Our Wisconsin Revolution has selected longtime government watchdog and democracy reform advocate Mike McCabe to be the group’s executive director. Our Wisconsin Revolution is an independent, statewide, membership-driven organization aiming to make Wisconsin’s government of, by and for the people.
“Mike McCabe brings decades of activism and thousands of supporters to this work, and we’re delighted he’s assuming the role of OWR’s first-ever executive director. We’re confident his leadership will take us to a whole new level of effectiveness,” Our Wisconsin Revolution co-chairs Sarah Lloyd and Joel Rogers said.
McCabe ran a spirited underdog campaign for governor in 2018 fueled by small donations and the efforts of more than 3,000 volunteers. He started the grassroots citizen group Blue Jean Nation in 2015. For 15 years before that he led the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, an independent watchdog group that exposes corruption, tracks the money in state elections, and works for reforms making people matter more than money in politics. In that role, McCabe blew the whistle on wrongdoing by elected officials and earned a reputation as one of the nation’s best political money trackers. He was recognized by the Society of Professional Journalists and Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council as the “Citizen Openness Advocate of the Year” for 2012, and the University of Wisconsin’s School of Journalism honored him with its Distinguished Service Award in 2015.
“The kind of politics needed to solve our society’s biggest problems does not exist. It needs to be created,” McCabe said. “We are going through an economic revolution driven by the twin forces of globalization and automation. We are going through a social revolution where the country’s historically dominant group is on its way to becoming a political minority. We are going through an ecological revolution that threatens life on this planet. Our government is paralyzed and is not constructively responding to these emergencies. If we are going to get a handle on any of these challenges, we had better revolutionize our politics.”
McCabe brings a farming background and a lifetime of experience in politics, journalism, nonprofit leadership and public sector management to his new role. Born in Wisconsin and raised on his family’s dairy farm, he has lived across the rural-urban divide, having spent nearly half of his life out in the country and the rest in the state’s second-largest city and state capital. Years of environmental activism and advocacy for sustainable agriculture practices earned McCabe recognition as Environmental Advocate of the Year by the Clean Water Action Council in 2004 and Friend of the Family Farmer by the Wisconsin Farmers Union in 2015.
While leading Blue Jean Nation, McCabe did an award-winning radio commentary series called “Democracy Checkup” that aired on several community radio stations including Madison’s WORT-FM and was among the winners in the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association’s 2016 Awards for Excellence for best editorial commentary in large market radio programming. McCabe appeared in the documentary films Citizen Koch (2013) and Pay 2 Play: Democracy’s High Stakes (2014). He authored Blue Jeans in High Places: The Coming Makeover of American Politics, named one of the best books of 2014 by The Progressive magazine.
McCabe started his career as a newspaper reporter and as a legislative aide in the State Assembly before running a statewide civic education program for the nonprofit Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance for four years. In addition to making hundreds of classroom presentations, McCabe produced videotapes on government and tax policy for classroom use and did teacher training. He co-authored a textbook on Wisconsin government and co-authored a curriculum guide on state and local government for the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction while serving on a state social studies curriculum committee. He then served a two-year stint in the Peace Corps in the West African country of Mali and later worked for six years as the Madison Metropolitan School District’s public communications coordinator and legislative liaison.