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John Nichols: Russ Feingold Speaks Out

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babylonsister Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-17-11 07:55 AM
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John Nichols: Russ Feingold Speaks Out
Russ Feingold Speaks Out
John Nichols
January 13, 2011 | This article appeared in the January 31, 2011 edition of The Nation.

Russ Feingold was a different kind of senatormore committed to progressive principles than to a party, an internationalist who opposed free-trade deals because they served multinational corporations rather than multinational communities, a stalwart defender of the Constitution whose commitment to civil liberties and regard for the requirement that wars be declared by Congress led him to stand alone against presidents and colleagues. Feingold's independence and rectitude were such that the most conservative member of the Senate, Oklahoma Republican Tom Coburn, would mark the departure of the most progressive member by saying of the Wisconsin Democrat, "One man of great integrity {kept} his word and {held} to his values through every crisis and every vote."

So it should come as no surprise that Feingold will be a different kind of ex-senator. Instead of retaining his residence in Washington and signing on with some K Street lobbying firm, he packed up his apartment and headed home to Middleton, Wisconsin, where he'll live in the same modest house he owned when he first ran for the Senate in 1992. Feingold has taken a teaching post at Marquette University's Law School in Milwaukee, and he's already outlining a book that will be highly critical of recent US foreign policy. But there is much more on Feingold's agenda. After maintaining relative silence since his narrow defeat in November, he arranged to talk with me on the last day of his third term. Just minutes after finishing his service as a senator, Feingold and I conducted a wide-ranging interview in which an upbeat and highly engaged former legislator explained that, far from leaving the public stage, he intends to embrace the role of citizen reformer, continue challenging corporate power and play a part in renewing and extending the progressive movement. He is not running for president in 2012. But he surely hopes to influence a president, a nation and the world.

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DCKit Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-17-11 09:15 AM
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1. I would (like to) imagine a lot of voters from WI walking out of the booth thinking...
"OMG, what did I just do?"

Y'all got rid of one of the best of the best, that's what you did.
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Jackpine Radical Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-17-11 10:06 AM
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2. Yeah. The Day After.
I remember it like one remembers any severe trauma. Saddened, angered, embarrassed by the moronic voters of this state

The political character of Wisconsin is changing. We used to have good socialists on both ends of the state (Milwaukee & Superior) and a good Progressive base in Madison. Early in the last century we had a higher percentage of immigrants in our population than any other state, and any would-be politician who tried the sort of demagogic anti-foreigner talk that worked elsewhere would swiftly be handed his nether parts by the electorate. Fundamentalists were considered odd and unlettered. My how times have changed here in Little Siberia.
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ProSense Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-17-11 10:23 AM
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3. Important points:
Edited on Mon Jan-17-11 10:24 AM by ProSense

What about the money that was spent in your race?

Money in politics is a huge issue. But let's be clear: I certainly wasn't underfunded . I don't think another $100 million would have changed the outcome of my race. I don't think even $100 million would have mattered, because of the mindset that had developed, because of the desire on the part of a lot of voters to send that message. I think it's important to make this point, because I'm not here to say that I was a victim in particular of that. I think we have to see the whole money-in-politics issue in a broader context.

What happened in my race was frustrating. What happened in 2010 was frustrating. But it is going to be worse in 2012 unless we do somethingmuch worse. That's why money in politics is such a fundamental issue. In terms of the incredibly corrosive effect that unlimited spending by corporations has, we're just seeing the tip of the iceberg.... I think the process is being destroyed by this. Some of my future activities will involve challenging that directly.


What do you mean when you refer to "the broader struggle"? What should progressives do now?

I don't know how it could be more stark or clear: this entire society is being dominated by corporate power in a way that may exceed what happened in the late nineteenth century, early twentieth century. The incredible power these institutions now have over the average person is just overwhelming: the way they can make these trade deals to ship people's jobs overseas, the way consumers are just brutalized and consumer protection laws are marginalized, the way this town hereWashingtonhas become a corporate playground. Since I've been here, this place has gone from a government town to a giant corporate headquarters.

To me, the whole face of the countrywhether it be the government, the media, agriculture, what happens on Main Streethas become so corporatized that the progressive movement is as relevant as it was one hundred years ago, maybe more so. It's the same issues. It's just that power, because of money, international arrangements and communications, is so overwhelming that the average person is nearly helpless unless we develop a movement that can counter that power. I know we've all tried over the years, but this is a critical moment. We need to regenerate progressivism and make it relevant to what's happening right now. But there's no lack of historical comparison to a hundred years ago. It's so similar; the only real difference is that corporate power is even more extended. It's the Gilded Age on steroids.


There is a strong need for a real progressive movement in this country.

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DeeDeeNY Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-17-11 11:37 AM
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4. The only Senator with courage to vote against the Patriot Act
A huge loss to this country that he lost his seat.
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