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The Great Wisconsin Solidarity Experiment

It’s 11 p.m. when Larson at last agrees to meet me in the lobby of the Hampton Inn, next door to the Gurnee Grand. He’s just come out of a marathon closed-door meeting with his fellow exiled senators. Tall, gap-toothed, and handsome, but with a squished, broad nose, Larson appears in a fitted black overcoat, a sedate suit with a Wisconsin flag lapel pin, and an athletic backpack. He looks shockingly young, younger than his thirty years, and seems to be relieved that I am even a few years younger myself. We jump in my Chevy and head for the town’s late-night diner: Denny’s. By the time we settle into a booth, Larson has dropped the routine political affectations—the measured language, the approved talking points, the inauthentic humor. We’re cracking up comparing Republicans to evildoers on South Park and shit-talking mutual acquaintances in Milwaukee. And then, just as Larson is about to take a bite of his veggie burger, I ask the freshman senator if he is scared. “What would I be scared about?” he replies.