(Keywords: politics, elections, Wisconsin, Democrats need to stand up to Bush - like, oh I don't know, Russ Feingold does)
The Washington Post was told by Russ Feingold that people want democrats to stand up to Bush. "There is this deep sense, especially in the base of the party, that we don't have firm principles or that if we have firm principles, we're not stating them firmly. And it is amazing to hear people, almost as if they've had the same script, saying we are tired of Democrats looking weak," Feingold told reporters in an interview.
"So that appears to be the conviction," he continued, "I don't think people are as concerned about what the exact issues are as this feeling that we don't act like we are ready to govern this country both domestically and also especially ... standing up to the White House with regard to the mistakes and abuses of the post-9/11 era."
Feingold is well known in Wisconsin for his frequent 'listening sessions' around the state, similar to the 'townhall meetings' that candidates host, just less photo-op-ish. These are give and take community meetings, where Feingold is often asked to explain his votes and faces real criticism. As a result, Feingold is generally viewed as an honest public servant and a skilled debater.
And, of course, he's right here. "When I went to Iowa, I like to kid around saying that given the positions I have taken, I think I could have been a piece of Swiss cheese and got a lot of cheers and applause," Feingold said, "It was the positions that I was taking, the positions I have taken, that people are saying why don't other people take these stands against the administration in a positive way, in a position sense? Why is there this meekness? Why is there this timidity is what I always hear."
The problem is that so many democrats voted for the war and are unwilling to admit it was a mistake. But, if you look at the polling on Iraq, it was extremely popular at the beginning and extremely unpopular now. If most people have changed their minds and admit their support for the war was a mistake, what real risk would there be for democrats in admitting that they're in the same boat - that their heads are were everyone's else's is now?
Not that Feingold suffers from this problem - he voted against the war. He was the only senator to vote against the USA PATRIOT Act. As he said, his positions have been popular, despite the prevailing wisdom. When he ran for re-election in 2004, the GOP tried to use his opposition to the war and his stand on the PATRIOT Act against him, but people weren't buying. Feingold won easily, handing his opponent, Tim Michels, his ass with a better than 11 point lead.
Democrats need to make stands that are defiant, even if the defiance leads nowhere. They need to be willing to fight the good fight, even if it means they're going to lose that fight.
They need to be more like Russ Feingold.