Tuesday, March 21, 2006

In Defense of Feingold

[Mike is recovering in the hospital after circumstances obliged him to foil an extraterrestrial invasion by bringing every NY Giants cheerleader to screaming orgasm three times in a six-hour period. Don't worry--it was neither alien vengeance nor overexertion that injured him; instead, he fell victim to a savage and wordless gratitude. He'll resume posting shortly.]

Remember 2002-3, when the Democrats in Congress were divided over whether they should energetically support Bush's call to invade Iraq or to blindly support his call? Remember how Russ Feingold was the only Senator to vote against the invasion? Remember how Congressional Democrats treated Feingold's nay vote as boneheaded at best and treasonous at worst?

Remember how Democratic leaders stopped savaging Feingold's vote when it turned out that Feingold had been right? Remember how it turned out that there weren't any WMDs in Iraq and that the Bush administration forgot to plan for the occupation? Remember how there was recently a brief period during which the Democratic leadership actually seemed willing to acknowledge that Feingold might have had the right--might even have been right--to take a principled stand?

You remember that? Well, forget it. Before you learn something from it. That's what the Democrats are doing.

A couple weeks ago, when Feingold introduced his motion to censure Bush over wiretapping, his fellow Democratic Senators ran for cover like wicked witches in a rainstorm. Even The Nation called him "an ass." Why? Because Feingold had taken an unpopular position again. Despite all these years of calling Bush everything from an incompetent to a criminal, the party leadership is refusing to back Feingold's censure motion--to even consider it--because they worry it will galvanize the base of a temporarily confused Republican Party. They worry it will alienate swing voters.

I'd be willing to entertain the argument that one has to be a calculating and even a little craven when it comes to election-year politics--you want your issues to test well in focus groups. But the Democratic leadership has calculated and cravened its way right out of power over the past decade. These brilliant triangulators, these no-nonsense vote-grabbers have lost ground in every election to which they've applied their tactical genius since 1994.

If they can't get their tactics right, maybe they should just go ahead and get their values right. Heck, maybe it would be easier for the voters to decide that they agree with what the Democratic Party stands for if the party were willing to, say, stand for something. And to stand for it when it might help the voters, rather than standing for it three years after the fact, when it can only help campaigners.

A small reminder in case the Democratic leadership isn't good at math: in three years Bush will either be former President Bush or President-for-Life Bush. Either way, it'll be way too late for a censure.


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