Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Finally, the Feingold post

I apologize for the delay in posting my reaction to the Feingold events over the weekend. Sometimes life gets in the way.

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.



RF said...

I haven't seen Feingold live, but based on what I know I do like him and respect him. I hope he runs in '08 so the people who are politically aligned with him have a worthy candidate. If he runs his campaign well, he could even end up as our nominee.

However, I will be looking for a Unity 08 type of candidate this time around. Despite being pretty darn liberal, I am sick and tired of the mindless partisan bashing and polarization. To me, it has become the clear number one issue.

Using my criteria, Warner appears to be the clear front runner at this point of time. I'm afraid Feingold would turn out to be a very polarizing candidate/president.

noneed4thneed said...

The media is trying to make Feingold out to be a polarizing figure. However, how do you explain Feingold winning 27 counties that voted in Favor of Bush?

Gavin said...

There's nothing mindless about Feingold. Standing up against corruption in government is anything but mindless polarization.

KL Snow said...

I'm all for unity as long as it doesn't involve giving up what I believe in.

The fact remains that I think a fair portion of Americans (60% or so) are ready for an enormous change in direction. As Thneed mentioned, Feingold is wildly popular in both urban and rural areas in Wisconsin, and there's no reason to think he wouldn't have both red and blue state appeal in a presidential election.

RF said...

I think you need to face the facts and see how a candidate is perceived. Like it or not, that's what matters.

As I said, I like Feingold. If he becomes our nominee, I would be happy in many ways and would work hard for him. But considering my personal priority number one at this time, I'm leaning towards a different kind of candidate.

Aaron said...


I realize it's all about perception, but I'm not sure the "polarizing partisan figure" label can really stick to Feingold. It's floating around right now just because so few people know anything about him. As his profile goes up during a national campaign, I think it will be obvious to almost everyone that it's a misrepresentation. This is a guy who has consistently worked across the aisle--most prominently on the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform, but he has also staked out pragmatic, principled, and bi-partisan stances on the Clinton impeachment, gun control, the Roberts SC nomination, etc.

And like most things, given the opportunity, Feingold is not hesitant to forcefully and demonstrably point out that he is not, in fact, a partisan hack.

sharai said...

I think Feingold has an excellent chance of being a unity candidate. He seems to have a real talent for connecting with all sorts of people, especially in person. He is also good at changing the frame when media types try to slot him into some inane category. I am also from Northern WI, and it is really amazing how broad his appeal is among people you'd expect to reject him as liberal from Madison.

RF said...

I don't want to beat this to death, but a couple more points.

I hope you all are right about Feingold. If he could become a "unity candidate," we would be very lucky to have him. My fear is that he has already been defined in a different way and there is enough ammunition out there to make that definition stick. This is my fear for the general election in particular. His home state reputation may be fairly irrelevant if he’s been defined in a different way nationally.

As a citizen of this country, the last thing I want is the continuation of the kind of discourse we've had in the Clinton/W years. We really need someone to break this gridlock. Unfortunately, I often get the feeling there are more people on the R side who are interested in actual discussion about issues. Many of us D's have let anger take control. That anger is understandable, but not productive. I wish we could channel that anger in a positive, constructive and collaborative way.

This country likes to elect positive, forward-looking people. I believe people are sick of the partisanship and there is real hunger for true positive leadership. If one of the parties nominates a non-polarizing candidate along those lines, I suspect they’ll win in ’08.

The Real Sporer said...

I always find the idea that Democrats who say the most outlandish of things about Republicans don't consider it polarizing.

Feingold's statements about the President are so outlandish that he would really drive up our base turn out like crazy. Nothing like Hillary, who would unify us like nothing since we had stand up to you guys on slavery and disunion, but still a pretty hot tomato.

By the way, for secret Krusty types, Sporer's spouse is hot!

RF said...

Again, I seem to agree more with an R than my fellow D’s. I hope Mr. Sporer’s comment here gives some validity to my concerns.

Hmm, so Ann and the Kennedy staffer are not alone. More attractive women on the R side. I’m tempted to start attending R events. Interesting discussion and hot women. Sounds like something I would enjoy.

The Real Sporer said...

Perhaps some of those hot women and Sporer's Hot Spouse are the same woman?

Scary huh?

I posted on Evan Bayh in another Dem blog earlier. State central committee subcommitte meeting (say that fast three times) so I've got lots of political angst to vent.

My point is, I'm happy you guys think Hillary is a centrist. Evan Bayh would be hard to beat as the head mule. Likeable, good looking, a legacy, a hawk on defense (which you have to be to win the big one)the whole enchilada.

Of course, Howard Dean has a far better chance, and may be your front runner, so I'm not yet scared.

RF said...


I agree with your analysis of Hillary and Feingold being polarizing.

Bayh may end up being a strong candidate. But I do think the partisan in you should be more afraid of Warner. After having seen him, I have a great gut feeling about him being a positive, forward-looking unity candidate. Just what this country is hungry for. And probably a president you could live with, assuming you could live with any D in the WH. When I saw Bayh, he just didn't seem to be in the same class as Warner.

Any tips on how a relatively liberal D could blend in at an R function? Would love to check out those hot R ladies. Or is there only one?

The Real Sporer said...

Dress sharp, groom well and speak politely-all hard for Dems but still possible. That's how Sporer scored his hot wife.

Warner isn't sufficiently good looking-you'll notice that the better looking guy almost always wins. (Maybe LBJ over Barry Goldwater might be the exception. Nixon/HHH about the same, Ford/Carter about the same RR, Bubba and W were all way better looking than their opponents). Warner also has bombed on his few national TV moments. Not scared-he's your version of Mitt Romney (intriguing flavor but don't chocolate and vanilla still dominate the taste buds).

I also agree about the dialogue in this country, and there is a lot of blame to go around. I think the Ds are a lot worse (becaue the highest levels of the party say the crazy stuff and not just wingers like in our party) but it all has to come to a pretty abrupt halt because we do face a global enemy, probably worse than any we've ever faced (remember, these Islamofascists brag about the things that Hitler and Stalin denied doing it was so horrible)and they really don't care where you stood in impeachment or Florida or whatever left/right wing issue floats your boat when they're sawing off your head.

By the way, I wouldn't support McCain because of McCain Feingold (several other reasons as well) and I can't see too many Democrat party officials being to high on the guy in your party that did so much damage to the First Amendment and the party discipline and structure that has done a pretty good job of managing American democracy through a civil war, the industrial revolution, two world wars, the civil rights movement and the cold war.
So instead of looking for candidates that can say the very worst things about the other side, maybe we should be looking for people to persuade the other side-but that means you have to be willing to listen as well as rave.

Anonymous said...

It is interesting that there are so many comments from the R side. Perhaps everyone is ready for a dose of truth and backbone. Feingold is the best and truest I have seen. Truth may be polarizing for a while, but eventually it will set you free. And everyone knows it ..., on both sides of the aisle.