Senator Russ Feingold Will Not Seek The Presidency

I heard the depressing news a couple of hours ago. As much as I have grown to love my life in Philadelphia, and as much as I love the work I have been able to do for the movement as a whole, if the news been in the other direction, and had I been asked to help out, I'm about 99% sure I would have boarded a plane to Wisconsin on Monday morning. But, 'twas not to be.

In 2008, I hope that there is at least one candidate who can not only articulate a progressive vision for America, but who can also lead America toward progressive positions in the way Senator Russ Feingold has done for over a decade now. Grassroots politics. Campaign finance reform. Never sacrificing our civil liberties. Knowing when it is time to stop asking American soldiers to die for administration mistakes. Time and time again, Senator Feingold has led on issues that once seemed marginal, and brought them to majority status nationwide. Only a few living Democrats can say that on one issue, much less several. The more Senators we have like Senator Feingold, the better off we will all be as both progressives and as Americans. Even if he will not become President, he will always be a progressive leader.

On a personal level, I made my decision to support Senator Feingold for President on November 3rd, 2004, as I watched Kerry give his concession speech. Needless to say, given how long I was a Feingold supporter, my list of backup preferences is, um, not very well defined. Since I don't want to work on anyone's campaign simply for the sake of working on a presidential campaign, I won't be working on any presidential campaigns this cycle. So, it looks like you are stuck with me for another two years. I will be working for the movement, both here and with BlogPac,a nd I will continue to love life in Philadelphia.

Senator Feingold's statement can be found in the extended entry.

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Anti-Wedge Issues, Ballot Measures, and a 50-state strategy

Note: I wrote this post for my own tiny blog, the readership being my friends who may or may not be as politically literate as the readers of this site; I reposted here just to add my outlook on what is a topic that has been analyzed by much larger politic minds than my own.  Thanks for bearing with me.  -Kevin

anti-wedge issues, ballot measures, and a 50-state strategy.
50-State Strategy: Great summaries on the 50-state strategy, and why it works (both today and historically).  The short version is, as the old adage goes, showing up is half the battle.

Ballot measures: Although referenda have existed in the U.S. since before we were the U.S. (e.g. town hall meetings in New England), it was during the Progressive Era of the very late 19th and very early 20th centuries that statewide ballot measures (initiatives or referenda) became a widespread form of large-scale direct democracy, starting with a city-based system in Nebraska (go Huskers) in 1897, and the first statewide popular system in South Dakota in 1898.  California adopted their process in 1911 and have been plagued by the decision ever since.  Twenty-four mostly Western states adopted the process by popular vote before 1918, the culmination of the Progressive Era, and thirteen more (plus DC) adopted the process by popular vote between 1956 and 1996; there are 37 states today (and DC) that have ballot initiatives.  For more info, an excellent history here.

Anti-wedge issues: I don't know if this is an actual term... I sort of just made it up on the fly, though no doubt someone has already thought of it, or coined a better term.  The way a "wedge issue" works is to divide the populace by vilifying a particular class of people (women, LGBTQI, immigrants, people of color) through the vilification of a right or program that is intended to guarantee that group equal protection under the law/the same rights as everyone else living in this country/protection against systemic discrimination.  It is called a wedge issue because it is supposed to create a "wedge" within one political coalition, say, New Deal Democrats, in order to both suppress voter turnout among that coalition and to try to convince some of those voters that despite the fact that the people promoting the wedge issue, say, reactionary Big Business Republicans, have opposite interests from coalition members on just about every other issue, the coalition members should nonetheless support them out of hate for whatever group is being vilified.

My analysis below the fold...

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Ten Reasons Why Political Candidates Who Focus on Livelihoods Will Win Their Election Campaigns

If political candidates in the upcoming elections read between the lines of the words that the media and pollsters put in our mouths, they will realize that our core concerns as working Americans are quite different from what they are made out to be.

It is true that many of us have gotten caught up in the "culture wars" or even the so-called "war on terror", whose importance has been exaggerated and hyped by politicians who promise to protect us from groups they claim are threatening us if we vote for them.

But these ploys are becoming increasingly transparent as we realize that they have diverted our attention from the most serious and fundamental threats we face. These are the attacks on our economic security and on the economic and political power of American working families.

The attacks on our economic security stem from the deformation of the free enterprise system by large corporations so that it no longer generates the jobs we need with the living wages we deserve.

The attacks on our economic and political power stem from the deformation of our electoral processes by corporate special interests. These interests now dominate the vast majority of our elected representatives by funding their electoral campaigns in exchange for legislative acts and omissions that enable them to maximize their profits at the expense of working families.

In order to protect our livelihoods and wield the economic and political power that we need to do so, it has become clear that we must join forces to defeat incumbents who have been working against our vital interests. We must elect representatives who put forth workable plans for protecting our economic security. Political candidates who want to get our votes will make our livelihoods the central focus of their campaigns and keep in mind the following ten reasons for doing so.

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Excommunicate the DLC

For some time we have known about the DLC's interest in an independent presidential bid by Michael Bloomberg, so it should not come as a major surprise that the organization is helping New York City's Republican mayor plan his potential campaign. Andrew Kirtzman has the scoop for WCBS-News.

CBS 2 has learned the details of a private dinner for the mayor that was held at an apartment building on Manhattan's Upper East Side last month. There, he spent the evening in serious discussions about the viability of a White House run.

Sources told CBS 2 Bloomberg brought three deputy mayors with him, and proceeded to talk through every angle of a presidential run. By the end, the group had zeroed in on his running as an independent in 2008. And, the sources said, he seemed intrigued.

The dinner was held at the home of Michael Steinhardt, a legendary Wall Street hedge fund manager and a Bloomberg friend. He brought along Al From, head of the Democratic Leadership Council, which played a part in Bill Clinton's rise to power in 1992.

I don't particularly like the theoretical aim of the DLC -- bringing the Democratic Party closer to the center, or at least making it more palatable to corporations -- not do I approve of its tactics, particularly Democrat-bashing. But as bad as these two things are, for the DLC to help advance the candidacy of a presidential aspirant outside of the Democratic Party is political treason, grounds enough for excommunication.

I am all for having a big-tent party. After all, the Democratic Party has always been more welcome to differing political ideologies. Even today, during a period of great polarization, the Democratic Party welcomes many more voters and politicians  from outside of the party's orthodoxy than the Republican Party. (For every Linc Chafee in the GOP there are a number of Ben Nelsons, Max Baucuses and Mark Pryors.) Ideology alone should not be grounds for kicking people out of the party (except, perhaps, in extreme situations).

But by attending a strategy session for Michael Bloomberg's independent presidential campaign, Al From has crossed the line. (Well, he probably crossed the line before, but now he has really crossed the line.) With this act, he has signaled for the last time that he is not actually interested in growing the Democratic Party to bring positive change to the country but instead interested in furthering his own power and ambition.

The Democratic Party, and even the centrists within it, must sever all ties with Al From and the DLC. They must not be allowed access to Democratic Congressional leaders. They must not be allowed a role in the nomination process in 2008. They must not be allowed a presence at the Democratic convention. By supporting Bloomberg, Al From and the DLC have indicated they no longer are interested in participating in the Democratic Party and we should see to it that they get their way.

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A New Era in Bipartisanship in the Offing?

In today's issue of the Los Angeles Times, Ron Brownstein takes a look at the current political climate and surmises that the path to victory in 2008 will be bipartisanship and independence.

As campaign 2006 heats up, the first important new theme of the 2008 presidential election may be emerging.

From Washington state to Maryland, candidates in both parties are running against the relentless partisan conflict that now defines life in the nation's capital. In an era when party-line voting in Congress has reached the highest level, by some measures, since the 1890s, a growing number of office-seekers are pledging to operate as an independent voice and a bridge between the parties if voters give them a ticket to Capitol Hill. In the process, they are honing arguments likely to be common in the race to succeed President Bush.

For evidence supporting his conclusion, Brownstein cites as examples Republican Senate candidates Jim Talent of Missouri, Mark Kennedy of Minnesota, Michael Steele in Maryland and Mike McGavick in Washington. Brownstein acknowledges that their rhetoric does not match their record -- Talent and Kennedy have extremely partisan voting records (which Brownstein mentions) and Steele and McGavick are closet conservatives (which Brownstein doesn't) -- but writes this off by noting that a number of Democratic Senate hopefuls (Jim Pederson in Arizona and Bob Casey in Pennsylvania) as well as Joe Lieberman are also running more bipartisan campaigns.

[T]he candidates pledging more cooperation are tapping into what polls show is public exhaustion with the bruising collisions between the parties that dominated most of President Clinton's term and have consumed almost every day of Bush's presidency.

Whatever happens to McGavick and the others, they are blazing trails presidential contenders from both parties are likely to follow. These '06 campaigns are an early signal that in '08, many Americans may want a president who, as someone once put it, will govern as a "uniter, not a divider.

This seems like an awfully large stretch to me. A handful of candidates, many of whom have a long track record of extreme partisanship, profess their independence and voila, that's going to be the ticket to success in two years? Now perhaps a hardline ideologue who claims to be independent -- a la John McCain, for instance, or George W. Bush in 2000 -- will be able to win his party's nomination (and maybe even the White House) in 2008, but there is no way that a true non-partisan will get anywhere close to winning the general election, let alone the primaries.

Think back to the 2004 Democratic primaries. Joe Lieberman, who at one point was viewed as the heir apparent to the Clinton-Gore lineage and thus on the inside track to the party's nomination, came in a distant fifth in the supposedly deliberative New Hampshire primary. Or look to 1996. Not long after the federal government was shut down, pro-choice "moderate" Arlen Specter made a bid for the Republican presidential nomination. His candidacy failed to get off the ground entirely. I could name you more supposedly moderate and independent candidates who failed to connect with their parties, even in times of extreme partisanship, but I don't think it's worth the space.

Every four years we hear the same Beltway crowd clamoring for presidential candidates above the partisan fray. But until I see any indication that voters are interested in candidates who are actually independent of the normal ideological and partisan template rather than candidates who just claim to be so, I think it's best to just disregard these pundits.

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