make matters more complex, I am a committed Reconstructionist Jew, and because the movement is relatively small, I am limited in where I could go should I want to keep this affiliation. Like you, I’m contemplating where we could move ex-US and keeping extra cash around, although I’m not ready to sew it into my clothes yet.

    • John Shutkin says:

      I wonder how many of us there are, Marian, who live where we do primarily because of our beliefs. But, as I noted, if I were really thinking strategically, I would move back to WI and vote there (probably to a rural) — and bring a critical mass of my progressive friends.

  3. Suzy says:

    John, this is a terrific story, and the picture of your Milwaukee house is amazing. Now I’m regretting that I never visited you there. I love your description of life in Milwaukee, both the good and the bad, and also your motivations for moving back to New England. But I agree with what you said to Marian, your vote would do us a lot more good in WI than in MA.

    • John Shutkin says:

      Thanks, Suzy. Also wish you had visited us in Wisconsin — plenty of nice guest rooms. And I am tempted to try to vote again there. Despite all sorts of voter fraud billboards posted in low income areas to try to discourage turnout (primarily financed by a scumbag named Einhorn who lived right up the road from us), I am betting that they don’t do much to check the voter rolls in the affluent areas.

  4. Good story, John, and an interesting slant on the prompt. And it will be interesting (a euphemism here) to see whether the result of the 2020 election will have much to do with actual votes. I’m with those who believe the man won’t be leaving even if he loses, and if he wins, it won’t be without outside help. Sorry for the doom and gloom, but watching the “trial” is taking its toll.

  5. JeanZ says:

    It has been a burden to live in one of the terrible trio of states that swung the electoral college in 2016, but I am determined to keep voting here through this year. By a year from now I hope I won’t be scouting the globe for someplace worth moving to!

  6. Wonderful story John!
    We’ve been daydreaming about where to move if the unthinkable happens in November – I’ve been pushing for London where we lived for a year (but that’s another story).
    My husband who is more politically astute and practical says that the damage already done and the potential for so much more will be inescapable wherever we go.
    We should all be raging in the streets!

    • John Shutkin says:

      Thanks, Dana. Couldn’t agree more. I am thinking that all of us so-called grown ups will be taking to the streets in a way that will put the “pin stripe rebellion,” or whatever they called all those angry Republicans lawyers in Florida in 2000, to shame. Anyhow, Portugal and New Zealand are currently at the top of my list.

  7. Laurie Levy says:

    I love your brother’s description of living in Chicago, John. Indeed it is pretty boring to travel in any direction through the flat Midwest to get to somewhere more desirable. My dear friend’s son plays for the Milwaukee Symphony, so thanks for that shout out. Yes, Scott Walker was a piece of work and it is hard to live in a purple/red state. Living in a bubble of blue is much more satisfying, although I often lament that my presidential vote is meaningless. I threatenEd to move to Canada during the Nixon era, and if it weren’t for my kids and grandkids I would consider it again If Trump is reelected.

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