Feingold for President!
Several postpaid envelopes have arrived in our home mailbox from The Friends of Hillary Clinton, soliciting funds for her re-election as US Senator and supposedly a guage of her national support for the next step, the US Presidency. I have returned them checkless, along with a handwritten statement of how I will not support a candidate who supported (and supports) the Iraq war. I told a caller soliciting support for John Kerry's new Presidential bid how disappointing it remains that Kerry has never repudiated the war, so in my book, politically "he's toast". The musical "Evita" may sing of politics as "the art of the possible", but in 2008 I'll be a moral voter once again. My choice will be whichever candidate demonstrates the strongest show of opposition to the deeply immoral Iraq War, and the diminution of civil rights by the Patriot Act. Right now that list of contenders includes only Russ Feingold.
Opponents in Congress to the the invasion of Iraq were a minority, but a sizeable one. They included Senators Feingold, Teddy Kennedy and even reformed Ku Kluxer Robert Byrd, who eloquently proclaimed "Today I Weep for My Country" as Bush began landing US troops. Yet those who stubbornly support the occupation and cry to "stay the course" include Kerry, Joe Biden and Mrs. Clinton, all of whom are said to have an eye on the White House. Though there's evidence that the public's increasing disgust at the war may have an effect, throughout 2005 the aforementioned war supporters successfully co-opted Howard Dean. Dean was once a promising and vociferous antiwar candidate, and is now a staid Democratic Party chair.
Though in the House of Representatives 66 members opposed the Patriot Act, Feingold's lone vote in the Senate against it was the sole voice of sanity in a time of imprudent fear. A similar portrait in courage is California Congressional Representative Barbara Lee, who cast the lone vote against the first authorization of emergency warmaking powers to President Bush. History now shows that he could not be trusted with them.
About 1990, New York Senator Mario Cuomo lamented there could never be a Presidential condender with a name as ethnic as Mario. So what about a name like Feingold? Back in 1970 William F. Buckley wrote in LOOK magazine that he'd like to see a black--and of course, conservative--U.S. President in 1980; at the same time, other pundits contemplated New York Seanator Jacob K. Javits as possibly our first Jewish President. In the 2004 Democratic primary race, Joseph Lieberman affirmed his Orthodox Jewish faith as proudly as any conservative Christian Republican might his own, though Lieberman's supporters pointed out his religious convictions would never lead him to legislation to deny a woman abortion choice or to channel public funds to religious schools.
The generations of midwestern knee-jerk antisemites (Wisconsin Republicans who supported Senator Joe McCarthy) in my own family have all passed on, and I suspect that's the case nationally. One wonders which way today's Christian fundamentalists, who supported the once-divorced Ronald Reagan, would vote; some bloggers suspect Feingold's two divorces might lose them. Feingold's liberal politics appear motivated by progressive Jewish traditions (one blogger notes his sister is a Rabbi), yet whatever degree he chooses to believe, the religion of his family of origin is subsumed in attention to to a properly secular polity. The idea of religion as a private matter to be kept out of politics, as affirmed in the administration of the Catholic John F. Kennedy and for decades before, is a wise, tolerant and eminently civil traditional value that has sadly been abandoned by the Religous Right.
This endorsement is entirely my own, and surprises my fellow Bad Subjects; our debate on Ralph Nader's 2000 presidential bid became quite fierce. Yet though the election is over two years away, I make my stand. This January, Feingold questioned Supreme Court nominee Joseph Alito about his tendency to rule in favor of unrestricted Presidential power. The US Senate and Congress are elected and paid to balance abuses by the Executive branch, and too many of these legislators have gone along with a President whose arrogance is unprecedented. This heartland/rustbelt voter feels that Feingold was the only Senator who has stayed on watch, undistracted by the shitstorm of jingoism after 9/11. He did the right thing on two of the most important votes of our century: he voted against the Patriot Act, and he voted against the War. Let's us vote in Russ Feingold for President of the United States in 2008.
--January 18, 2006
Mike Mosher is a Bad Subject living in Michigan.