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Mike McCabe: Life as a Blue Jean


Academy SponsorsWhen the Farmers’ Union State Convention invited Mike McCabe to speak n 2014, his now-signature Blue Jean Nation was not yet a fully-formed idea.

“There were about 250 farmers from the Farmers’ Union,” he says, “I speak without notes. I don’t know what possessed me to ask this question, but I looked out at these 250 farmers and I asked, ‘How many of you own a donkey?’ And to my surprise not a single person raised their hand; I said ‘come on someone still has to have a donkey.’ and then I asked, ‘How many of you own an elephant?’ and again no hands went up then I asked, ‘How many of you own a pair of blue jeans?’ and every single person in the audience raised their hand and I asked, ‘what would better symbolize us all a donkey, an elephant, or a pair of blue jeans?

From that response, McCabe was able to draw out the inspiration for the name of his party. For a while, he had searched for an animal that would symbolize them all, but just couldn’t find one that fit.

The Blue Jean Nation has gained the support of many people who were once “politically homeless,” allowing them to create their own way as activists for social and political change. McCabe invokes the spirit of former Wisconsin senator Robert “Fighting Bob” Lafollette, recaling how he left the Republican Party after being asked to commit a crime within his party for a bribe; Lafollette felt that he didn’t fit in with the Democratic Party either, so he started calling himself a Progressive. The 2016 presidential election contains a parallel for many; many people face the problem of not wanting to vote for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump and feeling “politically homeless”. Currently, McCabe’s main focus is to spread the awareness of the party around Wisconsin and eventually  then look towards the national stage. Many people in Wisconsin are inspired by this party and several are running for elected positions in the state or their city.

As an Individual, McCabe does a lot of traveling around the state of Wisconsin to gain supporters; recently he attended several independence parades around the Fourth of July. When working with so many people, McCabe needs to have a huge quality of social skills.

That’s something he learned the value of in Mali, in West African, where he served two years in the Peace corps (and where he met his wife).

“Going overseas to Mali further shaped my politics as well even though they were economically poor they were rich socially,” he says. In Mali, it was practically impossible to walk through a small village without greeting people; the greetings were usually longer and far more involved ones than in America. In the US, “you would nod your head or smile and just pass,” McCabe says, whereas in Mali, ”they are incredibly offended by that.”

His political passion was also stirred by tragedy, and one family’s response to tragedy.

While living in Clark county, McCabe observed a lot of families lands were being foreclosed by banks. One of his neighbors committed suicide in a shed at the time his family’s land was being foreclosed. Just a couple weeks later, constant rainy weather had McCabe’s family struggling to harvest their crops. The son of the suicide victim came to aid McCabe’s family.

“That taught me all I needed to know about the common good,” McCabe says. “It taught me all I needed to know about how society should function.”