Monday, January 24, 2011

Regenerated Progressive

Russ Feingold
The most bitter loss of the mid-term elections was the defeat of Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin to plastics executive and Tea Party-backed candidate Ron Johnson.  (See Plastics.)  Feingold is a true progressive and unyielding civil libertarian.  He was the only Senator to vote against the Patriot Act in 2001, a remarkably courageous act at that time, and he later introduced a resolution to censure President Bush for authorizing illegal wiretapping.  He is a staunch opponent of the death penalty.  He was outspoken in his opposition to the Iraq War, and accused Bush of "mounting an assault on the Constitution."  And, of course, he co-authored the McCain-Feingold Act on campaign finance reform.

On his last day in the Senate, Feingold was interviewed by The Nation's John Nichols.  The whole interview is really worth reading, but the highlight was Feingold explaining how our society is "being dominated by corporate power in a way that may exceed what happened in the late nineteenth century, early twentieth century;" our country "has become so corporatized that the progressive movement is as relevant as it was one hundred years ago, maybe more so."  To Feingold, this is a struggle over the same issues:  "It's just that [corporate] power, because of money, international arrangements and communications, is so overwhelming that the average person is nearly helpless unless we develop a movement that can counter that power."  Feingold contends that we are at a critical moment:
We need to regenerate progressivism and make it relevant to what's happening right now.  But there's no lack of historical comparison to a hundred years ago.  It's so similar; the only real difference is that corporate power is even more extended.  It's the Gilded Age on steroids.
Feingold will back President Obama in 2012.  He advises progressives to support and respect Obama, but to be vocal about "a desire that he move more strongly in certain areas, such as civil liberties."  He urges that this be done "in a way that makes it clear we are not trying to harm the presidency but that we're trying to make sure that the base of the party and the progressive movement is motivated for this re-election."

According to Nichols, Russ Feingold will not fade away or follow the path of so many of his colleagues by becoming a corporate lobbyist.  On the contrary, he "intends to embrace the role of citizen reformer, continue challenging corporate power and play a part in renewing and extending the progressive movement."

[Related posts: Plastics]


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