I'm my favorite Democrat in Wisconsin. I'm pretty damn good at being one too. I'm canvassing my neighborhood five days this week to build up a ward team for some cool projects with the DPW. I'm doing lit drops in other places and I should be able to be at the DPDane County Meeting on Wednesday. But I do loves me some Russ Feingold.
I do have one correction for folkbum though. It was not a complete "who's-who" of WI Dems. The largest contributor to the Democratic Party from WI for 2004 and 2005 was not there. How do I know this? I was riding in a chartered jet with her telling her about the four Dems to watch for 2008 and what she needs to do to get Russ Feingold up the ladder (I kept him in the list of four) and who else to look out for (Warner, Edwards, Clark).
Let me address something that has come up here about Feingold's toolbox, so to speak, when running for President or VP: foreign policy.
Some will say that his stances on Iraq and the Patriot Act basically eliminate any foreign policy cred. While I think that there is a strong case against this (such as: truly getting foreign policy as a broader thing beyond militarism, including such radical notions as international cooperation, diplomacy, strategic movement, and economic policy's affect on foreign policy), there is far more to Russ than being pro-Bill of Rights and anti-failure in Iraq.
I have had the privilege of seeing Russ speak on panels and individually on foreign policy issues raning from U.S. internationalism in a post 9/11 world to the proper way to confront terrorism, to African policy (he was the first U.S. Senator to visit Darfur and for a while was essentially the only voice and actor on Darfur in the Senate...he is recognized as THE expert in the Senate on Africa policy), to American hegemony in the world today (both economic and militaristic). Let me tell you that he is eloquent, candid, and incredibly well-informed with equally well-developed positions and policy-proposals. He can speak about foreign policy to ANYONE, from an expert to a layperson. He does something very well with the latter as well: he can break down the basics of something complex and explain it based upon its principles so that someone gets something nuanced.
At one event where I saw him this past summer at UW-Milwaukee, he was talking about the U.S foreign policy in a post-9/11 world, and in the context of being hated in the Arab world but understood as necessary for many nations that are paid scant attention on the world scale now, but will grow in importance soon. One other expert on the panel, a woman who was brilliant about Latin America basically said Russ "got it" as well as anyone she had served on a panel with. And people in the audience ranged from academics to those curious about foreign policy to liberal Russ-lovers (I would fall into the latter category). People walking out (not so much walking out as leaving patiently while also streaming toward Feingold, who graciously stuck around and talked to admirers and those with furthers points who he could not address in the QnA) remarked about how Feingold could grasp foreign affairs so well and explain it to them. That's the mark of someone who can show up on the talk-show circuit (I argue that for elections in 2006 and beyond, national candidates and figures MUST include Maher and Daily Show) and earn some serious cred on foreign policy and ply that in all media as THE expert on an issue that will need to be addressed, if not trotted out as THE issue. Feingold is the only one besides Clark and Gore who can stand up above the Goopers on the issue.
The thing is, this is where citizens, progressive, liberal, Democrat, whatever, have to hold parties and people accountable.
I have worked for years in grassroots issue-based politics. I have worked on the state and national level with this, on issues like clean energy, the environment, civil rights, economic justice, etc. One major long-term thing is that when a person does what you want, you do right by them. You thank them officially. You get it out in the media, news or editorial page or whatever. You make sure people know they did good. You do right by them by working with them on something else. You do right by them by making sure that their base or those who might support person X who are among your own constituents (who would care about that particular issue) knew what person X did so that the official gets praise, support, and aid in their work and future campaigns.
And by gosh by golly, if someone f'ed up in office and did the "wrong" thing, we would make sure everyone who mattered knew, and made sure that not voting for or doing what we wanted would be something that would disable them. We'd let their base know how they f'ed up (if the base was likely to be with us). We let their constituents know, especially those who had a vested or even marginal interest in what we were doing. And we got it out in the public through the media, calling their asses out.
One idea is that if someone did something that was against what we were advocating, it would become a political liability, in that we leveraged power and opinion and influence in ways they needed.
One of the reasons Hillary can't win the general election is that she is a walking political paradox. To the majority of Americans and especially the "center," she is the uber-liberal. To the progressive, liberal activist class, she is someone who will not inspire their passion to get out and do the field and grassroots work it takes to win these days. Field and grassroots is now the biggest difference-maker in national elections. So Hillary can't win because of that.
Now if the Dems nominate Hillary in '08, it is important for long-term growth and development of the party and especially the influence of the progressive parts of the party that she not be worked for by the passionate ones. It is about accountability to the people who win these elections that the party needs to right itself (no pun intended). What's great for the Dems is that if they finally learn to be badasses and not let the right brand them, they are free to be far more liberal and progressive than what they are now; the American public actually favors that kind of stuff (especially on back-pocket and quality of life issues), and it will get the activists and die hards working to win elections.
Or maybe I'm wrong and working hard for Hillary '08 will engender some political taste in the DLC Democrats for the progressive wing as necessary to win elections. But perhaps I can either a) remind you of 1993-2001 or b) sell you a bridge in Brooklyn.
I can't get out and hit the pavement for (or take a year off of my life to work fulltime on the campaign staff of) Hillary Clinton in '08. And I will have a clear conscience knowing that if enough people like me do the same thing, 2012-2024 will hold many different things for the Democratic Party, all positive. I just hope and pray that 2008 holds that and Feingold, Gore, Clark, or Edwards gets the top spot of the ticket and one of the others the VP nomination (or Brian Schweitzer for that matter). Allowing the Dem "elite leadership" to run roughshod over what the rest of the party rank and file want and need, and what's best for the country is like allowing another Bush to take the oath of office.
I'd be more than happy, as a professional organizer and activist, to start a blog dedicated solely to helpful tips on organizing for the less-initiated. I've worked on issue-based campaigns and electoral campaigns alike. In 2004, I was one of the organizers for MoveOn.org in Ohio and for the past couple of years, I have helped organize and run grassroots campaigns for progressive groups. I'm sure I have lots of notes and even some crusty ideas up in my noggin to help set up a sort of online school for organizing.
I'll host the site at http://progressive-organizing.blogspot.c
om for now.
I think if you're using data from presidential election years as opposed to mid-term elections, you're going to have skewed analyses. Especially since we are considering a mid-term election right now.
Presidential elections, especially the one in 2004, generate immense field operations that are unheard-of in mid-terms. Field operations have a big impact on subverting "polling" results and making those polls look foolish. That was definitely the case in 2004. No matter if 68% of those polled disapprove of what Congress is doing, or if 68% think Congress is controlled by Republicans, if the GOP can turn out numbers of voters, which essentially makes the previous poll a not statistically significant sample size in hindsight, they'll overcome that.
But in the larger point of the main post and some responses. I think it's great. It is gaining traction among political types here in Wisconsin, where the state legislature is controlled in both houses by the GOP. They're doing all sorts of crazy things, including introducing three different constitutional amendments in the past two years, none of which went anywhere but certainly got debated (heavily) a lot. And they just re-introduced one of them again and got a gay marriage amendment on a referendum. People here are fed up with their stuff, and lots of people in the editorial pages and elsewhere are saying "Republicans control the legislature, Republicans control the legislature." And the thing that is working is something similar to what was pointed out above: repeat the same core message, but with variations on the different instantiations.
Republicans control Congress and they can't balance a budget without slashing important and vital programs because they're busy stuffing the pockets of the special interests that keep lining theirs. Republicans control Congress and can't do the job right. Democrats can.
Republicans control Congress and they can't adequately ensure that our nation is secure because the money and attention that we need to have securing ports, utility plants, airports, and major cities is being directed to defense contractors, private companies, and a debacle of misusing the military over in Iraq. Republicans control Congress and can't do the job right. Democrats can.
Republicans control Congress and they can't bring America energy independence and security because they lack the foresight to see that renewable energy is an American industry that can bring us our energy from right here at home, creating jobs, making our economy more secure and get that economy running better. Republicans control Congress and they can't bring America energy independence and security because they are too busy with energy policies that give away billions to highly-profitable energy companies that keep nailing our wallets at the pump and the monthly bill, and these companies get away with it because they've bought off the Republicans who control Congress. Republicans control Congress and can't do the job right. Democrats can.
The message in these rough examples is that there is a consistent thread of Republican inability and lack of will to do right by the American people and "get the job done," something that Americans look to as a very important quality in our elected officials; the specific examples highlight this and focus on what Republicans didn't do and why; finally, they say Democrats will do the job better by laying out the terms of Republican failure so bare that the other option would definitely do it better. All in all, the message is simply that Republicans control Congress and their failures are many and large, while Democrats won't make those mistakes.
I've got a blogspot page for myself that I just got going a week or so ago. It's had some federal race coverage and talk about policy things on it from me, but I'm going to hopefully focus it more intently on my state of Wisconsin. Check it out at:
No diary things, because it's a blogspot page (unless I'm missing something on there). But comments can come a'plenty.
I'm working to get some contacts inside the statehouse and inside the state party better than what I do right now, and then use the blog itself as a way to keep people up on things in our state and ways to be active among them.