ON THE BOOKSHELVES….BLUE JEANS IN HIGH PLACES – The Coming Makeover of American Politics
The best book to read this post-election is BLUE JEANS IN HIGH PLACES, The Coming Makeover of American Politics by Mike McCabe.
In this book, McCabe offers a plan to re-invent our political system to represent the people. For the past 15 years, Mike, Director and founder of Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, has been following the money in American politics. He writes from experience and with sound evidence. His writing (like his speeches) is refreshing and encouraging.
We the people are not as hopelessly divided as we think. However, we are numb when it comes to the moral decay of our democracy. McCabe does a very good job of explaining our present political, social and economic situation and how we got here. We are so busy with day-to-day activities that we fail to see the big picture.
McCabe reminds us of our Wisconsin history. The progressive movement began here. Wisconsin led the nation in re-inventing the political system in 1850 and 1889.
Now is the time for a third re-invention. McCabe calls this a first-party movement, not a third-party movement.
“In the time of slavery, the Whig Party was one of the two major parties in America. The Republican Party was born in 1854 in a one-room schoolhouse in Ripon, Wisconsin out of frustration over the lack of a true anti-slavery party and eventually drove the Whigs to extinction.”
“The party’s founders entered a little white schoolhouse as Whigs, Free Soilers, Abolitionists and Democrats, but came out as Republicans.”
The second re-invention came out of the bank failures and depression of the 1890’s.
On September 17, 1891 Republican leader Philetus Sawyer offered Robert M. La Follette a bribe to fix a court case. La Follette was furious and traveled throughout the state speaking against corrupt politicians and timber and railroad barons.
The followers of La Follette called themselves “Progressive” Republicans. They believed the “business of government was not business, but service to the common people.” Consequently both parties developed a Progressive wing. Teddy Roosevelt was elected president as a Progressive Republican. Later, Woodrow Wilson won the presidency as a Progressive Democrat.
McCabe reminds us of our Wisconsin history and then gives a clear analysis of our current situation and why so many voters feel ignored by both Democrats and Republicans.
The book is as refreshing as Mike’s speeches. He leaves us with hope.
“We face nothing today that hasn’t been faced—and defeated—before. Right on this soil. Defeated by people who had so much less going for them then than we do now. They had far less wealth. Few were property owners. They had fewer means of communication.
There was no TV. No radio. No Internet, obviously. They were up against vast wealth and power concentrated in a very few privileged hands. They beat the greedy bastards. In so doing, they set Wisconsin on a path that made it synonymous with clean government and progressive politics that lasted better than a century.”
McCabe gives us many things we can do, starting in our local groups. We can put our disappointment and despair into energy to create new political language and to find a new symbol for the movement. We can convert our horizontal thinking of left to right into a vertical scale which actually measures what is going on.
I have read and re-read this book and have given copies to my friends. McCabe gives us real hope and real solutions. Once again, Wisconsin can lead our nation in good politics.
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