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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
Phone: 608-443-6086

Free College is Both Possible and Necessary

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, 20 April 2015
in Wisconsin

uwgb-studentOne very important thing missing from the state budget debate, says Mike McCabe, founder of Blue Jean Nation.

ALTOONA, WI - When it comes to the future of higher education in Wisconsin, state lawmakers are stuck in a rut, thinking only about whether spending in this area should be cut a little or a lot and whether student tuition should be kept where it is (which is astronomically high) or be allowed to continue to spiral upward.

We should be talking about free college instead. The viability of the American Dream in the 21st Century depends on it.

Generations ago, Wisconsin was among the trailblazing states that built systems of universal, free public education all the way through high school. Few of the people who were paying for this creation had high school diplomas. Many were illiterate. Most were farmers, but they could see industrialization coming. They knew their children and grandchildren might not work the land as they did. They knew that chances were their kids and grandkids would be working in factories or offices. They knew future generations would need more education and different skills than they had in order to have a shot at the American Dream.

Today, we have to ask ourselves a question our lawmakers are not asking as they debate the future of education. Does a high school diploma alone provide a sure pathway to the American Dream? The answer is obvious. The answer is no. Education and training beyond high school has become a necessity.

So our challenge is simple. We have to do for future generations what past generations did for us. They were substantially poorer than we are, but they built – and paid for – a way for the American Dream to be attainable for us. We need to do the same for our kids and grandkids.

The Wisconsin HOPE Lab already has developed a detailed plan for a free college option. The state of Oregon is actively pursuing it.

Creating a pathway to the American Dream is one of Blue Jean Nation’sfive aims. Turning this aspiration into reality requires us to commit to extending the promise of free public education for everyone all the way through college.

How to do it, how soon it can be done, and how this critical investment will be made is what our elected representatives should be debating.

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Remaking Politics By The Seat Of Our Pants

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, 14 April 2015
in Wisconsin

MADISON - bjn-left-rightAmerican democracy is caught on the horns of a dilemma. Most Americans are feeling fed up with the Republicans and let down by the Democrats – with good reason – as both major parties are failing the country. Yet a third party isn’t the answer. Like it or not, America has a two-party system.

Ours was not set up as a parliamentary democracy, where competing factions can join forces and form coalition governments. We don’t have fusion voting, or instant runoff voting, or proportional representation, or any of the mechanisms that would allow third parties or independent candidates to successfully compete in our elections and hold power in our government.

This is why third-party or independent bids for office – whether it’s Ross Perot one time or Ralph Nader another – regularly lead to dead ends.

So how do we get regular people back in the driver’s seat of our government when both major parties are catering to a privileged few at the expense of everyone else, but our system is structured to enforce a two-party arrangement?

We have to start with two articles of faith. First, it hasn’t always been like it is now, and doesn’t have to be like this. Second, there is a way out of the trap we’re in.

We need to make the major parties – or at least one of them for starters – better. They won’t change unless forced. It’s like the basic law of physics . . . an object at rest will remain at rest, unless some force makes it move. A corrupt political establishment will stay corrupt and failing parties will keep failing us, unless we make them change their ways.

When past generations freed themselves from similar traps, they started by shedding old labels and fashioning themselves a new identity. They attached that newly minted brand to breathtakingly ambitious agendas. They were not bashful in the least about stating their aspirations for the future.  And then they effectively forced those aspirations down the throats of the parties. When the smoke cleared, there were not three parties or four or five. There were two. But the parties were transformed. They were reconnected to the masses.

Current conditions dictate that this must be done again.

Given how messed up politics is at the moment, we cannot in good conscience call ourselves Republicans or Democrats, liberals or conservatives. One party is scary and the other is scared. Labels like liberal and conservative no longer mean what the dictionary says they mean. Now they are little more than the political equivalent of ethnic slurs. We deserve better and need something new.

We are commoners and we are politically homeless. The royals of our political system made us so.

We aim to make a household for the politically homeless and in so doing transform parties that are failing us. And we are pulling together to make it happen. With an organizing committee of citizens from all of Wisconsin’s eight congressional districts and 19 different counties, we just formed Blue Jean Nation.

Blue Jean Nation is not a party. It is a community, and a movement in the making. We are neither elephant nor ass, but recognize that our country has a two-party system and plan to work within that system to get the parties truly working for all of us and not just a favored few who are well connected politically.

Our end goal is to make common sense in government and concern for the common good far less uncommon. To reach that goal, we will work every day against political privilege.

We will do it from the ground up, with plain people leading the way, by the seat of our pants. There’s no waiting for political messiahs to come along.

When faced with economic and political threats eerily similar to today’s conditions, past generations straightened things out on more than one occasion. I refuse to believe there is something so different about us or wrong with us that renders us less capable of making change than those who came before us. In so many ways, we have more going for us now than they did then.

Political reboots have happened before. Another one is desperately needed.

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Our Political Future: Behind Door Number Four

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, 22 September 2014
in Wisconsin

republicanThe biggest swath of the electorate – by far – is not the Republican loyalists or the Democratic faithful. Nor is it centrist or moderate. It is politically homeless. The two parties must either adapt or perish.

MADISON - Americans clearly are sour on politics. According the latest Gallup public opinion polling, the number one problem in the U.S. is “dissatisfaction with government, Congress and politicians” along with “poor leadership, corruption and abuse of power.”

New Associated Press polling shows slightly more than a quarter of Americans say they trust Republicans to manage the government, while just under a quarter trust the Democrats. The biggest bloc of citizens say they don’t trust either major party. And the AP survey showed that public confidence in the government’s ability to make progress on the important problems and issues facing the country continues to slip, with 74% now saying they have little or no confidence, down from 70% who said the same last December.

Both parties are failing our country, leaving most Americans feeling betrayed and politically homeless. But the citizenry’s response to these circumstances leaves the most to be desired.

We’ve all been conditioned to believe we have only three options. Behind door number one is whatever the two major parties offer up. A few partisans on either side are more or less satisfied with what’s behind this door, but most Americans aren’t. Most feel they are forced to hold their noses and choose between the lesser of evils. Most look for another door.

Behind door number two is an occasional third-party or independent candidate. But whether it’s Ross Perot one time or Ralph Nader another, this door leads to a dead end. The U.S. is not a parliamentary democracy. Ours is a two-party system. Supporting a third party invariably ends in disappointment.

That leaves door number three. Behind it is resignation. Sadly, a great many of us are choosing this route, throwing up our hands in disgust and hightailing it for the sidelines. This withdrawal from civic life is now endemic to American politics.

Three doors. No happy ending to be found behind any of them.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that there is a fourth door. We’ve been trained not to recognize it or even acknowledge its existence, much less open it. But it is there all the same. It hasn’t been opened in our lifetimes, but when it was found and opened by past generations, what it led to was transformational and landscape altering.

Door number four is what I call a first-party movement. Third-party movements operate on the political fringes, to the left of the Democrats and to the right of the Republicans. Put another way, they seek to clip the wings of the major parties. First-party insurgencies go for the heart. They compete for the affections of the entire electorate.

The goal of third-party movements is to have three or more parties. The goal of first-party organizing is to have at least one that is worth a damn. At least one that truly owes its allegiance to the people.

Conditions are growing ripe for an extensive renovation of the nation’s political landscape. The telltale signs of an impending political implosion are visible. The percentage of Americans who refuse to identify with either major parties is at its highest level in three-quarters of a century. The biggest swath of the electorate – by far – is not the Republican loyalists or the Democratic faithful. Nor is it centrist or moderate. It is politically homeless.

If door number four is opened, the two parties will either adapt or perish. The odds that at least one of the parties will cease to exist in its current form are getting shorter by the day.

We have it in our power to put citizens back in the driver’s seat of our government. The two major parties are repellent. We have it in our power to build a political household that people actually want to live in. It can be done. Our great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents did it. On more than one occasion they opened door number four and freed themselves from the same kinds of traps that ensnare us again today.

We don’t have to make history. We only have to repeat it.

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Decriminalizing Bribery And Money Laundering

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 September 2014
in Wisconsin

money-behind-politicsMADISON - On what planet does anyone think there is not enough money in politics, not enough special interest influence, and too much public awareness of the buying and selling of our government?

Well, on Earth there is Rudolph Randa and the Five Supremes. It's been the better part of a half century since a rock and roll band could get away with a name so lame, so they must be judges.

In 2010 the five-member majority on the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that corporations and other interest groups can spend as much as they want to influence American elections. And then earlier this year the court doubled down on its infamous Citizens United decision and struck down a key federal limit on campaign contributions made by individuals.

In a country of well over 300 million people, just over 1,200 individuals reached the $123,000 limit on overall donations to federal campaigns in the 2012 elections. The ruling majority on the high court found intolerable the way the law cramped the style of 0.000003% of the nation's population and invalidated that law.

A month later Wisconsin's $10,000 annual limit on overall donations from individuals for state and local elections experienced the same fate. Fewer than 300 individuals had managed to bump up against the state limit in 2010 and 2012 elections combined, including 173 living outside Wisconsin. Just like that, five one-thousandths of 1% of the state's population had their ability to legally bribe state lawmakers increased exponentially, and they are taking full advantage.

Now this week Randa orders Wisconsin election officials to stop enforcing a law limiting how much candidates can collect from political committees run by special interest groups, parties and legislative campaigns.

Randa is the judge who also ordered a halt to the latest John Doe investigation into political corruption in Wisconsin. He ruled that there is nothing illegal about candidates and interest groups coordinating their election activities.

"Coordination" sounds abstract and mundane and benign. What Randa actually blessed is money laundering. What is under investigation is apparent conspiracy to get around legal limits on political donations as well as disclosure requirements by steering money intended to aid a candidate for state office to a tax-exempt "social welfare" group that does not have to publicly report the origins of its money.

If the skewed judgment of Randa and the Five Supremes stands up over the long haul, Americans will be left with a right to free speech that is proportionate to the size of their bank accounts, two parties joined at the billfold, and a tiny fraction of 1% of the population fully empowered to lord over the rest of us.

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