Barone in the WSJ:
One thing that those romantic about Midwestern farms and factories tend to forget is that people hated working in those unionized factories, just as the young Harry Truman hated working on his father's farm. That's why the UAW negotiated "30 and out"—retirement after 30 years—with GM in 1970. With workers retiring well before Medicare age, the next union demand was the billions in retiree health-care benefits that more than anything else bankrupted the Big Three.
Michigan is an extreme example of what has afflicted the industrial Midwest. Big corporations were replaced by big government as the leading employer, and public-employee unions replaced industrial unions as the chief financiers of the Democratic Party. In effect, public-employee unions have been a mechanism by which taxpayer money, in the form of union dues, permanently finances a lobby with a vested interest in higher spending and less accountability. It's a lobby that's benefited from the Democratic Party loyalties of black voters, of Latinos in Chicago (the only large Hispanic presence in the Midwest) and of culturally liberal suburbanites.
This Midwestern model is unraveling before our eyes. The Midwest has not been hit as hard by foreclosures or unemployment as some other places, with Michigan an exception on both counts, but you have to look hard for green shoots of growth. They may be most evident in North Dakota, where low costs and light regulation have produced booms in energy and high tech.
But amid the recession, Midwestern Obama Democrats and their public-union allies lost their hold on voters in almost every Midwestern state, losing five governorships last year, including Iowa, and winning the Illinois and Minnesota governorships by less than 1% of the vote. A region that voted 54%-45% for Barack Obama in 2008 voted 53%-43% Republican for House candidates in 2010.