Friday December 9, 2022

An Independent Progressive Media Outlet

FacebookTwitterYoutube
Newsletter
News Feeds:

Progressive Thinking

Discussion with education and reason.

Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation

Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation

Mike McCabe is the founder and president of Blue Jean Nation and author of Blue Jeans in High Places: The Coming Makeover of American Politics.
Mike wants to hear from you.
Blue Jean Nation, P.O. Box 70788, Madison, WI 53707
Email: one4all@bluejeannation.com
Phone: 608-443-6086

Blue Jean Nation "A league of their own"

Posted by Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation
Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation
Mike McCabe is the founder and president of Blue Jean Nation and author of Blue
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, 09 August 2016
in Wisconsin

nonpartisan-leagueMany Americans distrust both of the country’s major political parties this year, especially young voters, but is there another option?


ALTOONA, WI - Here we sit, with most Americans deeply dissatisfied with and alienated from both of the country’s major political parties. This condition is likely to worsen before it gets better, as young Americans are especially disgusted with the two major parties.

For the time being, the clear majority of Americans are feeling doomed to either sit out elections and surrender their vote or engage in the distasteful exercise of Lesser Evil Voting. The only alternative to LEV they can see is voting for a minor party like the Greens or Libertarians, and visions of spoiler candidates and wasted votes dance in their heads at the thought.

There is another option, but it is one scarcely remembered because it hasn’t been tried in a very long time despite proving successful in the past.

In the early 1900s, farmers in North Dakota were at the mercy of powerful cartels and couldn’t get fair prices for their grain or credit at a reasonable interest rate. They were at the mercy of powerful cartels. In hopes of getting out from under the thumb of the out-of-state tycoons who were gouging them, they banded together to form a political organization called the Nonpartisan League (NPL).

Some say the NPL was the idea of a former Socialist Party organizer named Albert Bowen. Others figure it was the brainchild of flax farmer-turned-political agitator A.C. Townley. One way or the other, Townley and Bowen teamed up and Townley was soon driving across the state in a Model T Ford spreading the word about the NPL. Bowen and Townley enlisted tens of thousands of followers.

The NPL gained power by making use of a creation of the late-19th Century Progressives: the primary election. The primary system adopted in North Dakota and other states like Wisconsin not only gave voters the power to nominate major-party candidates, but most importantly allowed voters to participate in a party’s primary even if they did not belong to that party. By putting NPL-endorsed candidates up against those favored by the state’s political machine, the NPL took over North Dakota’s dominant Republican Party in 1916. A wheat farmer and NPL member named Lynn Frazier was elected governor with almost 80% of the vote and NPL-backed candidates won every other statewide office except one as well as a majority in the state assembly.

Upon gaining power, the NPL acted, giving farmers credit at significantly lower interest rates through the establishment of the state-run Bank of North Dakota opened in 1919. A state mill and grain elevator was completed in 1922, providing a fair market for grain and a source of feed and seed. Insurance was provided against fire, tornado and hail damage.

The NPL’s enduring legacy in North Dakota stands as an inspiring example of what is possible when people declare themselves free of unresponsive major parties while simultaneously using elements of the two-party framework to force change. The NPL stands as proof that the dismal choice between Lesser Evil Voting and wasted votes cast for spoiler candidates from minor parties is a false choice. There is another way.

Tags: Untagged
Rate this blog entry
0 votes

Blue Jean Nation "The deciding factor"

Posted by Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation
Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation
Mike McCabe is the founder and president of Blue Jean Nation and author of Blue
User is currently offline
on Friday, 29 July 2016
in Wisconsin

populismMany mainstream Democrats can’t seem to fathom how people could possibly fall for a billionaire reality TV star. But many feel they’ve been left behind and the outcome of this fall’s election may hinge on who best understands and responds to the causes of their anger.


ALTOONA, WI - What happens when history and the here and now collide?

We’re about to find out.

There were two competing storylines at this week’s Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Democrats made history by becoming the first major party to nominate a woman for president. Then there were the tens of thousands of emails made public by Wikileaks showing how the Democratic establishment played favorites in the race for the nomination and went to great lengths to sabotage Bernie Sanders’ campaign.

In the euphoria of finally achieving the long-awaited and historic selection of a woman to be the party’s candidate for the nation’s highest office, Democrats looked past the fact that their nominee not only is a female but also someone who personifies the political establishment at a time of intense anti-establishment feelings among voters and one who is running as a centrist at a time when there is no center in American politics.

Economist and former Clinton administration cabinet official Robert Reich is wondering out loud if Hillary gets it. He sees Clinton running fast to the middle, and astutely observes this is a place that doesn’t exist in our country anymore. He sees rampant populism, taking the form of both an authoritarian populism embodied by Republican nominee Donald Trump and a democratic populism that Bernie Sanders was tapping into. As Reich says, “If Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party don’t recognize this realignment, they’re in for a rude shock…. Because Donald Trump does recognize it.”

The Democratic establishment and a great many mainstream Democratic voters can’t seem to fathom how people could possibly fall for a billionaire reality TV star whose message begins with fear mongering, race baiting and anti-immigrant nativism and ends with the conceit that he alone can keep us safe, maintain order and make us prosper economically.

If they can’t wrap their heads around it, perhaps it’s because they are not sufficiently clued in to the anger that fuels today’s raging populism in both of its forms. When you or I lose our temper, I mean really blow our stacks, we aren’t rational in the heat of the moment. Emotion overwhelms reason. We later regret things we say or do out of anger. Why should we expect that this all-too-familiar and all-too-human behavior will never come into play when it’s time to vote in elections?

There is a significant segment of American society that feels forgotten and invisible. They see a system rigged against them. They can tell the politicians aren’t listening to them and are not working on their behalf. And they are steamed. When they are told the economy is getting better, they aren’t feeling it. When they are told the nation’s crime rate is actually dropping, all they know is they do not feel safer or more secure. When they are told America is already great, they wonder when some of that greatness is going to come their way.

Is it so hard to understand how tens of millions of Americans who feel they’ve been left behind could be drawn to someone who tells them they are right to feel the way they are feeling and then assures them he will make their lives better?

The outcome of this fall’s election will not likely turn on whether enough Americans are ready to break the ultimate glass ceiling. It far more likely hinges on who best understands and responds to the causes of rising American populism.

Tags: Untagged
Rate this blog entry
0 votes

Blue Jean Nation "Yearning to breathe free"

Posted by Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation
Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation
Mike McCabe is the founder and president of Blue Jean Nation and author of Blue
User is currently offline
on Thursday, 28 July 2016
in Wisconsin

lady-liberty-holding-noseThe major parties are offering voters the two most unpopular nominees in memory. In a little more than three months, voters who are sick and tired of being forced to choose the lesser of evils will be sicker still. Has the time come for the death of one or both of the old major parties and the birth of a new one?


ALTOONA, WI - With pessimism and paranoia and fear of outsiders washing over the countryside, and without a shared sense of national purpose or vision for the future, America will have a presidential election in a little over three months. Here’s a prediction: Nose-holding and lesser-evilism will reach epidemic proportions in 2016.

One party is scary and the other is scared. Scary is coming into sharper focus with each passing day. Scared takes the form of excessive caution and unwillingness to serve up anything more than a main course of status quo with a side dish of incremental change.

hillary-clintonThe parties have chosen who they want at the top of the ballot, and are offering voters the two most unpopular major party nominees in memory. That’s not to say Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are without admirers. Each has some passionate supporters. Clinton got roughly 15 million votes on her way to securing the Democratic nomination, and Trump got about 13 million votes to win the Republican nomination. But one of them is going to have to convince about 50 million more voters to trust them with the keys to the White House.

donald-trumpThe biggest single bloc of these voters who will decide the election fall into either the Never Trump or Never Hillary camps. If the Democrats had not chosen a candidate with so much baggage and who is so intensely despised by the other side, it would be next to impossible to imagine where Trump could find 50 million more votes. If the Republicans had not chosen someone whose appeal to anyone other than angry white men is so obviously limited, it would be hard to see how Hillary could possibly win over another 50 million voters.

Some will hold their noses and vote for Hillary, not because they like her or want her as president but rather because they desperately want to prevent a Trump presidency and see her as the lesser evil. Some will hold their noses and vote for Trump, not because they think he’s fit to be president but rather because they can’t stand Hillary and will do anything to stop her. For them, Trump is the lesser evil. More than usual will vote for one of the minor-party candidates. Tens of millions of others won’t vote at all. The winner will get elected with less than 50% of the vote. Even the party that wins the White House will paradoxically see its standing with the public harmed in the process.

In a little more than three months, it will be over. But voters who are sick and tired of being forced to hold their noses and choose the lesser of evils will be sicker and even more tired. Then it will be time for those yearning to breathe free to get imaginative. Then the time will come to contemplate the death of one or both of the old major parties and the birth of a new one.

Tags: Untagged
Rate this blog entry
0 votes

Blue Jean Nation "Shred the playbook"

Posted by Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation
Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation
Mike McCabe is the founder and president of Blue Jean Nation and author of Blue
User is currently offline
on Sunday, 24 July 2016
in Wisconsin

playbook-bjnWhy do politicians keep behaving the way they do when it’s clear it only makes many dislike them? They stick with what they know, the handbook provided by consultants, handlers and party bosses.


ALTOONA, WI - Most people hate politics and don’t hide how little they think of your average politician. Makes you wonder why politicians keep behaving the way they do when it’s clear it only makes people dislike them more. Maybe it’s because they don’t know any other way to behave. They’ve been operating out of a well-worn playbook for so long that they know all the plays by heart. So they stick with what they know.

Most of the plays in the playbook have at least three things in common. They are decades old or older. They are expensive. And they work like a charm, if the goals are to alienate the general public and cripple democracy.

The first page in both parties’ playbook is nonstop fundraising. It’s the favorite play because it makes so many other plays possible. It’s why politicians see you and me as nothing more than ATMs.

The playbook then says spend heavily on paid media. Television, radio, direct mail advertising, online ads. This is political gospel. The conventional wisdom is looking less and less wise, however, when you consider that public trust in advertising has been falling. This trend is sure to continue in the future because young Millennials are especially distrustful of advertising.

TV ads in particular are losing effectiveness, partly because viewers are increasingly wary of them and partly because it is getting easier by the day to avoid them, using digital recording and online video streaming to watch programs but skip the accompanying ads. Yet the vast majority of election campaign spending still is devoted to TV and other traditional forms of advertising. Makes the political professionals and media corporations billions. Turns voters’ stomachs. Starves democracy.

So what actually works? Word of mouth. The information we trust most comes from people we know, especially friends and family. Which makes it all the more curious that neighbor-to-neighbor outreach programs like street teams and other kinds of direct voter contact are so hard to find in the playbook.

With face-to-face campaigning downplayed and a premium placed on paid media, the playbook says attack your opponent at every turn. It is an article of faith among political professionals that negative advertising “works.” It certainly does, if the goal is to shrink and polarize the electorate. If the goal is to persuade or motivate voters, or make our society governable, then a growing body of evidence challenges the devotion to scorched earth campaigning.

Right next to attack advertising in the playbook is a related go-to play, namely spin. The play is based on the Costanza rule. It’s not a lie if you believe it. Meaning honesty is optional and truth depends on your perspective. If you spin people dizzy, they’ll no longer be able to see where the truth lies.

The playbook calls for continuous polling. This is one of the few places where the Democratic and Republican playbooks differ. Both parties swear by public opinion polling. But as a general rule, Democrats rely on polling to craft their message and guide their actions, while Republicans use polling to drive home their core message and demonstrate support for their actions. Voters are left wondering why politicians can’t seem to move a muscle without first consulting a pollster.

The playbook also says run to the center. It is another article of faith that most voters are in the middle, so that’s where the smart politicians should be. Most of today’s Republicans have torn this page out of their playbook. Many Democrats have remained partial to it. Bill Clinton “triangulated” his way to two terms in the White House, locating a middle point between right and left, although not without a cost. During Clinton’s tenure in office, Democrats surrendered principle and lost control of the national narrative before losing control of Congress and most statehouses as well. They have never recovered.

Another dog-eared page in the old playbook says pick your spots. Focus on a few key battlegrounds that have a history of swinging either way, concentrate resources on those contests, and write off all other territory. Both parties do it, leaving large numbers of voters in many parts of the country with no choice of which party will represent them in Congress or the state legislature. It’s been a disastrous practice for the Democrats, being in the minority in most places. Without candidates running locally in large swaths of the country, voters in those areas only hear what ruling Republicans tell them, which ends up handicapping Democrats trying to run statewide or nationally. More importantly, the play shortchanges voters.

Everyone but the consultants, handlers and party bosses would be better off — as would American democracy — if the X’s and O’s of conventional politics were to give way to some new plays.

Tags: Untagged
Rate this blog entry
0 votes

Blue Jean Nation "Ghosts in the graveyard"

Posted by Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation
Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation
Mike McCabe is the founder and president of Blue Jean Nation and author of Blue
User is currently offline
on Sunday, 10 July 2016
in Wisconsin

capitol-ghostsThere are not modern counterparts for the rural Democrats or middle-of-the-road Republicans of yesteryear. The disappearance of these species is a warning signal that we ignore at our peril.


ALTOONA, WI - American politics has changed immensely in the last generation or two. It used to be more of a hobby, something done on the side by people with lives outside of politics. Now it’s been taken over by professionals and most who are serious about it consider it a career.

There has always been lobbying in the halls of government, but the primary currency of lobbyists used to be information. That was before lobbying was married to election fundraising. Petitioning government and supplying campaign cash have now become inseparable.

When I got my first taste of the inner workings of Wisconsin’s State Capitol back in the early 1980s, being a lawmaker was a part-time job. Now it’s full-time. Not because there are so many more laws that need making, but rather largely owing to the fact that soliciting political donations has become a daily chore.

Abortion was a touchy subject back in the 80s and it remains a touchy subject today, but back then there were Democrats and Republicans on both sides of the issue. Republicans who favor legal abortion are no longer welcome in the party’s ranks, and Democrats who have qualms about abortion aren’t tolerated by their party either.

Two species of politicians have gone extinct in the last couple of generations. There used to be rural Democrats. Not anymore. The legislature used to be filled with small-town Democrats like Tom Harnisch of Neillsville, Harvey Stower of Amery, Dale Bolle of New Holstein, Gervase Hephner of Chilton, Bill Rogers of Kaukauna and Bob Dueholm of Luck, who followed in the footsteps of his father Harvey. In more recent years, there were still a few rural Democrats like Phil Garthwaite of Platteville, but they were few and far between. Now they’re long gone. The Democratic Party used to appeal to rural voters, but no longer does. It has become an urban party.

The Republican Party has become the political equivalent of a donut. No middle. There was an abundance of centrist Republicans in Wisconsin’s legislature in the early 1980s, many of them women like Barb Lorman, Sheehan Donoghue, Peggy Rosenzweig, Mary Panzer, Sue Engeleiter, Pat Goodrich, June Jaronitzky and Betty Jo Nelsen. Men too, like Dave Paulson, Bob Larson, Francis “Brownie” Byers, Brian Rude, Mike Ellis and Dale Schultz. Slowly but surely some like Panzer, Lorman and Rosenzweig were driven out by far more conservative Republicans who challenged them in party primary elections, while others like Schultz were replaced by right-wingers once they saw the handwriting on the wall and decided to leave the legislature. Republican moderates became a vanishing breed. The elements Republican leaders invited into their party to replace the moderates have given rise to extremism that invites comparisons to fascism.

The fact that there are not modern counterparts for the rural Democrats or middle-of-the-road Republicans of yesteryear is a symptom of illness in our political system. The disappearance of these species is a warning signal that we ignore at our peril.

Tags: Untagged
Rate this blog entry
0 votes
Tweet With Us:

Share

Who's Online

We have 79 guests online

Follow on Twitter

Copyright © 2022. Green Bay Progressive. Designed by Shape5.com