Civil Liberties

A Farewell to Feingold


Russ Feingold wasn't just endorsed by Bob Barr. He was the Bob Barr of the left, and I mean that mostly as a compliment. When Barr was in Congress he could be bad on "social" freedoms, especially the drug war, but he nonetheless took stances on privacy and due process that made him far above average on civil liberties as a whole. Similarly, Feingold's campaign finance bill was terrible for the First Amendment, yet he was the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act, was one of the few senators to give a damn about limiting government snooping in general, and was a fierce critic of executive power. He also voted against TARP, was decent on the Second Amendment, and was one of the rare liberals to reach out to the Tea Parties instead of demonizing them. He wasn't a free marketeer, but I'll take a LaFollette progressive over a Wilson or Teddy Roosevelt progressive any day—and as with Barr, I'll take an inconsistent civil libertarian over the average pol who doesn't care about civil liberties at all.

As H.L. Mencken wrote of the original LaFollette:

There is no ring in his nose. Nobody owns him. Nobody bosses him. Nobody even advises him. Right or wrong, he has stood on his own bottom, firmly and resolutely, since the day he was first heard of in politics, battling for his ideas in good weather and bad, facing great odds gladly, going against his followers as well as with his followers, taking his own line always and sticking to it with superb courage and resolution.

Suppose all Americans were like LaFollette? What a country it would be! No more depressing goose-stepping. No more gorillas in hysterical herds. No more trimming and trembling. Does it matter what his ideas are? Personally, I am against four-fifths of them, but what are the odds?…You may fancy them or you may dislike them, but you can't get away from the fact that they are whooped by a man who, as politicians go among us, is almost miraculously frank, courageous, honest and first-rate.

So farewell to Feingold. Beyond that, I'm sad about Prop 19, guardedly hopeful about Rand Paul and divided government, just kinda tickled about Jerry Brown, and eager to get drunk the next time I'm in Dallas. Above all, I look forward to learning what minor adjustments are forthcoming in the next two years of the great bipartisan screwathon.

NEXT: Nope, ObamaCare Didn't Help Democrats at the Polls

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  1. Feingold lost? I thought he won.

  2. Bob Barr was consistently the most pro-civil liberties sitting Congressman of the past 20+ years. Excepting some of the drug war stuff.

    1. You’d rate him higher than Paul?

      1. Yes on the specifics of federal law and his influence within the House.

        1. If you’re adding “influence within the House,” then you have to give some credit to Dick Armey.

    2. “far above average” is an understatement.

    3. And excepting some of the “equal protection under the law” for homosexuals and non-Christians stuff.

  3. Feingold was terrible on campaign finance? How is the common man supposed to compete with corporations and wealthy individuals? So you are okay with the slide into fascism? Do you even know what that means?

    1. Concern troll is concerned!

    2. So you are okay with the slide into fascism?

      You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

    3. Another big government supporter who doesn’t realize he’s a tool of the corporations he’s so terrified of.

      1. Of course, I’m referring to the concern troll, not Jesse.

        1. Not…… ROADS!!!???!?!?111>?

  4. Yep, he is going to be missed.


  5. What a pity. He was one of the few good ones. His replacement will fail to live up to his example.

    1. Senator Feingold’s replacement, Ron Johnson, has no significant principles, platform or programs. He thinks he’d like to be a senator. He hasn’t offered much more than that. He’s the only millionaire ingenue who managed to buy his way into politics at the top, in a year when McMahon, Fiorina, Whitman, all went down in flames. Feingold lost on unusually high straight party line voting. In 2004, six percent of voters split their ticket between Feingold and George W. Bush. In 1998, he was re-elected by a narrow margin, at the same time Tommy Thompson was being re-elected governor.

  6. Great job supporting him during the election, Reason! Maybe Koch didn’t like him – I understand.

    1. jp2, srsly?

      1. He’s just repeating the latest drivel at Balloon Juice. Apparently my pro-Feingold post proves the Kochs are anti-Feingold, or something.

        1. well, a reason endorsement would have sealed up his re-election…wait, what?

          oh, balloon juice. nevermind.

      2. Seriously, do a search for ‘Feingold’ on this site…you’ll see how important civil liberties are in comparison to other, Koch beneficial issues.

        1. If you want to see how much Reason covers the issues where Feingold is good — the Patriot Act, the NSA, etc. — it would make more sense to search for “Patriot Act,” “NSA,” etc. You will find tons, which shouldn’t surprise anyone who actually reads Reason, as opposed to relying on the summaries on Blue Team propaganda sites.

          1. Another interesting search…compare Feingold, the “Bob Barr of the left,” to ‘Bob Barr.’

            One gets near tons of articles of near universal support, the other brow-beaten for restricting the Koch brothers (inherited) right to influence elections.

            It’s not surprising though, just pointing it out.

            1. Somebody give jp2 a grape knee high, stat!

            2. Walker’s 14th rule: If a conversation goes like this…

              COMMENTER: [makes spurious argument]

              BLOGGER: [explains why argument is spurious]

              COMMENTER: [ignores response & moves on to new argument]

              …you aren’t dealing with someone interested in honest debate, so it’s best to withdraw from the conversation.

              For the record: Since the McCain-Feingold bill includes the word “Feingold,” of course a search for “Feingold” is going to turn up all our criticisms of the law, whether or not Feingold himself is discussed in the article. And since Weigel covered the Libertarian Party fairly heavily in 2008, of course there’s going to be a lot of articles about Barr. If you compare the articles about Barr while he was in office (and was still a drug warrior) to the articles about Feingold in office, I suspect you’ll get comparable results.

              But you probably already know that. Over & out.

  7. Feingold for Attorney General!

  8. I for one am glad the old leftist dipshit is gone. His vote on the Patriot Act means absolutely nothing compared to his other statist views.

  9. Too bad a Russ Feingold has to lose and vermin like Harry Reid and Lisa Murkowski are fortunate enough to draw seriously flawed opponents.

  10. I really didn’t think Murkowski had a chance in Hell of winning. I thought she would probably get just enough votes to keep Miller from winning, and would put McDoofus in office. I completely misread the sentiments of my fellow Alaskans.

  11. He wasn’t a free marketeer, but I’ll take a LaFollette progressive over a Wilson or Teddy Roosevelt progressive any day

    I really don’t know how to differentiate between a LaFollette over a Wilson or a Roosevelt. The only difference I can see is that the former never attained power so that the world could see his real actions whereas the latter did.

    LaFollette not being a “free marketeer” is an understatement. He was for nationalization of railroads and utilities and strengthening of labor unions.

    1. The only difference I can see is that the former never attained power so that the world could see his real actions whereas the latter did.

      No, there’s definitely more to it than that. Compare LaFollette’s stances during World War I to Wilson’s.

      LaFollette not being a “free marketeer” is an understatement.

      Sorry for the lack of clarity: I was referring to Feingold there, not to LaFollette. Though of course LaFollette wasn’t a free marketeer either.

    2. La Follette opposed WWI, he opposed the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918. He supported Civil Rights, and opposed most of Wilson’s power grabs on the civil liberties front.

      While I don’t believe Feingold is the modern day La Follette at least in terms of principle, he comes pretty damn close.

      Feingold opposed: the Patriot Act, REAL ID, Warrantless Wiretapping, the War in Iraq, TARP, and the list goes on and on.

      I don’t think Mr. Walker is calling La Follette and Feingold libertarians. But if we had to choose between dealing with Obama and Wilson liberals on the left, or Feingold and La Follette liberals, I think he’s saying we’re better off with the latter.

      1. I don’t think Mr. Walker is calling La Follette and Feingold libertarians.


        I should add, btw, that LaFollette opposed the creation of the Fed, as did other upper midwestern progressives. There’s a parallel of sorts between that and Feingold’s vote against TARP. Another difference between the LaFollette tradition and the Wilson/Roosevelt traditions.

  12. A 1000 good deeds can’t make up for him outlawing the 1st amendment. Good riddance, I say!

  13. Next time you’re in Dallas, let me know, and I’ll buy you that drink! 🙂

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