from What's the Matter with Kansas?
Certain parts of the Midwest were once so reliably leftist that the historian Walter Prescott Webb, in his classic 1931 history of the region, pointed to its persistent radicalism as one of the "Mysteries of the Great Plains." Today the mystery is only heightened; it seems inconceivable that the Midwest was ever thought of as a "radical" place... Readers in the thirties, on the other hand, would have known instantly what Webb was talking about, since so many of the great political upheavals of their part of the twentieth century were launched from the territory west of the Ohio river. The region as they knew it was what gave the country socialists like Eugene Debs, fiery progressives like Robert La Follette, and practical unionists like Walter Reuther; it spawned the anarchist IWW and the coldly calculating UAW; and it was periodically convulsed in gargantuan and often bloody industrial disputes. They might have even known that there were once Socialist newspapers in Kansas and Socialist voters in Oklahoma and Socialist mayors in Milwaukee, and that there were radical farmers across the region forever enlisting in militant agrarian organization with names like the Farmer's Alliance, or the Farmer-Labor Party... And they would surely have been aware that Social Security, the basic element of the liberal welfare state, was largely a product of the midwestern mind.