Tuesday January 31, 2023

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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

"From Me to We"

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, 19 April 2016
in Wisconsin

jfk_looking_upJFK asked us to serve our country, but we Americans have been mostly asking what our country can do for us since at least the 1980s. Republican politics especially has been of the “me first” variety. Is it time to ask what we can do for our country again?


ALTOONA, WI - For the last several decades, American politics has been “me politics.” Reflecting on the famous line in John F. Kennedy’s 1961 inaugural address, it’s hard not to notice that we Americans have been mostly asking what our country can do for us since at least the 1980s.

In their own ways, both major parties mirror the self-centeredness of the modern American psyche.

Republican politics has been of the “me first” variety, focusing on how best to enable the most ambitious and enterprising and ruthless and privileged among us to elbow their way to the front of the line. The result has been heretofore unimagined levels of prosperity for some, but also grotesque levels of income and wealth inequality.

Democratic politics has been of the “me too” kind, concentrating on getting previously excluded or disadvantaged segments of the population more rights and opportunities. As a result, historic advances have been made in such areas as civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights and disability rights. The gains have not come without a cost to Democrats as they have lost much of their appeal to blue collar Americans, especially working class white men.

Two generations worth of emphasis on individual advancement and self fulfillment have been both good and bad. Americans have grown more equal in some ways, more unequal in others. Some have prospered, others have been left behind. Many have finally secured a seat at the table, which is good. America is more divided and politically polarized than it has been in a very long time, which is not.

What “me politics” has done for us and to us is striking and significant, but equally striking is what is missing and can only be provided by a resurgence of “we politics.”

The list of missing things is long, but here are three in need of resuscitation for starters:

  • Public service. Doing for others at personal sacrifice has fallen out of fashion. Even serving in elective office now smacks of self dealing more than at perhaps any other time in our nation’s history, evidenced by the revolving door between Congress and the lucrative lobbying trade. The same game is on prominent display in statehouses across the country. True public service is not a training program to prepare for plum jobs paying six- and seven-figure salaries.
  • Mutual support. Being there for each other takes many forms. Neighbors helping neighbors. Communities pulling together. Service to country. This ethic is at the heart of “we politics.”
  • Common good. Me politics is about private interests. What is yours and what is mine. We politics is about the public interest and what is ours. It cultivates an understanding that we’re all in this together and we need each other. That understanding prompts us to act in ways that enrich the commonwealth. Such action has become too rare.

For a long time now, American politics has been me politics. Change is in the air. You can feel it. But we won’t move from me to we automatically. It has to be done consciously and will take concerted effort. It’s time to ask what we can do for our country again.

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This Presidential Race Is Neither The End Nor The Beginning

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 Wednesday, 30 March 2016
in Wisconsin

donald-trump-dumbassALTOONA, WI - Never seen anything quite like this before. The presidential race, that is.

It’s been so dark, so ugly, so ridiculously comical at times, it must signal something. The fall of an empire. The birth of a new American fascism. A major party coming apart at the seams. Something.

Or not.

This much is clear, national politics right now is reflecting nationwide angst. The causes of that anxiety did not suddenly appear this year, they have been mounting for several decades. America is being socially transformed. Civil rights. Women’s rights. Gay rights. For many, this all feels right, it was about time. Some find the social upheaval discomforting, but they’re adjusting. For others, such change is intolerable, and they are pushing back. Hard. The ferocity of the political backlash is itself a sure indication of how transformative recent social movements have been and continue to be.

At the same time our country is experiencing dramatic social change, we are in transition economically. Economic dislocations are always painful and traumatic. And the fear and uncertainty and sense of loss that accompany them always find a political outlet. When large numbers of people left the land and went to factories and offices more than a century ago, there was political turbulence. With a global economy emerging and with factory jobs here at home disappearing and with great recessions and jobless recoveries and rapidly expanding income and wealth inequality, there is political turbulence.

All of this has many if not most Americans convinced that the country’s best days are in the rear view mirror. They are wrong. A three-year journey across America didn’t reveal a dying nation to journalist James Fallows. Instead, in place after place — from Sioux Falls, South Dakota and Bend, Oregon to Columbus, Mississippi and Holland, Michigan and from San Bernardino, California and Duluth, Minnesota to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and Greenville, South Carolina — Fallows repeatedly found evidence of reinvention and renewal and revival.

America is being remade, both socially and economically. This makeover didn’t start this year, and it won’t be completed this year. Fallows observed that in many ways Americans are adapting better and faster to the shifting ground beneath our feet than people in much of the rest of the world, but our national politics is lagging behind and dragging us down. That means the U.S. has a harder time taking the steps that would make adjusting to the challenges of our time less painful and more productive. For example, workers now have to change jobs much more frequently than in the past. Guaranteeing access to medical care by making health insurance truly portable so it follows workers regardless of where they are employed makes all kinds of sense in this new economy, but the political system has so far proven incapable of meeting the need.

This is why there is so much anti-establishment fervor. This is why the race for the White House is so ghastly. America is being remade, both socially and economically. It needs to be remade politically too.

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Filling the Great Void

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 Wednesday, 16 March 2016
in Wisconsin

donald-trumpToday’s Republican Party has become the party of backlash. The Democratic Party is now widely seen as the party of entitlement and protected classes. In the middle 'Made-for-TV' characters like Donald Trump gladly try to fill the empty space.


ALTOONA, WI - Fear. Anger. Envy. Resentment. Division. Hate. Violence. Madness. Folly. Destruction. Decline.

These are what America’s Great Void naturally and inevitably will produce.

The current condition of the two major political parties has created a vacuum. Made-for-TV characters like Donald Trump gladly try to fill the empty space.

Republicans are increasingly spooked by the prospect of having Trump as their standard bearer. Prominent Democrats are pointing out that the Republicans did this to themselves. This is, of course, true. But it’s not the whole truth.

Democrats share blame for fueling Trump’s rise because Democrats bear great responsibility for the formation of the Great Void.

The Democratic Party is now widely seen as the party of entitlement and protected classes. It is seen as the party that taxes those who work and gives to those who don’t, the party that will give you the shirt off someone else’s back. Democratic policies catering to narrow constituencies since at least the 1960s have continually reinforced this image.

Over the years Democrats earned a reputation as water carriers for organized labor. This reputation served Democrats well when you could find a union member in nearly every family in the country. But the vast majority of working people in the U.S. don’t belong to unions anymore. Unions now represent only about one in 10 American workers. In the private sector it’s more like one in 15. The masses of nonunion blue-collar laborers see the Democrats fighting for those few, but not for them.

Today’s Republican Party has become the party of backlash. The GOP has dedicated itself to demolishing the welfare state, cutting down the social safety net, pitting one group of working people against another, and generally retracing every liberal step that’s been taken and reversing every liberal law that’s been made. Unfortunately for the Republicans, Donald Trump perfectly embodies the backlash. And he is a personality so large he can seemingly fill the Great Void all by himself.

The problem for Republicans is their identity at the moment is entirely wrapped up in what they want to tear down. The only thing they can think to build is walls. Making America a fortress has undeniable appeal to the darkest side of our nature, but closing ourselves off from others won’t make our country great again. Isolationism in any of its many forms has never made America great. Turns out that while Trump’s personality is luminous and gigantic, his vision is dark and puny. Even with an ego that large stepping into the vacuum, the Great Void remains.

Filling it requires us to stop fixating on what we are entitled to and focusing instead on how to best serve others. Thinking service instead of entitlement, thinking we first instead of me first, will lead to rethinking policies geared to helping a tenth of Americans and coming up with new ones aiming to help us all. What better way to start making it clear that we’re all in this together than to thoroughly overhaul a tax system that political privilege built and which breeds further economic inequality.

Filling the Great Void comes down to making three words the guiding light for every step we take and every law we make. One for all.

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"Bumper stickers and silos"

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, 01 March 2016
in Wisconsin

dems-v-repubFor different reasons and in different ways, both the Democrats and Republicans are missing something. Both are convinced their own world view is superior, both are slaves to special interests, and both seem oblivious to the fact that most people embrace elements of both world views.


ALTOONA, WI - I’m not one of those who thinks you can’t tell apart the two major political parties in America. I don’t buy for a second that they are two wings of the same bird.

Today’s Republicans and Democrats have very real and very substantial differences. But both parties have been corrupted and each is failing the country in its own way.

On the surface, Republicans and Democrats talk and act differently. Their words and actions differ so much because below ground their core values conflict and they don’t see eye to eye on how the world works.

Republicans concentrate on the individual. They emphasize self-reliance. Successful people are self-made. Achievement comes from discipline and individual initiative. Failure is the fault of individual weakness or lack of effort, not a scarcity of opportunity or the absence of social justice.

Democrats focus on the community. They stress how interdependent we are. Those who succeed stand on the shoulders of countless others. Advancement depends on many helping hands. Creating opportunity for one — and helping up those who fall — is the responsibility of all.

For at least the last 30 or 40 years, just about every step Republicans take and every move they make has been justified on the grounds of four core principles that fit comfortably on a bumper sticker. Less governmentLower taxesIndividual liberty.Safety and security through strength.

Of course, today’s Republicans have an infidelity problem. There’s the dirty little secret that the biggest expansion of the federal government in the last half-century was largely the GOP’s doing. And it’s the richest who enjoy the lowest tax rates. Republicans used to be for local control but aren’t anymore. They no longer act on the belief that the best government is the one closest to the people.

Your average Democrat, on the other hand, does not summon an overarching principle or core value when explaining a stance or justifying an action. Democrats prefer facts, and have large collections of them. Problem is, when facts and values collide, most people will discard the facts and hold on tight to their values.

The Democratic Party is an amalgamation of a dizzying array of issues and causes and constituencies, the sum total of which does not add up to a governing majority in most parts of the country. Think of the group behavior of Democrats and you are reminded more of cats or rabbits than bees or geese. There’s even a metaphor commonly used to describe this trait that runs particularly strong in Democrats. They are said to each be in their own issue silo.

Having grown up on a farm, I can say from personal observation that silos are no fit place to live. They are cramped and cold and dirty. They work well for storing feed for cattle, not so well for storing the hopes and dreams of Democrats.

For different reasons and in different ways, both the Democrats and Republicans are missing something. Both are convinced their own world view is superior, and both seem oblivious to the fact that most people embrace elements of both world views. Most people put great value on discipline and personal responsibility, but also see the importance of lending a helping hand and making sure that everyone gets a fair shake. Few love paying taxes, but most see the sense of pooling our money to pay to do those things that need to be done together.

The future belongs to the party that figures out that, philosophically speaking, we’re mutts not purebreds. And reconciles itself to the unpleasant fact that we see how both parties are slaves to special interests. They favor different constituencies, but they both cater religiously to those constituencies. The future belongs to the party willing to truly dedicate itself to making the government and the economy work for all of us, not just a few of us.

Now there is a core principle — making the government and economy work for all of us, not just a few of us — that fits comfortably on a bumper sticker. Maybe it can be plastered on all the silos.

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Overcoming the Biggest Obstacle

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, 23 February 2016
in Wisconsin

sand-mining-wiALTOONA, WI - Gandhi said: “Our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world as in being able to remake ourselves.”

For years I’ve been blessed to be asked to travel the state to speak to every imaginable kind of group. Everywhere I’ve gone, I’ve had the chance to do way more listening than speaking. I was inspired to write a book and Blue Jean Nation was formed because of what I kept hearing.

Everywhere I’ve gone I hear something else too. Sometimes it sounds defeatist. Other times powerless. Every once in a while hopeless. Or even helpless.

I get where these feelings come from. So many barriers to true democracy and real representation have been erected. Voter suppression. Gerrymandering of political boudaries. Consolidation of control over news media in fewer and fewer hands. Ever-greater sums of money in politics. Secrecy and hostility to open government laws and traditions. Courts packed with partisans.

These obstacles are formidable. I’ll grant you, the odds are not in our favor.

But the odds have never favored common folk. The odds didn’t favor the abolitionists or suffragists or the civil rights movement either. Or the progressives and populists who were up against the robber barons in the Gilded Age, or exploited West Virginia coal miners, or children working in textile mills, or the original Republicans who gathered in the little white schoolhouse in Ripon Wisconsin, or the women’s rights movement or gay rights movement, or Gandhi in his time or Malala Yousafzai in ours.

Remember, the abolitionists ended slavery. The progressives beat the robber barons. The suffragists got women the vote. The coal miners got unions. The textile mills eventually were forced to respect child labor laws. The original Republicans drove a major party to extinction. Civil rights activists ended Jim Crow. Gandhi led the Indian people to independence. Malala is making it possible for girls to go to school all around the world.

Remember, the obstacles we face today are not new. They are as old as the hills. Voter suppression and gerrymandering were not invented in 2011. These practices are as old as the republic.

The effects of gerrymandering won’t be overcome in Wisconsin by enacting Iowa’s redistricting system here. Those in office won’t pass such a law. It’ll be overcome by political realignment, by changing enough hearts and minds of enough voters to thwart the willful rigging of elections.

We won’t beat money by amending the constitution, we’ll amend the constitution by beating money . . . by breaking its grip on our minds.

All the political professionals and consultants and others with the “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” mentality call this unilateral disarmament.

I’m not saying you should unilaterally disarm. I’m saying we should fight with different and more powerful weapons.

We won’t beat money by doing what money does. We’ll beat it by doing what money can’t do.

As the song says, “money talks, but it don’t sing and dance, and it don’t walk.”

Money don’t love either. It don’t marry. It can’t nurse a sick child . . . or comfort a dying loved one.

We don’t need what all that money buys. We don’t need pollsters to tell us what to think. We can think for ourselves. We don’t need speechwriters and teleprompters to put words in our mouths. We can speak for ourselves. We don’t need ad agencies to sell us to our neighbors the way they sell laundry detergent and hair care products and beer and potato chips. We can build relationships.

This is why I say that if Blue Jean Nation could only do one thing, my choice would be to contribute in every way we can to loosening and eventually breaking the grip of the political consulting industry that lords over our democracy and our society.

When democracy in America is rescued, it won’t be political consultants and professional politicians who do the rescuing. It’ll be saved by people who don’t practice politics for a living, people with a life outside of politics, people with the odds stacked against them.

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