Friday, May 5, 2017

Mike McCabe should run for governor (with one small "if")

McCabe offers something rare in a challenge to Walker — an actual vision for improving Wisconsin

Mike McCabe for governor? The former head of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign and current president of Blue Jean Nation, has been mentioned as a potential contender to Gov. Scott Walker.

Hundreds of supporters of McCabe’s who are hoping to draft him to run for governor sent an open letter pleading with him to consider it, telling McCabe that he is an “upright man, not interested in self-enrichment or power for power’s sake, with a feeling for the needs of others and your country.”

McCabe, for his own part, said that the letter prompted him to give it some real thought. “I am willing to do this,” he said, adding that he’ll make a decision sometime after Labor Day.

Do I think he should run? Yes, absolutely, 110 percent — but with a very big “if.”

I’ll get to that “if” in a moment.

First, why McCabe should run, and it all comes down to this: he’s the right person to bridge the divide between rural and urban Wisconsinites, and to make progressive ideals appealing again in areas of the state where they’ve been dormant. That, to me, is the number one problem Democrats in Wisconsin are facing.

McCabe has a proud progressive background that would help improve the lives of many citizens living in the poorest parts of the state’s largest cities. But he also readily acknowledges the problems that face farmers and other rural people’s lives, problems that sometimes get forgotten by Democrats in larger cities. He knows firsthand about many of those issues because McCabe himself grew up on a farm in rural Clark County, Wisconsin.

What’s more, McCabe isn’t afraid to call out the Democratic Party on its failures to reach rural voters. In his book, “Blue Jeans in High Places,” McCabe states:
Democrats have broken the political law of universality. They may say we’re all in this together and need to look out for each other, but people in places like rural Clark County don’t see Democrats practicing what they preach.
The Democratic Party needs to craft policies that “tangibly [benefits] everyone or at least directly [touches]” families in these areas of the state. Democrats have done so in the past, McCabe says, explaining that Social Security, rural electrification and the GI Bill all have been felt positively by people in rural places.

McCabe's biography from his
book, Blue Jeans in High Places
McCabe understands both rural and city issues. And he’s exactly what Alan Talaga described in his Isthmus column, when he wrote in January that, “Rural voters aren’t looking for folksy pandering; they are looking for an affable, inspiring leader who talks about issues they care about. That’s more important than the candidate’s zip code.”

McCabe won’t pander — and he’ll defend his progressive ideals to everyone in the state, in Madison, Milwaukee and Green Bay, as well as in Seymour, Ladysmith and Bagley.

Mike McCabe is a progressive, but he’s also an independent. He doesn’t really identify with the Democratic Party 100 percent of the time — and that’s OK. Wisconsin’s progressives have historically bucked the party line of their respective parties, and people have loved them for it. Fighting Bob La Follette, a Republican, was an anti-war hellraiser in his day, and Bill Proxmire, a Democrat, chastised members of his own party for spending excessive amounts of taxpayer-funded government dollars.

With that this being said, McCabe should absolutely run for governor — if he runs as a Democrat, or if the Democrats agree to sit this one out and let him run as a true independent. The latter seems much less likely to happen, so McCabe ought to think seriously about running as a Democrat in the party’s primary for governor.

We cannot afford to split the vote, and allow Scott Walker another term in office. The effects would be devastating. So either the Democrats back McCabe as an independent, or McCabe wins the primary for the party. Again, the second option seems more realistic.

But if he chooses that option, he shouldn’t stray from his independent roots. He should remain a proponent of limiting corporate influence in our elections — a position he takes that more than 100 communities across Wisconsin share. He should, as a candidate, continue to promote reforms to the elections process that enables citizens to take control of their democracy, even if those reforms aren’t going to necessarily benefit the Democratic Party.

Most importantly, McCabe should run as a candidate that has broad appeal, to voters across the state in areas that progressives haven’t won in a long while.

That’s one more factor that McCabe brings to the table. He isn’t just another anti-Walker option — he’d be a true pro-Wisconsin candidate, with a vision for improving the state that isn’t just a reaction to what the current governor has in mind. McCabe has his own ideas, and they’re ideas that the rest of Wisconsin can readily get behind.

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