Let me start out with a basic overview. I like Russ Feingold. I'm now the proud owner of a "Run Russ Run!" button, and I would be surprised if the issues he presents don't resonate with the large portion of Iowa voters who supported Ed Fallon. Feingold is also probably the only candidate I'd get up at 5:45 on a Sunday to see, and as it turns out, that's what I did.
Thneed, (of Iowa for Feingold and Century of the Common Iowan) Ilya (of Russ for President) and I attended small private events in Clinton and Davenport on Sunday. Feingold does things a little differently from the other candidates I've seen. Instead of standing up and commanding attention and giving long speeches, he sits down in the room, introduces himself, gives a short overview, and then opens the floor up for questions.
I think this is why a lot of the press coverage about Feingold's visit was directed towards his stance on the war. Yesterday I referred to this Register piece as "worthless tripe," but it's a good example of the situation. The QC Times piece isn't as bad, but the same problem is there. I can see how someone who wasn't paying attention at the events could come across with that notion. But I think this stat puts it in perspective:
At the two events I attended, Feingold was asked 24 questions. Twelve of them were about foreign policy. When you allow the crowd to ask you questions, you allow the crowd to determine your direction. Feingold spoke to two groups with large contingents of people concerned about foreign policy on a day when tensions between Israel and Lebanon were peaking. As a result, he ended up answering a lot of questions about foreign policy.
And the fact remains that Feingold's foreign policy stance, among other things, continues to get him reelected. In 2004, Feingold's opponent spent $11 million on ads bashing him on his stance on the Patriot Act (only Senator to vote against) and his vocal opposition of the war, claiming he "doesn't get national security." A funny thing happened, though. Feingold didn't run for cover like most Democrats do. He stood up. He took on their concerns head-on. And he won big. In fact, he outperformed Kerry in 71 of Wisconsin's 72 counties and won 27 counties that Kerry lost.
I grew up in northern Wisconsin. It's not a good place to be a liberal. If Russ Feingold is just the far-left's candidate, then why do people back at home keep voting for him?
It's simple. They're voting for him because he's the candidate that can fix what's wrong with the Democratic party. They're voting for him because he cares about people and social programs, but he's also a strong fiscal conservative. They're voting for him because he's not afraid to stand up. Consider some of these quotes from Sunday's events:
"Everywhere I go, people ask me, 'When are Democrats going to stand up?'"
"Voters are looking for vote for people who will stick to their guns."
"Republicans are most afraid of us when we stand up."
And this one, my personal favorite and the new subheading of my blog:
"People aren't gonna vote for you just because the other guy's no good."
Are you listening?
Lots of people are asking if 2006 can be for Democrats what 1994 was for Republicans. In 1994, Republicans had the "Contract with America." Most of us find a lot of things in the contract deplorable, but at least it showed that Republicans stand for something. We're at a position of great opportunity, but if we want to take back the Legislature, if we want to take control of our country back, we've got to show that we stand for something too.