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February 17, 2006

Why I like Russ Feingold

A reader asked me why I'll support Russ Feingold if he decides to seek the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008. Here are my top reasons:

1. He's a strong civil libertarian. As a longtime member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee, Feingold has credibility and experience on both intelligence and civil liberties. He's already defining a security/civil liberties platform. Feingold was the only senator to vote against the PATRIOT Act the first time around. On Wednesday he launched a one-man filibuster against PATRIOT renewal. He pushed hard for a Senate probe into the NSA spying scandal.

2. He's not afraid to buck the Democratic establishment on key issues like PATRIOT renewal and the Alito filibuster. Although, I admit that I was sorely disappointed by his vote for Roberts.

3. Healthcare.

4. He can carry Wisconsin, a swing state.

5. Social issues: He's for full recognition for committed gay couples. I'd prefer that he endorse gay marriage, but I'll take what I can get. Avedon Caroll suggests that Feingold's role in the Alito nomination might signal that he's not serious about choice. She points to this passage in an essay by David Podvin:

In keeping with America’s continuing political narrative, the confirmation of Samuel Alito resembled a reactionary chainsaw ripping through liberal chickenshit. Russ Feingold foreshadowed the outcome when the Wisconsin Democrat revealed that his caucus had decided to de-emphasize social issues. Democratic senators knew that polls showed the Alito nomination would become unpopular if the judge’s anti-Roe views were emphasized, but their priority was to avoid antagonizing fundamentalist voters whom they perceive as having given the GOP its majority. The champions of the underdog took a dive, and so the Supreme Court is now controlled by Federalist Society members who despise the liberal rank and file.

Feingold's caucus may have made that decision, but I don't think it says very much about Feingold's own stance on choice. Democrats are afraid to talk about abortion. That's unfortunate, but it's a collective malaise. The Alito filibuster needed a unified message, other Democrats are scared of abortion, and Feingold is going to run on a national security/privacy platform. So, all in all it's not surprising that the Democrats downplayed Roe in the Alito fight.

I'm not saying Feingold is perfect, but he's way better than any of the other Democratic frontrunners on almost every important progressive issue.


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Great comments on Feingold. I too was disappointed by what felt like a "dive" on the abortion issue by all the Democrats. Being in the minority and the fear of staying there too often seems to motivate the Dems. Thanks for writing what could be some of the highlights of a Feingold candidacy. Like you I agree that Feingold isn't perfect, but he at least seems willing to risk saying something at a time when too many Dems have run for cover.

Feingold isn't perfect. Which potential candidate is, or ever has been? If anyone is looking for perfection please visit the Ream of The Forms as described by Plato. Meanwhile, come down to earth.

Whoops! That should be "Realm of The Forms" (realm of episteme, as opposed to the world of doxa). Come to think of it, the Ream of The Forms is appropriate. Progressives have taken a good reaming from idealistic notions and have suffered a displacement upward to the cranial regions. They brag about being reality based but they look for ideal humans who have and never will exist to be their chosen political candidates.

Feingold actually just got appointed to the intel committee (i think). He is the only Senator that I know of that can actually relate to the people he represents. He lives in an average house in an average neighborhood. He is not bought by the big business. It strikes fear in many who go around Washington unchallenged and unaccountable.

I am still looking for some info I found before but I read that he is actually in the top 5 as far as sponsoring bills with bipartisian support.

Ream of The Forms

This sounds like a bureaucratic nightmare.

7) He proposed a date certain for withdrawing from Iraq, didn't he? And that is exactly the right approach to the war, both strategically and politically.

7) He proposed a date certain for withdrawing from Iraq, didn't he? And that is exactly the right approach to the war, both strategically and politically.

As far as the war goes, to be truly honest, we're fucked no matter what we do there. To let my geek roots come out, this is the Kobayashi Maru here. This is the ultimate no win scenario. If we bail now, then we have most assuredly lost face. The various terrorist groups would be emboldened with "victory" and fight even harder than before.

If we stay, we continue to throw money away. It's beating our economy, creating oil prices that are unbearable. We're losing troops daily and our civil liberties are drying up like a desert after the rain.

As far as Russ Feingold, more often than not, he's the name I hear sticking up for civil liberties. I can't help but be somewhat cynical because he's an elected senator. This means he a millionare and part of the establishment. Make no mistake, you don't get to be in the Senate without knowing how to play the game. My idealistic side says he's a great choice but my cynical side says he sold his soul like all the rest. The difference is where they might've sold it too.

Power always corrupts.

dj kucinich!

oh wait, you said frontrunners... never mind

I hate to be a spoilsport, but no one seems to have mentioned the elephant in the room. There is simply no chance in hell that America will elect a liberal Jew to the presidency. Republicans win elections by portraying themselves as "real Americans" and democrats as ethnic or cultural others.It is no coincidence that the only three democrats to win a presidential election in the last 45 tears were good ole boys from the South. Only a candidate with impecable redneck credentials is immune to the Republican smear that democrats are culturally alien to the American heartland.

I agree with your sentiments, Lindsay. I'm not an American citizen and I probably won't ever be, but if I were, I'd make sure to vote for Feingold, for the very reasons you stated, in the precise order you wrote them.

I also knew people who refused to vote for Kennedy because he was Catholic. They were old new dealers and just couldn't do it. I think Feingold might run into similar problems.

I guess it just depends on how perceptions are and whether or not he's a marketable quantity.

Last I knew, Russ Feingold was the poorest member of the US Senate by a lot. He returns his pay raises to the US Treasury. He's no millionaire.

I think he's pretty solid on choice, too. I fooled around with open secrets a little, and he got money from Planned Parenthood and EMILY's List (huh?) in 2004. I don't think they're too big on supporting utter sell-outs.

Sadly, I think Jay is right on this one. I doubt the Judaism is the biggest problem, though -- I think it's that he's a twice-divorced single man. If he gets married and gets himself a cute baby by 2008, maybe there's some hope. But otherwise there's no way he could win an election.

As per the above analysis, I'm going with Southern family man John Edwards. He's pretty good on civil liberties, and there may not be a better Democrat on social issues (check the trackbacked post).

I also knew people who refused to vote for Kennedy because he was Catholic. They were old new dealers and just couldn't do it. I think Feingold might run into similar problems.

Yeah, but that was in 1960. In 2004, Kerry got bashed for not being Catholic enough.

His net worth is about 2-300K. He is no millionaire. He doesn't have the "ideal faith" but it didn't stop 27 pro bush counties from choosing him in 2004. Enough with this electible crap. Edwards had his chance and both him and Kerry blew it, not to mention Gore. If he is out there now we should let others take their cheap shots early. The more people outside of WI find out about his the more they like him. If nothing else anyone taking the primaries would be stupid not to look at him as a potential VP.

John Stith, who cares if "we lose face" by withdrawing form Iraq? Should you and I care about whther Bush & Co. lose face? Do you or I refrain from doing what needs to be done because people might laugh at us? As for a withdrawal leaving "terrorist groups emboldened," our staying there emboldens them, motivates and inspires them to kill our troops and sweels their numbers. And it's not quite a no-win scenario: leaving deprives the Iraqi resistance and terrorists (often not the same people) of valuable targets, namely our soldiers. Go HERE every day, and you'll see that something, an average of more than two somethings a day, is to be gained by withdrawal.

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