By Mike McCabe Our Wisconsin Revolution (7/7/20) Watch and weep. One man interviewed by a reporter who was berated for wearing a mask at a crowded public gathering insisted that being an American means “I should be able to do what I want to.”
Day after day, week after week, in thousands of communities across America, people have taken to the streets demonstrating against police brutality and systemic racism in our society. The people are black, brown and white. The demonstrations vary from day to day and from place to place. But at just about every one of them, six words are heard. Three of them are Black Lives Matter. The other three are Defund the Police.
Not long ago, white people cringed at the sound of Black Lives Matter. Some feebly insisted that All Lives Matter. Others defiantly proclaimed that Blue Lives Matter. Somewhere along the line most whites grew comfortable with hearing and saying Black Lives Matter. I guess that’s a sign of some progress.
Defund the Police is what gives whites indigestion today. That’s a measure of how provocative those three words are, and it’s precisely what’s needed. Change requires discomfort. Comfortable people don’t move.
Defunding the police means different things to different people. And that’s OK, because all the different meanings provide the needed ingredients for the uncomfortable conversations about systemic racism in our society and the role policing plays in perpetuating racial injustice that are so desperately needed if corresponding actions are ever going to be taken.
To me, defund means reimagine. It means reimagining public safety and aggressively questioning whether militarizing the police and criminalizing mental health challenges made us any safer. It means questioning with equal vigor whether fighting a so-called war on drugs and filling prisons with nonviolent offenders who happen to be mostly black or brown makes communities any more secure. It means giving blunt answers to those questions. No, we’re not safer, we’re not more secure. We’re just staying segregated and cementing in place age-old injustices.
To me, defund means replace. It means replacing those militarized police forces with community guardians whose mission truly is to protect and serve rather than intimidate and control. It means social workers or mental health professionals or crisis intervention specialists respond first to conflicts in the community or threats to public safety instead of armed officers. It means reallocating financial resources so we spend more to create opportunity and promote economic and social justice and spend less on enforcing order.
So yes, defund the police. If that makes you cringe, good. Things gotta change. Change requires discomfort. Comfortable people don’t move.
— Mike McCabe
July 1, 2020
Twenty-three civic leaders from every part of the state are candidates for 12 seats on Our Wisconsin Revolution’s board of directors. The state board election will be conducted in conjunction with OWR’s state convention, which is being held remotely online on Sunday, June 28 from 1 to 3 p.m. due to health and safety concerns relating to the coronavirus pandemic.
Ranked choice voting for state board positions using a secure digital voting service will open at noon on June 28 and will continue for 48 hours until noon on Tuesday, June 30. Current OWR members are eligible to vote in the election.
A co-chair of the board will be chosen in the election to join the other co-chair, Sarah Lloyd, whose term runs for another year. Four at-large seats also will be filled. The top two vote-getters for at-large positions will serve two-year terms through 2022, with the next two vote-getters serving one-year terms through 2021. In addition, representatives on the board for seven of Wisconsin’s eight congressional districts will be chosen. The only congressional district that will not be electing a board representative is Milwaukee’s 4th district. That seat is held by Jeff Perzan, whose term runs for another year. The other holdover member of the board whose term does not expire for another year is Terrance Warthen, who holds an at-large seat.
Candidates for the co-chair position include Tyler R. Allen, Malcolm McCanles, Joel Rogers and Charlie Ryan.
Candidates for the four at-large seats on the board that need filling include Tyler R. Allen, Jaime Alvarado, Nino Amato, Joni Anderson, Mary Kay Baum, James Brawn Jr., Larissa Joanna, Malcolm McCanles, Rick Melcher, Wil Raasch, Joel Rogers, Alexa Safer, Mark Smith and Nancy Tabaka Stencil.
Candidates seeking election as congressional district representatives on the board include: Krish Colón in the 1st district; Richard McGowan in the 2nd; Joni Anderson and Jessica Bernier in the 3rd; Tyler R. Allen in the 5th; Michael Beardsley and Mary B. Hayes in the 6th; Bruce Grau, Malcolm McCanles, Rick Melcher and Nancy Tabaka Stencil in the 7th; and Justice Peche, Jake Piontek and Mark Smith in the 8th.
Below are descriptions of the candidates in their own words.
Tyler R. Allen, Whitewater — Candidate for co-chair; 5th congressional district representative; at-large seat
Hello, my name is Tyler Allen and I am currently a graduating senior at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. During my time at UWW I have served as Vice-Chair and Interim Chair of our College Democrats chapter. My time in College Democrats gave me the opportunity to connect with the community around us and advocate for the issues I believe in. These issues include universal healthcare, tuition-free public college for all, and a Green New Deal. In addition to service to College Democrats, I have worked on numerous local and statewide campaigns in both Wisconsin and Illinois. These campaigns have given me first-hand experience in organizing and an understanding of the tools our movement will need to reshape the political landscape. As a member of the Board of Directors, I will advocate for the issues facing my generation and ensure that we all have a sustainable future to live in.
Jaime Alvarado, Milwaukee — Candidate for at-large seat
I believe in the values of the Bernie Sanders campaign. I was a huge supporter and ran locally to represent my Congressional District as a delegate for Bernie in Philadelphia. I have years of experience in serving on nonprofit boards and a member of civic engagement organizations. I am a democratic socialist and am passionate for social justice issues. I learned how to organize and constantly strive to learn the most effective techniques to effect change in policy and help progressives win office. I am Latino and a member of LULAC, a Latino civil rights org, and do a lot of work to register voters in the Latino community. Why I wish to serve on the OWR board? I want to be a part of the solution to bring back representation in Madison and Washington to the PEOPLE and not the corporate interest. I try to get involved in as much as possible to help make OWR effective. OWR has an incredible opportunity to tap into anti-corporate sentiments. People are noticing income inequality, health insurance as a human right, corporate greed and welfare, racial injustice, etc. OWR is poised to help flip Senate, Assembly, and State Supreme Court seats. We have a great chance to vote Trump out of office. I would like to have a hand in changing Wisconsin for the better.
Nino Amato, Madison — Candidate for at-large seat
UW-Platteville Adjunct Professor (2015 to Present). Courses include: Sustainability Policy & Practices; Women, Law & Social Control; Introduction to Criminal Justice; Energy, Environment & Society; Social Change. CWAG Board Chair & former CWAG President/CEO (2010 to Present). Since 1977, CWAG has and is, protecting protects the rights and earned benefits of 1.3 million elderly and people with disabilities in Wisconsin. I bring to OWR’s board of directors my grassroots track record in mobilizing Wisconsin millennial college students and Wisconsin’s Aging & Disability Advocacy Network in each of our 72 counties. Equally important, I share the same progressive values of OWR’s Mission and the Passion to change the things we can no longer accept in today’s social and economic polarized political system — that is cleverly designed, orchestrated and manipulated by for-profit Lobbying interests — who focus on maximizing profits. These Wolfe’s on Wall Street lack compassion for their fellow human beings and have a blatant disregard for improving the quality of life for our children and future generations. It’s time to transform this artificially created system of financial greed, political manipulation and right-wing propaganda brain washing – to a democratic system based on fairness, creative problem solving, scientific data and compassion for the less fortunate. Through OWR’s political engagement and recruiting progress candidates for local and state public office — we can improve the health and quality of life for all Americans, through: Universal Healthcare, developing a sustainable, renewable economy and getting money out of politics.
Joni Anderson, Adams — Candidate for 3rd congressional district representative; at-large seat
For 27 years I was employed as a machine operator at FNGP/NOK. During that time I experienced working for a company locally owned and managed to a globally owned and run. I became a charter member of UE Local 1107 and was an active member and officer up until retirement in April. I served in many capacities including steward, President, Vice-President, Safety Committee, and was elected to the Bargaining Committee twice. I was also an elected member of UE’s Western Regional Council and a delegate to UE’s National Convention representing my local 1107. I have also become involved with the Non-Partisan Fair Maps movement thru Wisconsin Voices. I am a Citizen Action Member. And currently serve as the 3rd CD representative on OWR’s board. During the two years I have served as CD3 board member I have seen our organization go from strong chapters, to struggling, to finding new life and direction. Although much of my background lies in the area of labor it was thru belonging to a progressive union that I first heard of Bernie Sanders, and his dream of what our country should be. The $15 minimum wage, Medicare for All, and more recently Fair Maps and A Green New Deal, and Free College. Bernie provided us with a roadmap to the future. He has shown us that we can build a better future for all of us. He has also shown us that we can build a better and stronger Wisconsin that works for everyone. IT IS NOW OUR TURN TO TAKE THAT JOURNEY THE REST OF THE WAY. The past two months have shown the glaring weaknesses in our present systems. It has shown us the importance of front line workers. The shortcomings in our healthcare system, why we need to maintain good paying jobs in our state instead of continually sending our jobs overseas. As a state board member for OWR I am committed to finishing this journey. I will listen to the people. I will learn from the people. And I will not stand on the sidelines and watch our democracy, and our voting rights be eroded away because of selfish, power hungry politicians that only care about becoming rich off our tax dollars.
Mary Kay Baum, Ridgeway — Candidate for at-large seat
OWR’s work with the people of WI is my passion. Having grown up on a small dairy farm in NE WI and now living in rural Iowa County, I experienced three farm crises in my lifetime. The super-rich gain more and more control of land as working families become bankrupt and lose hope. I see our so-called democracy protecting big polluters while people and creatures lose clean water. A lot like Bernie Sanders, in 1968 as a 21 year old UW-Madison student, I knocked on doors in downtown Madison. I won two terms on the Dane County Board. I organized unity between students and seniors through ward organizing. As a young lawyer I represented state prison inmates. Later I agreed to help staff Menominee Legal Defense/Offense Committee during and after the Takeover: a time of overt racism, local police brutality, suppression of native rights and Posse Comitatus harassment. I saw strong indigenous leaders avoid violence. I am considered Grandma and Auntie of several Menominee adults and children today. I returned to the Madison area as a single parent, accompanied by my then husband’s mother and grandchild. I coordinated United Neighborhood Centers and brought five centers into greater cooperation. I served two terms on the citywide elected school board. I ran for Mayor and did not win. My frequent delegations to war-torn Arcatao, El Salvador documented US interventionism. I taught and practiced active listening conflict resolution within our delegation to be effective in monitoring. I directed Madison-area Urban Ministry, initiating support groups for formerly incarcerated persons. I have a disability of difficulty finding my words under pressure. I encourage acceptance of varying abilities. I bring a seriousness about process that is also kind to each other. I hope OWR grows and connects with others toward an effective political revolution.
Michael Beardsley, Oshkosh — Candidate for 6th congressional district representative
I am interested in serving OWR’s board to fight for ideas that I am passionate about, help shape strategy for the organization, and do so with like-minded activists. My values and policy inspirations align exactly with what OWR stands for. I live in Oshkosh, where I truly believe the Fox Valley is a sleeping giant that is ready for more progressive solutions and major system changes, but it needs a strong organization to lead the way. During my current campaign for Congress I am championing these ideas and doing all that I can to make a real difference for everyone. The time I have spent working with OWR organizers has been motivating and incredibly helpful in this shared goal to provide healthcare for all, fight climate change, and much more. My time as a member and interacting with those involved in the organization has inspired me to run for a Board position so I can make as much impact as possible. It would be an honor to bring a new perspective and to help OWR continue this momentum as a leader in the movement of the next political generation.
Jessica Bernier, Wisconsin Rapids — Candidate for 3rd congressional district representative
My name is Jessica Bernier and I am interested in the CD3 or an at-large board position with Our Wisconsin Revolution. I am 41 years old and a recent graduate of Northcentral Technical College as a Medical Lab Professional. I am married to a university professor at UWSP who also happens to be an immigrant. As someone who spent a large portion of her adult life in both Canada and Finland, I have seen firsthand what we could achieve in our own state had we the political will and the motivation to serve the people. The reason the left has no political power is because our “representatives” are constantly capitulating to the right and leaving us with nothing. Meanwhile those who try to challenge this state of affairs are sidelined due to concern for propriety being higher than the concern for justice. A real representative cannot be turned aside from their duty to stand for the people. Healthcare, endless war, racial justice, and corporate looting can no longer be compromised on.
James Brawn, Jr., Madison — Candidate for at-large seat
My name is James Brawn, Jr., and I grew up in a small town in Maine. After earning a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree both in Computer Science at the University of Maine, I moved to Madison, Wisconsin, in 2012 and worked for several years at Epic as a software developer and manager. I left to start a company in 2017 which was merged into Iron Forge Development a year later. I currently serve as the Chief Technical Officer of Iron Forge overseeing an international team that develops web and mobile applications for young companies. I am currently a member of Our Wisconsin Revolution and would like to run for a seat on the board. I’ve been involved with progressive activism for a little under a year, primarily as a volunteer for the Bernie Sanders 2020 campaign. In particular, I believe in Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, ending for-profit prisons, ending the drug war, and withdrawing from our endless wars overseas. If there is one thing I have learned in my short time as an activist, it is that the vast majority of progressive leaders and progressive organizations are weak. Bad actors, sycophants, and spineless individuals seem to be everywhere, and these elements are incredibly effective at defeating progress. Most of this is explained away with appeals to decorum. What I would bring to the board is that I am intensely in opposition to such appeals. We have two great enemies: those who seek to do harm to progress, and those who enable them, no matter how well-intentioned they may be. As a board member, I would do everything in my power and influence to destroy the efforts of both. People are tired of having their livelihoods, their health, their rights, and their futures trampled on by those with power and wealth. We need to stop playing nice and take a hard line against all opposition, be it deliberate or incidental. No more excuses; enough is enough.
Krish Colón, Kenosha — Candidate for 1st congressional district representative
Hello everyone! My name is Krish Colón. I live in Kenosha with my partner. My activism started when I was young and mainly focused on LGBTQ issues until 2016 when I encountered Bernie Sanders and his platform. I finally found someone who stood for things that resonated with me. I became an active volunteer which changed my life. After that wonderful experience, I switched majors to study political science and gain the knowledge I need to be more effective in my work. I have since received my degree and have worked as an organizer for multiple candidates/organizations. As far as OWR is concerned, I have been involved since the first meeting in the Kenosha library. I am a founding member and former board member. I had to step away for some time to focus on some personal and family challenges/losses, but I am looking forward to getting back to work. The times we are facing present their own challenges and I look forward to working with our community to address them.
Bruce Grau, Wausau — Candidate for 7th congressional district representative
I was encouraged by others to submit myself for the position on the OWR Board representing the CD7. I approached the Wausau Chapter about 1 year ago after being inspired by Benrie Sanders’ platform calling for equality and justice for the working class. I have attended every meeting and function held since. As a result of my involvement I was asked to participate in local political events. I composed questions posed to candidates for both the CD7 Democratic nominee and Wausau Mayor. I participated in a Videostream discussion held by Tricia Zunker at the onset of the COVID crisis. I participated in Sanders’ Presidential bid by making calls and writing a LTE supporting Medicare For All. Acting on the need to promote equality I spoke to the Wausau City Council earlier this year quizzing them on their knowledge of poverty and racism present in Wausau, then recommending they develop an Equality Agenda for Wausau for the decade of 2020 to improve the indicators I delineated. Acting on the need to push the discussion toward a more progressive position I challenged Tricia Zunker and Mandela Barnes to consider advocating for Medicare For All as a superior alternative to incremental tweaking of the current profit driven model of healthcare. This was a public invited meeting held at the Marathon County Democratic Headquarters. I was the only one to challenge them in such a manner. Many people applauded. Historically I have been a prolific author of LTE’s since 2005 advocating against war and for equality and justice for working people. I campaigned for the multiple efforts to remove Scott Walker as Governor and to make Barack Obama president. This I did with hopes that working people would benefit. I continue to agitate for these ideals. I will continue to agitate for these ideals as an OWR Board member representing the CD7. I believe my actions have underscored my commitment to this struggle. Please consider me for the CD7 representative on the OWR Board. Personally I am married with two grown children. My daughter works as an Administrative Assistant with the UW School of Medicine and Public Health in the Community Health Grant section. My son is enrolled in the Milwaukee Fire Department Academy. My wife is a hospital Social Worker and I practice as a Gerontological Nurse Practitioner in the field of Palliative Care.
Mary B. Hayes, Fond du Lac — Candidate for 6th congressional district representative
I am a Wisconsin native and a 1972 graduate of Ripon High School. I graduated from North Central College in Naperville, IL in 1976 with a double major in Art and Chemistry. I have broad work experience in the sciences, working as a food analyst at a cheese company, a research associate at the Blood Center of Southeastern Wisconsin and as a serological analyst at the Wisconsin State Crime Lab. I moved to Minnesota and did a graduate level teaching certification program in Chemistry and Physics at the University of Minnesota before teaching in the Wayzata school district. I also lived for 5 years in the Washington DC area where I started my business, with just a single product idea. That idea, a paper template used by quilters call Thangles, was a phenomenal hit in the quilting market. After 20 years, I still make my living selling wholesale (I also have a retail internet mail order store.) to independent quilt retailers all across the United States and in foreign countries too. In addition, I design, publish and sell patterns for quilts. Check it out at www.thangles.com. In 2015, I was inspired by Bernie Sanders to run for public office. In April of 2016, I was elected to the Fond du Lac County board and I am about to begin my 3rd term representing the people of the 24th District. I have been a member of Our Wisconsin Revolution from the beginning and have attended the conventions, with the exception of 2019. Unfortunately, there is not a local chapter in my area and I would like to change that and also work with our chapters to influence actions at the local level. I would like to encourage individuals to be more active in discussion with their local elected officials regardless of political leanings. For instance, I introduced a non-partisan redistricting resolution in my very politically conservative county. There was push back, but with help from citizens calling their Supervisors that resolution eventually passed. I would also like to see Our Wisconsin Revolution work on recruitment and training of individuals for local elected offices. These are very winnable races in every county, but the strategy is different as these are non-partisan positions. I have successfully run and won and also have managed the campaigns of others who have won.
Larissa Joanna, Madison — Candidate for at-large seat
My name is Larissa Joanna. I have been an advocate and activist for workers and immigrants rights since 2010. I am from Milwaukee, where I grew up, but Madison has been home for the last eight years. I am also a proud daughter of immigrants. I am bilingual in English and Spanish. I have volunteered significant time for Workers Justice Wisconsin and the immigrants rights group Voces de la Frontera. I was a restaurant worker in Madison until I lost my job due to the pandemic. I joined other restaurant workers to form the Restaurant Workers Coalition, which fights and advocates for food service workers during this crisis, and which will continue when it ends. I have since returned to work as a restaurant worker. Between the time needed to work and to care for my two children, I have participated in the protests demanding an end to systemic police racism in Wisconsin and around this country, and have continued my other activist work. I am running for an at large seat on the OWR board because I believe it is more important than ever to keep the fight for justice in this country, especially in the state of Wisconsin. I have seen, lived and continue to live firsthand through many situations of injustice, like when ICE came to knock on our door in 2011 and took my dad to try to deport him. That situation pushed me to fight harder for undocumented folks and immigrant workers, but with that I found out a huge list of other challenges and struggles we minorities face in our basic everyday life, just because the color of our skin or financial situation, and it’s not fair. ICE struck my family again in March of this year, grabbing my uncle in front of his home as his child–my little cousin was being taken to school, and dragged him to a detention center just as the effects of the health crisis were becoming clear. I was pleased that Our Wisconsin Revolution and its staff were among those who were quick to organize a rally to protest this injustice. I want to help OWR maintain this kind of responsive activism. Now more than ever, we are seeing how broken our system is. We’ve seen the systemic and institutional racism that has been disrupting our communities, and we need to fix it now, because this is really a revolution — our revolution. I believe in the power of people who can come together and stand up for each other’s struggles. We have come so far and built so much in the way of unity. It is very important to always take action and to raise our voices against injustice because when we fight together, we win together, and build a society based on justice for all. Our Wisconsin Revolution must join that struggle, and as a board member I will fight to make sure that the organization stays on that path.
Malcolm McCanles, Eagle River — Candidate for co-chair; 7th congressional district representative; at-large seat
I am passionate about democratic values and I’m not afraid to be the only one defending them. I grew up in a deep red district but I’ve never backed down from what I believe. I was on student council in my high school and now I am a freshman at UW Madison majoring in Theatre, Rhetorical Studies and Film Production. There I campaigned for Bernie Sanders and now I make it a point to campaign on my social media. I’m quick on my feet, compassionate, and brave enough to speak up.
Dr. Richard McGowan, Madison — Candidate for 2nd congressional district
I came from a very working class background from Southern California and attended college there. I headed out to UW Madison for medical school in 2010. I have spent the last ten years here in WI/MN with three years in Minneapolis for medical residency at a county hospital where my developing political orientation toward progressivism intersected with my taking care of a highly underserved, immigrant, and homeless population. Since returning to Wisconsin in 2017 I have worked at a hospital in Madison where I have been the leader in my hospital of treating opioid addicted patients early before discharge to give them the best chance at recovery. I am married to Emily, my long term partner, and we have two children, Angela and Danny, ages 7 and 4. I recently joined the steering committee of the Dane County Chapter of OWR following months of active organizing and volunteering with the grassroots organization Wisconsin for Bernie. Friends from WI For Bernie introduced me to OWR and I was familiar with Our Revolution from my support of Bernie Sanders in 2016. Following Bernie Sanders campaign this year I have never felt the need to be as directly involved in progressive politics as much as now with the threat of the climate crisis, soaring income inequality, right wing nationalism/Trump, and a Democratic party captured by corporations and the super rich. I want to join the state board because I want to offer my perspective as someone who came from the working class, but now works daily as a physician with patients from many walks of life here in Wisconsin, including the need of a single payer healthcare system as I see week after week patients suffering due to a for profit system. I feel like healthcare is a microcosm of American society as a whole because it showcases so many of our current problems: privatization/austerity, the intersection of poverty and income inequality with health, and the oppression of labor (nurses) by management. I believe changing our leadership from the outside in and inside out is the most important way to start solving these significant problems. Lately my political beliefs have compelled me to not only share my perspective but to do something about the changes I believe our political system and society needs and I see OWR as the most direct way I can contribute to the progressive movement here by getting involved in statewide elections with scouting, vetting and training of candidates to get us the effective leadership we need for the future, a role I may consider taking up myself. I acknowledge I am a newcomer to the organizing and political world but humbly request your consideration to be elected to the state board.
Rick Melcher, Wabeno — Candidate for 7th congressional district representative; at-large seat
I am originally from the suburbs south of Milwaukee, graduating from Oak Creek High School. Afterward I spent several years bouncing around among various jobs including, truck driver, dispatcher, and warehouse supervisor. I received my teaching degree from U.W.-Milwaukee and have spent three decades educating children in eight different school districts all across the state from Wisconsin’s largest (Milwaukee) to the second smallest (Goodman – Armstrong Creek). During that time I served as local Education Association President in three districts and member of the Executive Board of two different Regions (2 & 3) and one Urban Affiliate (Racine). I also served on the Board of Directors of the Wisconsin Mathematics Council. I have been fortunate enough to be a part of the climate, culture, and economy of farming, tourist, urban, and suburban climates, cultures, and economies all across the state. My two grown children live in the Milwaukee area, while I currently live in Forest County between Wabeno and Laona with my wife and 11 year-old step-son. While holding leadership roles in the field of education, I led curriculum initiatives, referenda, membership drives, negotiations, recertification initiatives, and more. While these efforts were focused on the teaching profession, the relationships among the school district, businesses, and community members were always a critical part of these efforts. Through these interactions and using my teaching skills, especially active learning, I developed an understanding of how communities react based on their individual makeup. At the same time I began to realize how much more communities and neighborhoods in bigger cities have in common than they are different. Testifying at the “public telling” by the People’s Legislature in January of 2006 was a turning point for me. After listening to “Granny D” Haddock, Mike McCabe, and others voice my very concerns and echo my own feelings, I began to look for ways to become more involved outside of the educational field. In 2015, Bernie Sanders caught my attention. After listening to his interviews and speeches, I knew I had found a kindred spirit. I was inspired to run for State Superintendent of Public Instruction. While my campaign was naïve and inexperienced, I gained valuable insight. Living in Racine, I also discovered the beginnings of the Kenosha Chapter of OWR as well as Blue Jean Nation. I had finally found a home for, as Mike put it, “the politically homeless”. I attempted to participate in the formation of the Racine Chapter of OWR but I was forced to move for employment reasons. I tried to attend OWR Northwoods meetings when possible despite the distance. I now live in Forest County and look forward to working with existing OWR members and recruiting more within the 7th Congressional District.
Justice Peche, Green Bay — Candidate for 8th congressional district representative
My name is Justice Peche, I’m a 21 year old activist from Green Bay, Wisconsin. My involvement in community activism has included organizing for fair maps, indigenous rights, and climate action. I am a member of the Oneida Nation and am pursuing a degree in political science at UWGB. Having first become politically engaged during Bernie Sanders 2016 campaign I consider myself a product of and fighter for our political revolution! Inspired by the young climate activist Greta Thunberg, I’ve been organizing to bring the youth-led environmental movement to my home city of Green Bay. Since setting my mind to this I’ve been working with environmental and progressive groups in my area to assist in their efforts and to develop a space where youth will take the lead. My experience working with people of all ages, diverse backgrounds, and various levels of involvement has provided insight as well as a sense of urgency to fight for what’s right. I hope to bring my passion and perspective to the board of Our Wisconsin Revolution!
Jake Piontek, Menasha— Candidate for 8th congressional district seat
My name is Jake Piontek, I’ve lived in the Fox Valley my entire 26 years of life. I love soccer, running, and reading and I am looking to open a bookstore in the area in the near future. I would be honored and privileged to be apart of the board of OWR because I believe their values align with mine. I believe in working towards an American society and government where the working class person is put first, not the 1%. Universal Healthcare and a healthy agriculture system are two desperately needed things in our state that is exploited by the 1% and those to the right. And also pushing for strong environmental change across the board so the future and the earth is secure for generations to come. There are many things that need changing in our Government but I believe OWR is able to help with that change, and that I can help in being one of the guiding hands.
Wil Raasch, Milwaukee — Candidate for at-large seat
Wil Raasch is a 25 year old Milwaukeean. With a love for the natural world and concern for our climate crisis Wil earned his degree in Biology and Environmental Science from UW-Eau Claire. His work includes nonprofits, advocacy for the arts, support for seniors, and voluntarism with progressive campaigns. Wil has a passion for history, international immersion, and peace. The foundation of my relationship with Our Wisconsin Revolution begins with being a Wisconsinite and revolutionary. In recent years, during my undergraduate studies, I was a daily phone banker for Senator Sanders’ first presidential campaign. As Our Revolution has blossomed I have continued to be inspired and enriched by its mission. These feelings have been especially felt while at The People’s Summit and when marching with 800,000 strong in D.C. to end gun violence. I have continued to be inspired and connected with OWR through events and actions. I strongly feel the benefits and see the impact of the OWR mission when personally connecting with my community through local initiatives and civic measures. I am excited to bring to the OWR board an open mind, active ears, and a voice for our neighbors in need. Additionally, I will foster inclusive collaboration, dedicated perseverance, and knowledge of current progressive media. When I define what it means to be a Wisconsin revolutionary I think of Vel Phillips. I think of Bob La Follette and Frank Zeidler. I think of the Indigenous peoples of this land, past and present. I think of the single mother working multiple jobs; of the house-less veteran; of the future leaders and youth in today’s education system. I think of you, and the world we wish to see. Standing at your side, I say, we fight on.
Joel Rogers, Madison — Candidate for co-chair; at-large seat
I’m running because I believe that OWR’s mission/purpose – to make Wisconsin a real and productive democracy – is the only way to make public/citizen life here worth living. I’ve been active in OWR since its inception and in elected leadership for three years (two as at-large and Treasurer and one as Co-Chair). I’ve been politically active most of my life and have put whatever I’ve learned or gained from that into OWR’s success. I’m lead author on many of its defining documents (FAQ, Platform); serve as its corporate counsel and chair of its Program and Policy Committee; and have helped much with fundraising and relations with national OR and other movement groups. Voting for me would bring a lot of experience and demonstrated commitment, and maybe some wisdom, to the job. Social change comes from consciousness + commitment. My hope for OWR is many more members with both, and thus the power to transform Wisconsin. Getting there will be hard but good work. It requires a capable organization, a welcoming/learning culture, a practical and visionary program, agreement on actions to implement it, and a lot of people to take them. OWR’s recently made great progress organizationally in finally staffing up. But there’s still much to be done in capability/culture/program/action and especially membership. I want all WI communities to be resiliently rich and fair enough for everyone in them to be able to lead good and full lives. That’s not a fantasy or utopia. It’s a great welcoming future we already know how to achieve through policy/practice. Unfortunately, a majority of our state and local government officials are too selfish, cowardly, or clueless to fight for it. But OWR should and can nurture and support strong citizens in those communities to lead or replace them – claiming that future for everybody in Wisconsin.
Charlie Ryan, Verona — Candidate for co-chair
Originally from Wisconsin, with over 20 years experience in social services and nonprofit organizations, in senior leadership roles in the USA, UK, and Australia. Experienced in developing strategic partnerships with community groups, government agencies, staff, and volunteers to identify community needs, then develop, implement, and provide oversight of sustainable programs which achieve measurable goals and maximize return on investment. I have been very active with the Bernie Sanders campaign both in 2016 and in 2020. I have a great deal of experience in organizing and mobilizing teams of politically engaged people in a number of activities including canvassing, phone banking, text banking, protests and lobbying. I am an admin for the grassroots group Wisconsin for Bernie as well as the Wi Will Win Coalition of which OWR is a member organization. I was recently elected to a vacant Alderman seat in the City of Verona. I am currently a member of the Steering Committee for OWR-Dane and I am running for Chair/ Co-Chair of this committee to be voted on next week. As mentioned above I am a Co-founder of the Wi Will Win Coalition which is a coalition of progressive organizations determined to implement a progressive agenda for Wisconsin. Member organizations include OWR, Sunrise Movement, Local 1186, Willy Street Co-Op, TAA, DSA, and SA. I am interested to fulfill the Mission of OWR and the vision the ED has painted for the future of the organization. As a member of the OWR State Board I believe I can help expand membership and drive engagement; identify progressive candidates who could be mentored and endorsed by OWR to run for offices at all levels within Wisconsin; and help to lead efforts to lobby our legislators and decision makers to advance a progressive agenda for Wisconsin which works for all Wisconsinites and not just a privileged few. charliearyan.com
Alexa Safer, Milwaukee — Candidate for at-large seat
My name is Alexa Safer and I would like to run for a seat on the board of OWR. I am a 38 year old single mother, student, and small business owner living in Shorewood, WI. I was born and raised in Milwaukee. I graduated from Nicolet High School in 2000 and attended UW Madison for 2 years. I left school to raise my children. I am now a student at UWM and working to earn my undergraduate degree in History. I have always loved gardening and being outside, so 5 years ago I started my own small business called Deadheaders Garden & Landscape Maintenance. Over the years, I have advocated for many progressive causes, including climate action, voter engagement, immigration reform, cannabis legalization, worker’s rights, and racial justice. I would like to serve on the board of OWR because I believe now is the time to push a truly progressive agenda in Wisconsin. As a board member, I would work to increase transparency between the board and OWR members. I would also push for OWR to fully engage in the current calls for justice and reform coming from the Black Lives Matter movement.
Mark Smith, Oconto — Candidate for 8th congressional district representative; at-large seat
I have lived in rural Oconto County for the last 30+ years surrounded by organic gardens and solar panels. I am in my third year as Oconto County Dems chair and member of 8th CD admin committee. I have been a member of Citizen Action’s NE Co-op for the last several years and have served on our award-winning steering committee since its beginning. I even received a Founding Leader Award in 2019 from that same organization. I have close ties with EXPO, WISDOM, and JOSHUA and am co-chair of the Prison Reform Task Force. One of its goals is to close GBCI; another is to reduce incarceration as COVID-19 invades the prisons, jails, and detention centers. This is a passion of mine- I am a 1979 Mississippi felon with a single drug-related charge that has forever changed my life. I honorably served during the Vietnam War in the Air Force as a flight medic and am a member of Veterans for Peace. I have been self-employed and a business owner for many years, most recently selling and installing electrical solar systems until disability. I am a founding member of Our Wisconsin Revolution and have also worked with third parties such as the Working Family Party and Green Party. I am currently on 100% non-service connected V.A. disability pension due to osteoporosis and anxiety disorder. I have belonged to groups like the ACLU and SPLC for many years, even decades. I am also currently working with area progressive churches to get them more involved in social justice issues, of which there are many. My goal in life is to make the world a better, sustainable place for everyone to live in peace and harmony.
Nancy Tabaka Stencil, Wausau — Candidate for 7th congressional district representative; at-large seat
Born and raised in the Wausau area, I grew up in turbulent times and became everything I grew up watching on the evening news; feminism, The Chicago 7, Kent State, and the Viet Nam war. I am an activist! I felt myself come full circle when Scott Walker changed the face of our state. I recalled state Senator Pam Galloway, and later went on to run unsuccessfully for State Assembly in the 86th District against John Spiros. I have been active with Citizen Action, serving on their Board. I enjoy working on issue-based projects. I serve on AFSCME People Committee ensuring we have candidates running in elections in the 7th Congressional District. I also serve on The Marathon County Central Labor Council as their Secretary. More recently, I stepped down from being a Democratic Party County Chair. I did not feel we were enough to the left! This is also where I became extremely interested in Our Wisconsin Revolution and began attending meetings. OWR backed Bernie Sanders and wanted to see the bold step to the left; the daring to make the extreme change that is needed in this country! My thinking over time has also adopted a different frame with much of my thinking from what I learned from the Blue Jeans Nation. I would love a seat at the table with OWR to help facilitate change that will help everyone.
Mike McCabe was asked to give a scene report from Wisconsin on this new national podcast. It’s featured at about the 21-minute mark.
America is gravely ill. The source of our affliction has plagued this land for more than 300 years. It’s a white disease, but it is like no other sickness. It infects whites but kills blacks.
It is why George Floyd is dead, and why Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Philando Castile, Sean Bell, Ronald Madison, Tony Robinson and so many others are too. The disease caused one life to be taken for allegedly passing a counterfeit $20 bill. Another for illegally selling cigarettes. Another for failing to use a turn signal. Another for holding a “dark object” suspected to be a gun that turned out to be a cell phone. Another while walking home at night. Another while heading to a grocery store to buy food in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
It’s hard not to see a pattern. On June 17, 2015 Dylann Roof shot and killed nine people, all African Americans, at a Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. He was taken into custody to face trial. After arresting him, police bought him Burger King.
That same year a Memphis, Tennessee police officer shot and killed 19-year-old Darrius Stewart. His offense? Riding in a car with a broken headlight. He was not given fast food. His life was taken. Over a broken headlight. Darrius Stewart was unarmed and black. Dylann Roof was heavily armed and white.
It’s impossible not to see the pattern unless you close your eyes to it. The massive nationwide protests in recent days in hundreds of cities and towns all across our country are a cry for justice for George Floyd. But they are also a cry for justice for so many others and a reaction to decades and generations of accumulated grievance over racist police brutality, abuse of power, unjust and discriminatory enforcement of the law, and glaring and persistent social and economic inequalities.
One treatment for the disease is true accountability for police misconduct and penalties for brutality that are both swift and stiff. A more intensive therapy involves reversing course on police militarization and rethinking the way our society handles conflict resolution and crisis response and promotes public safety. How about unarmed peace officers patrolling neighborhoods, serving as the eyes and ears of the community, calling in social workers or mental health professionals to help with disturbances whenever possible and only summoning armed reinforcements when there is no other recourse.
Those are needed treatments. Curing the disease requires rewriting the social contract between Americans to emphasize and ensure social justice and equality along with economic opportunity and security for all. Good jobs, full bellies, decent housing, quality schooling and equal justice under the law are cures. Getting to the cure means overcoming more than three centuries worth of American history, starting with the establishment of white-skin privilege laws in the late 1600s that set the stage for the African slave trade. Generations later Jim Crow pursued slavery’s aim through different means. So do today’s police brutality and mass incarceration. Different symptoms, same disease. Same result too, whether by noose or by knee.
As a white man, I am not at all sure what are the best things I can do to help combat this plague. But I know this. We all have two choices: Fight the disease or be complicit in longstanding and ongoing crimes. America is sick and we have it in our power to make our country well.
— Mike McCabe
June 9, 2020
Weekly commentaries from Mike McCabe, executive director of Our Wisconsin Revolution Academy Award-nominated documentary filmmakers Carl Deal and Tia Lessin call Mike McCabe a “ray of hope” who “describes in vivid detail how things got so fouled up” but also “offers a way out.”
A crisis has a way of magnifying things that go largely unnoticed in ordinary times. The coronavirus outbreak not only has taken a staggering human and economic toll, it also has made certain realities plainly apparent and certain truths self-evident. This is one way a crisis can be both a curse and a blessing.
These are times that bring to mind that scene from Frank Capra’s iconic 1946 film It’s a Wonderful Life when the greedy Mr. Potter lectures George Bailey: “Now take during the Depression, for instance. You and I were the only ones that kept our heads. You saved the Building and Loan, I saved all the rest.” To which George Bailey replies: “Yes, well, most people say you stole all the rest.”
Modern life imitates that 1940s art. While the pandemic caused tens of millions of Americans to lose their jobs and the health insurance that is tied to their employment, America’s billionaires saw their fortunes grow 15 percent from mid-March to mid-May, making them nearly a half-trillion dollars richer. Fundamental flaws and injustices in our economic system have never been more obvious. A stiff wealth tax has never been more justified.
Our country’s slow and inadequate response to the spread of the coronavirus exposed how woefully unprepared the U.S. was to deal with a pandemic and how many holes there are in our health care system and how easily people can fall through those holes. COVID-19 is nothing if not a cruel reminder of how elusive and fragile health security is in one of the world’s richest nations.
The pandemic lays bare our country’s racial divide as it claims the lives of black Americans at three times the rate of white people. The virus plays racial favorites because it discriminates based on where you live and what kind of housing you have, where you work and what kind of job you do, what kind of transportation you rely on, and what kind of access you have to medical care including diagnostic testing and treatment for COVID-19.
The pandemic bluntly calls into question American food security and challenges us to come to terms with how unwise it has been to allow ourselves to become so heavily reliant on a few gigantic producers and distributors. It presents us with both a choice and an opportunity to disavow get-big-or-get-out policies and create a more decentralized, sustainable and secure agricultural system.
Vanishing smog due to COVID-19’s impact around the world vividly illustrates how much human activity pollutes the air and threatens our planet’s health, making denial of manmade harm all the more implausible.
COVID-19 makes us take a hard look at how we’ve taken for granted vitally important national assets like the postal service and permitted them to be demonized and pushed to the brink of insolvency. When you are living in isolation during a public health emergency and depend on post offices and mail carriers to deliver life-sustaining medications, suddenly the value of such service comes into sharp focus.
Still, in times of crisis such sharpened focus and heightened awareness elude many. Wisconsin’s own Scott Walker has come out against providing stimulus funds to the states. Writing in The New York Times, Walker advocates austerity at precisely the wrong moment, arguing that states should cut their workforces rather than get federal help to continue basic services at a time when their revenues have evaporated due to the economic devastation of COVID-19. That approach ignores every warning from history about how recessions can be turned into depressions.
This pandemic is going to create a new normal, whether we like it or not. Will it be intensified economic inequality, aggravated health insecurity and resumption of environmental insanity? Or will it be greater justice, elevated humanity and gentler treatment of our surroundings and each other?
Dealing with this virus may be fogging our vision but it has made our choices clearer than ever.
— Mike McCabe
May 28, 2020
Even a simple act like wearing a face mask while out in public during a pandemic is fast being weaponized politically.
Polling shows a significant and growing gap in mask usage among Republicans and Democrats as masks have begun to be seen on the right as a symbol of passively submitting to government authority, while on the left they are seen as a sign of compassion or consideration of others.
Heaven help us.
When the decision whether or not to take a widely recommended precaution during a public health emergency gets used to put people at each other’s throats and intensify our divisions, that’s another glaring sign that we are in the midst of political system failure.
After Donald Trump’s election, public approval of the Republican Party fell to an all-time low. The Republicans’ loss was not the Democrats’ gain. Favorable opinions of Democrats dropped to their lowest level in more than a quarter-century. Public dissatisfaction with the major parties and discontent with the current workings of the political system are causing increasing numbers of Americans to lose faith in democracy and begin to warm up to alternatives like military rule, according to the World Values Survey conducted by a global network of social scientists.
If that’s not a wake-up call, what will be?
Our state and country face political circumstances every bit as dire as the economic realities that forced Johnson & Johnson to stop selling talc-based baby powder. The company continues to insist its signature product is perfectly safe. But the consumer has spoken. Hardly anyone is buying it. You can’t sell what no one will buy. America’s major parties have become the political equivalent of talcum powder.
Nature abhors a vacuum. Empty spaces are unnatural as they go against the laws of nature and physics, and they quickly get filled. In the free market, when a product loses favor with consumers it disappears and others promptly appear on the shelves. Vacuums are just as problematic in democracies. Only those wearing partisan blinders can look at widespread public disgust with the political system, deep dissatisfaction with the major parties and a corresponding loss of faith in democracy and see a tolerable and sustainable condition. Something’s got to give. One or both of the major parties have to dramatically change, or a dynamic new political party needs to emerge and fill the vacuum.
We are going through political system failure, and this breakdown will test American democracy’s capacity to self-correct. Pray that we are up to this challenge and can pass the test. The alternatives are ghastly.
— Mike McCabe
May 21, 2020
Conservatives used to be fond of saying that government’s purpose should be limited to defending the shores and delivering the mail.
Those passing themselves off as conservatives today seem intent on crossing delivering the mail off that short list. The U.S. Postal Service is bracing for a $13 billion loss in revenue because of the coronavirus pandemic. USPS didn’t get any help in the multi-trillion-dollar relief packages approved by Congress and signed by the president. And with USPS facing the prospect of running out of money by September without emergency assistance, the White House and congressional Republicans continue to refuse to throw a lifeline.
The postal service provides so many vital services necessary for our nation to operate during the COVID-19 crisis—including delivering life-saving medications and food as well as enabling voting by mail—and unlike other delivery services is obligated to serve all Americans regardless of where they live. As someone born and raised in rural Wisconsin on my family’s dairy farm, I know how critically important that is.
USPS has a legal duty to provide “a maximum degree of effective and regular postal services to rural areas, communities, and small towns where post offices are not self-sustaining” and a mandate to avoid closing any small post office solely for operating at a deficit. Can you imagine FedEx or Amazon ever holding themselves to that kind of community service standard?
Post offices are invaluable community assets, particularly in rural areas where the digital divide looms large. Post office closings in small towns increase rural isolation and economic disparities. Vibrant rural communities depend on the U.S. Postal Service remaining true to its statutory mission of binding the nation together and its universal service obligation guaranteeing service to every American residence and business at a standard affordable price, with no area of the country discriminated against, no matter how costly or difficult to reach.
A precious national resource is endangered. It needs and warrants rescuing. If it’s not saved, we could lose a lot more than mail delivery anywhere regardless how remote. We could lose a way to vote without risking our lives.
Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds. But a combination of a nasty virus and equally virulent partisan politics just might.
— Mike McCabe
May 13, 2020
Our nation’s founders were racist, sexist, elitist and quite a few other ists. Some more than others. But they had something else in common. They hated being under the King of England’s thumb.
At the time, monarchs were thought to have a divine right to rule, a mandate from heaven. To think otherwise was to deny providence. Rather than continuing to submit to royal decrees, the founders chose to deny providence. These slaveholding aristocrats did a radical, revolutionary, heretical thing. They redefined the right to rule.
They asserted a new right based on the idea that a government’s legitimacy and authority to rule depends on the consent of the governed, that the use of state power is only justified and lawful when consented to by the people.
Out of the American Revolution came the U.S. Constitution. A series of 85 essays known as the Federalist Papers explained the thinking behind the proposed Constitution and urged support for its ratification. We now know these essays were written by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison, but they were published anonymously. The writings, after all, were treasonous.
The founders gave us a republic. By republic they meant a representative democracy, a government with a house of representatives that would be, as Federalist No. 52 put it, “dependent on the people alone.” Federalist No. 57 instructed that “the people” was not intended to mean only those like the founders endowed with substantial privilege but rather meant “not the rich, more than the poor; not the learned, more than the ignorant; not the haughty heirs of distinguished names, more than the humble sons of obscurity and unpropitious fortune.”
Consent of the governed is under vicious assault in our day. With the legal bribery that warps decisions made by public officials, the founders’ design of a government dependent on the people alone and not the rich, more than the poor has been debased. Voter suppression, elections rigged by partisan gerrymandering of legislative and congressional districts, and other glaring signs of creeping fascism have become too conspicuous not to notice. The daily actions of those in power speak far more loudly than their words and are proving them hostile to the central idea of the American Revolution—consent of the governed.
It all comes down to sovereignty—the question of who rules. The answer of the first American revolutionaries was that there is no divine right of monarchs to rule, no mandate from heaven, the right to rule rests with the people. Architects of a second American Revolution have been busy for decades erasing that answer, gradually granting sovereignty to global corporate conglomerates and fashioning a modern feudalism. Their work is nearly complete.
Consent of the governed is now an endangered species, and the founders’ legacy is goading us to respond. Thomas Jefferson believed each generation should have its own revolution, famously saying that expecting each new generation to forever live by the customs of past generations is like expecting adults to wear the same clothes that fit them as children.
The clothes no longer fit. The times demand a third American Revolution to reverse the anti-democratic direction our country has taken in recent years and reestablish the republic that was bequeathed to us.
— Mike McCabe
April 20, 2020