What would Garvey do? An open letter to Bernie Sanders

This is a guest blog by former Blogging Blue contributor Steve Carlson!!!

Dear Bernie,

I want to start off by telling you how heartening it was to read your remarks in John Nichols Nation magazine tribute to Ed Garvey on the occasion of Garvey’s passing in February of 2017. You said he was one of the smartest, funniest and most decent people you’ve ever known, and I know a whole bunch of Wisconsinites from every corner of the state felt the same. He was one of a kind and we all miss him dearly.

Some of my fondest memories of Ed stem from listening to his weekly show on WOJB Woodland Community Radio, a 100,000 watt station broadcasting from the Lac Courte Oreille Reservation in far northern Wisconsin, where I live. Every Wednesday morning for half an hour, from 2005-2015, Garvey would hold forth across the entire region with his signature brand of keen political analysis, lightning wit, gleeful irreverence , and his obviously big hearted passion for a better world. He made us all want a better world too, and I wish I had a dollar bill for every time I heard him use the old Irish quip, “is this a private fight or can anyone join?”

But my absolutely fondest memory of Ed was from my first meeting with him in 2009 after I became Wisconsin’s volunteer coordinator for Progressive Democrats of America. I traveled down to Madison to “Fighting Bob World Headquarters” as he called it, and mostly listened as he gave me an accelerated, first class, and hilarity/profanity laden graduate course in all things Progressive. One of the stories he told that day has stuck with me over the years and illustrates perfectly the kind of man Ed Garvey was.

In the summer of 2007, Garvey had invited prominent peace activist Cindy Sheehan and a progressive Wisconsin congressman to both speak at Fighting Bob Fest. This was after the Democrats took back the House of Representatives in 2006 and Nancy Pelosi had become Speaker. Sheehan, who lost her son Casey during the War in Iraq, was furious at what she saw as the Democrats betrayal of the anti-war movement that helped them win back the House and as a result had announced her intention to run against Pelosi in California’s 12th congressional district. This, apparently, didn’t sit very well with lots of Democrats.

So one morning Garvey gets a phone call from the invited Wisconsin Dem Rep who tells Garvey that they can’t appear on the same stage with Cindy Sheehan.

“Why not”, says Garvey.

“Because she’s running against my quarterback”, says the Rep.

Without missing a beat Garvey says, “Oh my God she’s running against Bret Favre!” the legendary Packers QB.

The Rep, flustered with Garvey’s response, blusters “No…you know she’s running against Nancy Pelosi!” and then goes on to say they won’t be coming if Cindy Sheehan is going to be on the stage.

“Well”, says Garvey, “We’ll miss you”“.

The Rep didn’t show, Sheehan did, and I left Garvey’s office that day with a deeper understanding of what the word “integrity” really means.

Speaking of Fighting Bob Fest, it was there that Garvey first introduced Wisconsinites to, as Paul Ryan might say “a guy named Bernie Sanders”. If I remember correctly, one of your first big 2015 presidential campaign rallies was in Madison and Garvey was in the front row with his wife Betty. Garvey also introduced us to a host of other national, regional and statewide progressive voices including political reform activist Mike McCabe, who happens to be running for Governor of Wisconsin. McCabe is also well known to northern Wisconsin progressives, having done dozens of interviews over the years on WOJB, sometimes in tandem with Ed and who, like Ed 20 years ago, is running for Governor with the issue of campaign finance reform at the top of his priority list. I’d hazard a guess that no one has spoken more times at Fighting Bob Fest than Mike McCabe, with the possible exception of Jim Hightower.

And like you, McCabe is an Independent running as a democrat. Like you, he’s taken some heat from democrats because of it. His campaign slogan “Principle Over Party” doesn’t really sit very well with a lot of democrats, as you might guess. The rest of McCabe’s platform reads like a progressive populist wish list including Badgercare for All, 100% renewable energy, legalizing marijuana, ending mass incarceration, a $15 an hour minimum wage/universal basic income, etc, progressive etc.

McCabe has logged over 85,000 miles traveling Wisconsin with a message of restoring our progressive tradition. During that time he’s spoken to thousands of people, drawn supporters of every political stripe, has often driven the political conversation in a progressive direction, and managed to climb his way into a tie for second in the most watched political survey in Wisconsin, the Marquette University Law School Poll. He’s done that by rekindling a determination in regular people that government really ought to be for all of us instead of just billionaires. No other gubernatorial candidate in Wisconsin wants to upend more the business as usual, dollar driven bullshit, from both major parties, that passes for governance down in Madison. He’s a lot like Garvey, in some ways. In some ways he’s a lot like you. His vision is downright, well…revolutionary.

All of this brings me, finally, to the point of this post, Senator Sanders. If you’re serious about starting a political revolution in this country, and I believe you are, there’s no truer path to it in Wisconsin than giving your unqualified endorsement to Mike McCabe as our next Governor. I think he’s earned it, so do a lot of folks, and I know we all deserve the Wisconsin he envisions.

On a final note, I’m sure you get requests all the time for endorsements, and I’m equally sure that trying to decide who to endorse must be difficult. I’m not in any position to understand all the factors that have to be weighed, what the political ramifications might be, or how you should use your considerable influence toward the most productive ends. But I can tell you this.

When most progressives in Wisconsin, especially north woods progressives, ask themselves “what would Garvey do ?” regarding who he’d be supporting in the upcoming Democratic primary for Governor, there’s no doubt in our minds what the answer would be. Ed Garvey would be endorsing Mike McCabe.

Wishing you all the best,
Steve Carlson

Thanks Steve!

WI Gubernatorial Candidate Mike McCabe Picks a Fight With Democratic Party

Independent Mike ‘I’ve never belonged to a party’ McCabe is running for Governor of Wisconsin as a Democrat. He admits that he doesn’t belong to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. But he’s in a snit because the DPW won’t bend the rules for him and give him access to the DPW’s voter and membership database. Well Duh! He thinks he’s Bernie Sanders…and Mike, I know Bernie Sanders…and you’re no Bernie Sanders.

Here’s the gist from The Cap Times:

McCabe, a political activist who prides himself on never having belonged to a political party, entered the Democratic primary for governor in September. He said in an interview last month that once he decided to run for governor, he chose the path that would allow him to make the biggest difference, rather than running as an independent or third-party candidate.

In doing so, he emulated Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont who ran as a Democrat in the 2016 presidential primary. Had Sanders not run as a Democrat, McCabe argued, he likely would have fared about as well as Green Party candidate Jill Stein, who earned 1 percent of the popular vote.

In a news release sent on Wednesday, McCabe campaign manager Christine Welcher said the state Democratic Party had first ignored, then refused requests from the campaign to access the party’s statewide voter and member lists.

In a news release sent on Wednesday, McCabe campaign manager Christine Welcher said the state Democratic Party had first ignored, then refused requests from the campaign to access the party’s statewide voter and member lists.

Welcher said McCabe believes the lists should be offered to candidates at no charge, but his offer to purchase them was also declined.

I have been watching Mr. McCabe’s campaign with a bit of curiosity on where it will go and what he may accomplish. I haven’t formed an opinion yet but if he’s going to start the campaign playing victim and antagonizing the DPW, he’s not scoring points with me. As a card carrying member of the DPW, I say pay up and get with it. Don’t buy a latte for a couple of days and you are there…party membership is a whopping $25 per year.

And given to candidates free of charge? Believe me $25 per membership doesn’t pay for them…and there’s no reason candidates’ campaigns shouldn’t. Even when I ran for Milwaukee School Board…although a non-partisan election…being a member and paying for access to the voter database was a key element to running a campaign. All he needs to do is pony up.

But this gets even more zany as you read through his rant:

In an email, McCabe said he is “not sure how they define being a member of the party,” adding that he filed a declaration of candidacy as a Democrat and formed a campaign committee as a Democrat.

I didn’t bother looking but I am pretty sure it says right on their website…become a member…send us $25. After playing victim…playing ignorant isn’t winning friends and influencing people either.

P.S. MIKE! Listen to yourself and heed your own advice. Just sayin:

Had Sanders not run as a Democrat, McCabe argued, he likely would have fared about as well as Green Party candidate Jill Stein, who earned 1 percent of the popular vote.

Mike McCabe endorses Jeff Smith for DPW Chair

Mike McCabe, former Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign and author of the book ” Blue Jeans in High Places ” has endorsed Jeff Smith for Chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. Here’s what McCabe had to say:

“Quite a few people who presumably are card-carrying members of DPW and are planning to attend the convention in June have asked me which of the announced candidates for state party chair best embodies the ideas in my book Blue Jeans in High Places. That would be Jeff Smith, by a longshot. Jeff knows how to relate to people in rural areas of the state that used to elect Democrats but now prefer the GOP. He not only knows how to talk to them, he’s shown he can win their trust and has been elected to represent voters in areas that have become so bright red. I can’t say I will vote for Jeff because I don’t have a vote in this election. I am not a party member and will not be a delegate at the convention. But I can say that Jeff Smith is without question the most “blue jean” of the candidates for state chair.”

Mike McCabe: After The Finger Pointing

So the effort to recall Republican Gov. Scott Walker, which came to a conclusion with Tuesday’s election, was unsuccessful.

As I’ve written elsewhere, I don’t feel compelled to do a comprehensive post-election analysis, in part because I’m exhausted but also because I don’t presume to be an expert. There are many, many folks out there who have some really insightful thoughts on how Gov. Walker was able to survive the effort to recall him, and one of those folks is Mike McCabe, the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

In a blog entry posted on Wednesday, McCabe took aim at what he sees as the failure of the Democratic Party to really lead by making the case to all Wisconsinites that they can “think big” and do great things to help all Wisconsinites.

For years now Democrats have not plausibly made the case that they will deliver better health or retirement security or higher pay to all. Only the state’s few government workers have so benefited from the Democrats’ toil. What is the modern equivalent of the GI Bill that offers every family a path to vocational training or an affordable college education? Where is the digital age’s equivalent of rural electrification or the interstate highway system?

We have one party that is scary and another that is scared. If one is paralyzed and afraid to lead, people will opt for the one willing to act even if the actions are overly extreme for most people’s tastes. It doesn’t mean they hold that party in high esteem or fail to see its faults. The truth is most people hate both parties. The ranks of the politically homeless are growing fast. More Americans refuse to align with either major party than at any time in the last 75 years.

In defeat there is still opportunity for the Democrats. But not if they continue to ignore the law of universality and fail to muster the nerve to really lead. And not if they remain resistant to the obvious remedy for their brand problem. The Democratic Party is the party of government, and most people hate the government. Why? Because increasingly they see it as corrupt, run by people they view as crooked. They don’t believe government is working for them, and if it’s not going to work for them, then they’d prefer to keep it as small as possible.

One party is seen as standing for big government, the other for no government. But neither is seen as truly working for the people. Both are seen as captive parties that owe allegiance to their big donors and ceaselessly cater to those wealthy interests.

For what it’s worth, I think Democrats (nationally as well as here in Wisconsin) need to start offering big ideas on how they’re going to improve the lives of voters, instead of nibbling around the edges. Half measures and a muddled message won’t get the job done – we need big ideas and a clear message.