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Oh Noes! Feingold Not Running For Anything.

Showing his progressive leadership, Russ Feingold announced today he was not running for any office in 2012. Yes, I am being snarky. Feingold is another example of the faux-progressive which progressives spend way too much time and energy lionizing and promoting.

To briefly recap, Feingold's main claim to fame was the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign reform bill. This bill was a figleaf covering the complete corruption of the political process that had already occurred. The 2010 Citizens United decision simply removed the figleaf. It did not materially alter the "bought" nature of our politics. His other claim to fame is his March 14, 2006 motion to censure George Bush. It too was largely symbolic. That was 5 1/2 years ago. It is surprising the amount of mileage faux-progressives get out of their occasional gestures to the left.

The point is that Feingold could have been, and should have been, if he were legit, a focus for progressive organizing. But he wasn't. The censure motion was good political theater, but it never led to anything. Feingold could have been the voice of opposition to Bush and his policies, but the silence from the Wisconsin Senator's office was deafening. He could have played the same role opposing Obama's right wing corporatist agenda. He did not. Indeed he lost his Senate seat largely because of his failure to distance himself from Obama.

There are other reasons to dislike Feingold and question his progressive credentials. He voted for John Roberts as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He voted for Obamacare. And he is a deficit hawk.

This year at the national faux-progressive convention of Netroots Nation, Feingold was one of the keynote speakers. It was actually fairly stomach turning to read the various posts filled with accolades encouraging him to primary Obama, or run for the Senate again, or for governor against the unpopular Walker in a recall election. Feingold did his star turn and, completely consistent with the lack of follow through that has characterized his career, bailed on them.

Now you may think that I am being too hard on Feingold, but I'm not. If you want to know where Feingold is coming from and where he really stands, then I would point you to this part of today's announcement:

When I said on election night last year that it "was on to 2012," I meant it. As I said those words I was especially thinking of the need to re-elect President Obama. I will be working to re-elect him and hope to play a significant role in that effort.

Obama, at least as conservative as Bush, more conservative than Reagan or Nixon, and this is whom the absolutely faux-progressive Feingold supports. Do I really need to say anything more?

Feingold says that among other things he wishes to work on his organization/PAC Progressives United which he set up to fight the Citizen United decision and corporate influence in the election process. To be honest, I don't know what that even means given his support for the corporatist in chief Obama. Or that he voted for John Roberts. Or that he didn't try to lead the filibuster against Alito.

My main reason for discussing Feingold's announcement is that progressives continually look to figures like him for leadership without ever coming to grips with the fact that no one on our national scene has exercised real progressive leadership in a generation. Feingold simply provides the most recent example of this phenomenon. We need to stop looking to these people and ascribing progressive leadership, intentions, and records to them that they do not possess.

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Submitted by MontanaMaven on

And I don't use that term lightly having known a few brilliant people in my lifetime. This is a hugely important post. You are so right. Feingold plays his part in this Kabucki Theater production. He is not a lefty. He plays the part of one on the TV.

dameocrat's picture
Submitted by dameocrat on

It was his endorsement that allowed me to be briefly confident in my support for President Sellout. Well not only has Obama lost credibility with me, Feingold has too, particularly for making the same mistake twice!

nasrudin's picture
Submitted by nasrudin on

A Democrat turned out to be...a Democrat! I'm shocked, shocked!

Submitted by lambert on

Needless to say, don't give Feingold any money, and encourage your friends to do the same.

Eureka Springs's picture
Submitted by Eureka Springs on

progressive is always loosely defined... which I find especially telling since so many people who call themselves progressive often spend their time deep in the minutia of defining all kinds of things.

Until progressives or liberals, whatever, come together with a defining platform... people will always be left to struggle through ever changing misperception. And holding others accountable will as productive as arguing over Clinton vs Obama... both anti progressive more than anything else. Roberts was a perfect example... no individual should be allowed to call themselves a progressive (certainly not a leader of progressives) when they shoot their own in the face with a yes Robert's vote.

Submitted by Hugh on

Organization and education must go hand in hand. The primary weapon of class warfare, as I so often say, is distraction. Education allows us to organize in a meaningful and effective way. With regard to Feingold, it is to recognize that he is one of the revolving heroes that progressives are served up. Revolving heroes are a succession of mirage leaders. They come to progressives, say a few progressive things, and then disappear. Progressives are momentarily enthused. They line up behind these charlatans. There are the inevitable calls of "So-and-so for President!" and then it all dies away, until the next revolving hero appears. The effect is not to build momentum and a movement, but the reverse to expend energy uselessly and to disperse it. We need to recognize these games and reject them quickly and definitively.

The simplest formulation of this is that support for any Democrat or any Republican (or Bernie Sanders independents) supports the looting waged against us. Everyone on our political scene has been complicit in this and we must reject them all. It is an exercise in Einstein's definition of insanity to keep going back to our same old elites and expecting this time they really "get it" and that now they are really with us. They aren't. They never were. What this means is that if we are to find leadership, we must look among ourselves, not our political classes, not the co-opted heads of the liberal orgs and elite blogs, but us.

Joe's picture
Submitted by Joe on

Hugh, great post. I think a similar post could be written about the lionizing of Ted Kennedy. (god, they even nicknamed him, The Liberal Lion)

Not to go too much into detail but Ted Kennedy's career just happened to coincide with an astonishing level of conservative policy dominance in this country. A real lion would have shown some results in fighting back against that.