So far, so good

May 21, 2015

Despite being publicly launched only six weeks ago, Blue Jean Nation has spawned a whirlwind of activity.

Organizing meetings and public presentations about the new citizen movement already have been held in more than two dozen locations throughout the state, including Baraboo, Beloit, Cross Plains, Eau Claire, Elkhorn, Evansville, Fond du Lac, Green Bay, Jefferson, Kenosha, Lodi, Madison, Mazomanie, McFarland, Menasha, Mount Horeb, Oconomowoc, Oregon, Oshkosh, Portage, Prairie du Chien, Racine, Rhinelander, Ripon and Waterloo. The meet-ups have been held in people’s homes, community centers, public libraries, churches, high schools, college campuses and even an old feed mill. Upcoming events are scheduled for Ashland-Bayfield, East Troy, Lake Mills, Middleton, Monroe, Spring Green and Sturgeon Bay.

The promise of Blue Jean Nation prompted local residents to pack a basement room in the old Racine City Mill to start the process of forming a local Blue Jean Nation chapter. The 160-year-old building is Racine’s oldest continuously run grain mill and the only source for locally blended feeds, lawn seed, bulk garden seed, and brewing and winemaking supplies. It doubled as a meeting place earlier this month for a standing-room-only crowd looking to start a blue jean movement locally. Before calling it an evening, participants made plans to meet again in June to plot out next steps.

“This is  exactly what Blue Jean Nation was formed to inspire and encourage. And this is exactly the kind of thing we hope to see in more and more communities across Wisconsin and eventually beyond,” Blue Jean Nation founder and president Mike McCabe said.

In Neenah, local supporters there are making plans to give Blue Jean Nation a presence in the community’s July 4th parade.

Blue Jean Nation’s formation has prompted an outpouring of aid from volunteers. The website is homemade, built by a volunteer who asked for no payment for her countless hours of labor. A supporter had 1,000 copies of an informational flyer printed at her own expense. Another donated QuickBooks accounting software and installed it in her spare time to help the organization manage finances. Introductory videos about the ideas behind Blue Jean Nation were produced by two unpaid volunteers. In addition, more than $7,600 was raised in contributions averaging $68 during a 30-day crowdfunding campaign that just concluded.

Newspapers, radio and TV stations, and online news sites from throughout Wisconsin and from as far away as India have chronicled Blue Jean Nation’s beginnings. One newspaper headline said “Blue Jean Nation can remake politics.” An online news site in western Wisconsin urged its audience to “read about the rising Blue Jean Nation, one of the most promising political movements.”

“What we are finding everywhere we go is a hunger for change and a willingness to jump in and get involved in an effort to deal with our broken politics and try to get citizens back in the driver’s seat of our government at a time when the political system has been rigged and is failing us,” McCabe said.