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

Seinfeld vs. Duck Dynasty

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 Monday, 08 February 2016
in Wisconsin

duck-dynastyALTOONA, WI - It’s been said art imitates life. But when it comes to politics these days, it’s the other way around.

For the past several decades, the Democratic Party has been the political embodiment of Seinfeld. Urbane, smart-alecky, talking a lot but seemingly never working – just like Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer. Seinfeld was a show about nothing. For many a year now the Democrats have stood for next to nothing.

Today’s Republican Party is Duck Dynasty. Republicans are working for the Carringtons but are politically shrewd enough to know that looking and acting upper crust won’t sell to the masses. So the GOP markets itself as the Robertsons.

Long beards, camo from head to foot, stars-and-stripes bandanas, fundamentalist religion, redneck attitudes and a business fabricating duck calls and decoys that grew from a mom-and-pop operation to a multi-million dollar sporting empire have the Robertsons living large. Got ’em their own TV show too. And, like the Republican Party, the Robertsons are increasingly split politically.

Seinfeld had a big audience. Duck Dynasty has one now. Again, sort of the like the Democrats and Republicans.

Both Seinfeld and Duck Dynasty are entertaining in their own right. Both are good for a laugh. Both have memorable if not lovable characters. Both are seriously lacking in substance. Neither has much redeeming social value. More ways the major parties currently reflect the boob tube.

If the promise of the American Revolution is to be carried forward, if our republic is to endure much longer, at some point we are going to have to do a whole lot better than sitting around in a coffee shop or duck blind, if you catch my drift.

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Is what’s good for your 401K good for democracy?

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 Monday, 01 February 2016
in Wisconsin

money-hording

Are the strategies we’ve employed for building retirement nest eggs transferable to self-government? Is a democratic republic compatible with the political industrial complex? Is it possible for the ordinary citizen to reclaim a meaningful and influential role in the political system?


ALTOONA, WI - Mutual funds exist for good reasons. When people are saving up for retirement, if they are lucky and if they are smart they have something more than what they’ve paid in to Social Security. Maybe they have a 401(k). Or maybe a 403(b). Or an IRA of some kind. Or a SEP. Whatever they have, they typically don’t have enough time on their hands to research where best to invest the funds or to execute the transactions. Nor do most of us feel qualified to manage these accounts.

So we put our money in a mutual fund, in the hands of professional money managers. This way, you can invest your money without the time or the experience needed to invest wisely. Theoretically at least, you should get a better return by giving your money to a professional than you would if you chose investments yourself. There is still risk. There’s always risk. But it beats stuffing your life’s savings in a mattress.

For roughly the same reasons, politics has largely been handed over to professionals. As populations continue to grow and life gets more complicated and communications technologies become more advanced and demanding, it is more and more challenging for someone with a life outside of politics to be an active and involved citizen. Increasingly, people who don’t practice politics for a living feel they have neither the time nor the qualifications to be actively engaged. Consequently, democracy has been outsourced to professional managers. A vast political consulting industry has  enveloped our political system, and it has become a multi-billion dollar racket.

There are survey research professionals to measure public opinion. There are messaging professionals to write scripts and put words in the mouths of candidates for office and elected officials. There are marketing professionals who sell policies and politicians the way beer and potato chips are sold. There are electioneering professionals who turn voter identification, persuasion and turnout into an intricate, algorithmic science. There are policy professionals who sit in offices on one coast and write laws for states and local communities on the other side of the country and all points in between. And, of course, there are the professional money managers who make sure all the consulting fees get paid and the obscene profits get turned.

All of this begs a number of questions:

Are the strategies we’ve employed for building retirement nest eggs transferable to self-government?

Is a democratic republic compatible with the political industrial complex?

Is it possible for the ordinary citizen – the amateur – to reclaim a meaningful and influential role in a political system presently overrun by professionals?

My answers:

No.

Absolutely not.

It has to be. The alternative is too dismal a fate.

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Where’s Bluto Blutarsky when he’s needed most?

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 Saturday, 23 January 2016
in Wisconsin

john-belushi-as-blutoALTOONA, WI - I hear it or see it every day. Somebody says it at a meeting. Or posts it as a comment on an Internet message board or social media site. It’s imbedded in a question asked at some public forum. It is on a sign at a demonstration.

Democracy in America has been killed. It’s dead. It’s over.

I disagree for a whole bunch of reasons, not the least of which is that democracy is more verb than noun and verbs can’t be killed. Democracy lives as long as there are at least some among us who are doing it.

There’s no overlooking the fact that democracy is gravely ill in many respects, however. Democracy is dependent on many things, but none more important than the consent of the governed. What passes for consent of the governed nowadays is frightening when you consider what most Americans think of those doing the governing and further consider how elected officials demonstrate that they don’t care what the general public thinks.

The two major parties have very different ways of dealing with these troubling conditions. The Democrats run scared. There is a long list of things they believe but won’t say and things they would like to do but don’t. The Republicans run roughshod. Their answer for pretty much everything is more tax cuts primarily benefiting the rich and more government deregulation. Regardless of what the public wants, that’s what Republicans do. They are one-trick ponies, even though the trick has only made the rich vastly richer, the poor poorer, and the middle class disappear. For decades now it hasn’t produced the widespread prosperity they promise, yet they don’t try anything different. They double down on their one trick.

In Wisconsin, a governor who swears up and down he is not a career politician but who has spent his adult life holding one public office or another while running for a higher one is unfazed by the fact that the state leads the nation in shrinkage of the middle class and undaunted by news that people are fleeing Wisconsin in large numbers. He insists his policies are working and the state is mounting a “comeback” under his regime, despite new waves of layoffs coming on the heels of dismal reports of heavy job losses year after year after year during his time in office.

Democrats are reluctant to offer a bold alternative and steer a different course. They have little confidence in the appeal of their ideas. Republicans are showing telltale signs that they know the public is growing less and less likely to keep buying what they are selling. Why else would they feel the need to go to such extreme lengths to suppress votingstack the courts and rig elections by gerrymandering political boundaries?

It’s easy to look at these assaults on democracy and their devastating effects and conclude that it’s over. But it’s useful to remember that voter suppression and court stacking and partisan gerrymandering were not invented in the last few years. These tactics are as old as the republic. They’ve been put to use by crooked politicians for ages, and they’ve been overcome many times by past generations of citizens.

As Bluto Blutarsky’s Germans bombed Pearl Harbor rant comically reminds us, nothing is over until we decide it is.

Every day I hear or see “RIP democracy.” Maybe the best response is simply “GBPH.”

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Walker, Republican Leadership Spoiling Wisconsin

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, 13 January 2016
in Wisconsin

walker-clapsALTOONA, WI - I am not a government worker. I do not qualify for civil service protection. I have never been represented by a union in the workplace. But the assault on Wisconsin’s civil service system deeply concerns me, saddens me, frightens me and angers me all at the same time. This affects me because it’s not just a government employment issue, and it’s not just a union issue. This is about Wisconsin’s soul.

Where our state’s current rulers are taking us is a place Wisconsin has been before. Wisconsin once had a spoils system. A little over a century ago, the people of our state were well acquainted with political patronage and cronyism.

stealing a stateCitizens and their elected representatives responded to those corrupt conditions with sweeping reforms, including the establishment of the civil service system, done under the slogan “The Best Shall Serve the State.” Not the most loyal. Not the most well-connected. Not the most faithful supporters. The best. The most qualified.

That system has done Wisconsin good for 110 years. It has been updated and modernized many times since then. But it has remained an objective, merit-based system for hiring and firing. It has remained true to the original intent that the best shall serve the state.

What is being done now is not an update. It is not modernization. It is the replacement of an objective, merit-based civil service system with a subjective system, one that can easily morph into a spoils system. Those pushing this legislation keep saying decisions will continue to be based on merit. But the point is, those in charge of government agencies will no longer have to base their hiring and firing decisions on objective standards of merit. They will be able to consider political loyalties, they will be able to take connections into account, they will be able to look at campaign donations and time spent working for the party in power.

If they are able to, you can bet they will.

Finally, it is important to point out that this assault on Wisconsin’s civil service system is not happening in isolation. The dark impulses that inspire the dismantling of 110-year-old safeguards against government corruption are the same ones behind the continuing attacks on our state’s laws requiring the public’s business be done out in the open and in plain sight. Civil service protections are targeted for the same reason Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board was abolished. Our state’s current rulers need to do away with obstacles to cronyism and patronage for the same reason they can’t stand independent, nonpartisan oversight of their activities. And for the same reason, they felt the need to shield suspected political crimes from John Doe investigations.

Civil service, open records, the GAB and John Doe criminal probes all threaten their grip on power, they all hinder the current rulers’ ability to serve a privileged few at everyone else’s expense. That is what this latest legislation targeting civil service is all about . . . making sure their power and privilege cannot be questioned and cannot be challenged.

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Out of progressivism’s ashes

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, 07 January 2016
in Wisconsin

progressive_partyALTOONA, WI - We live in crazy and unpredictable times politically. The Republican Party descends into madness in so many respects and grows more self-destructive by the day, yet for now remains the majority party in America both nationally and at the state level. That says a lot about the Democratic Party’s weakness and lack of appeal.

In most statehouses across the country and most of the time in Congress, liberal or progressive ideas do not have the upper hand in policy debates and haven’t for quite some time. Progressive advocacy groups are regularly losing in the political arena, watching helplessly as right-wing forces successfully chip away at old progressive policies and programs or dismantle them altogether.

In searching for explanations, many rightly point to the corrupting influence of money in politics. Indeed, the exponential growth in money’s role in election campaigns and lobbying – and, just as importantly, the fact that so much of that money is supplied by so few – does cripple efforts to advance policies that promote the common good or serve the broad public interest.  A privileged few pay for politics, and a privileged few benefit from politics.

But here is modern-day progressivism’s great dilemma….

Ideas favoring the commoners among us instead of the royals don’t stand much of a chance of becoming the law of the land as long as the vast wealth of a few holds policymakers in such an iron grip. For there to be a chance of progressive values being reflected in government actions, something clearly needs to be done about money in politics. But campaign finance reformers aren’t faring any better than any other progressive policy advocates. They too are watching helplessly as old safeguards against government corruption are stripped away and the floodgates are opened ever wider, allowing more and more money to flood into elections and lobbying. They are powerless to stop political inequality from breeding still more political inequality. Growing political inequality then produces greater economic and social inequality. And the more government is seen working for just a few at everyone else’s expense, the more the masses despise government. The more government is despised, the easier it is for a wealthy and well-connected few to control.

This vicious cycle is the progressive quandary.

The recipe for breaking the cycle is undoubtedly a complicated mixture, but three ingredients are required for sure.

Repair the broken bonds between rural and urban people and their communities. When elected officials put policies and programs in place in the past that promoted greater equality and broadly shared prosperity, they did so with the support of both city and country folks. Rediscovering common ground that now-estranged rural and urban populations once stood on together starts with examining the reasons rural-urban political unions have fractured and rural and suburban interests have coalesced around a right-wing agenda. Then new counteractive measures for the 21st Century that both rural and urban voters can get behind have to be cooked up.

Weaken and eventually break the grip of the political industrial complex that strangles our democracy. Our political system has been commandeered by professionals. Now more than ever, the involvement of people with a life outside politics is needed. It’s quite possibly never been harder in our nation’s history for people who don’t practice politics for a living to gain a foothold in the public arena. But given how Americans are feeling about politics and politicians and government these days, there probably hasn’t ever been a time when such a rich reward awaits those willing to swim against the powerful currents of political professionalization.

And to do that….

Put non-monetary political currencies that have been largely forgotten back into circulation. One such currency is organized people. Another is provocative ideas. Those who call themselves progressives have been playing defense for more than a generation. They have become America’s true conservatives. They need to start playing offense. They need to start thinking big again.

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