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.