It's frustrating that the Democrat most worthy to be President is so worthy that he has decided not to run. From a release by Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI):
Dear Friends and Supporters,
On Sunday, November 12th in Racine, I will hold my 1000th Listening Session with the people of Wisconsin. Before reaching that milestone, I want you to know that I've decided to continue my role as Wisconsin's Junior Senator in the U.S. Senate and not to seek the Democratic nomination for President in 2008.
Like many Americans, I am excited by the results of the November 7th election. My fourteen years in the Senate have been the greatest privilege of my life and I am extremely pleased with what we have accomplished. During so much of that time, however, we Democrats have not only been in the minority but have often been so deeply mired there that my role has often been to block bad ideas or to simply dissent. That is a very important role but I relish the thought that in this new Congress we can start, not only to undo much of the damage that one-party rule has done to America, we can actually advance progressive solutions to such major issues as guaranteed healthcare, dependence on oil, and our unbalanced trade policies. The Senate of the 110th Congress could also well be a place of greater bi-partisan opportunities for change; something I am very proud to have been effective at in both Republican and Democratic Senates. ***
I have traveled to seventeen states trying to promote the election of progressive Democrats in all states. At every stop from Birmingham, Alabama to Burlington, Vermont, to Ft. Dodge, Iowa, to Las Vegas, Nevada, people have agreed with my view that we need to stand up for a strong, principled Democratic party that is willing to replace timidity with taking the risks of promoting a platform of bold solutions to our nation's problems. Unfailingly, people responded well to my positions: opposition to the Iraq war; calling for a timeline to redeploy our troops from Iraq so we can focus on those who attacked us on September 11th, 2001; my opposition to the flawed provisions of the USA Patriot Act that threaten the freedoms of law-abiding Americans; my call for accountability for the Administration's arrogant disregard for the law especially with regard to illegal wiretapping; fighting for fiscal responsibility including tough common sense budget rules that will help end the reckless policies that have heaped a mountain of debt on our children and grandchildren; as well as my strong belief in guaranteed healthcare for all Americans and substantial investment in alternative energy sources and technologies.
Yet, while I've certainly enjoyed the repeated comments or buttons saying, "Run Russ Run", or "Russ in '08", I often felt that if a piece of Wisconsin swiss cheese had taken the same positions I've taken, it would have elicited the same standing ovations. This is because the hunger for progressive change we feel is obviously not about me but about the desire for a genuinely different Democratic Party that is ready to begin to reverse the 25 years of growing extremism we have endured. ***At this time ... I believe I can best advance that progressive agenda as a Senator with significant seniority in the new Senate serving on the Foreign Relations, Intelligence, Judiciary and Budget Committees. *** while I would strongly prefer that our nominee in 2008 be someone who had the judgment to oppose the Iraq war from the beginning, I am prepared to work as hard as I can ... to maintain or increase our gains from November 7 in the Congress and, of course, to elect a Democrat as President in 2008.
From most pols, this would just be playing coy. From Feingold, it's a conclusive and honest statement of his intention not to run. And, reluctantly, I think he's right. Here's why: he probably couldn't have won the Democratic nomination, given the way power currently is allocated and the sorry state of our campaign finance laws. Plus, he's perceived as too liberal for "mainstream" America (meaning: he's about as liberal as Dwight Eisenhower, only five decades too late). So the best reason to see him run would be to push the discussion to the left -- to raise progressive issues and positions during the Presidential debates and force the other candidates to address them. And that would have been a very good thing.
But Presidential primaries are ephemeral things, with little lasting impact on the trajectory of the overall political culture. To change the trajectory of a thing as massive -- in physics terms -- as our nation's current, too-conservative political culture requires repeated, consistent work, someone shoving it again and again and again until slo-o-o-o-o-wly it curves a little bit from its original direction. And the best way for our nation's truest Progressive is as a leader in the majority party in the (usually) more sensible and influential house of Congress, the Senate.
In addition, Feingold is expressly recognizing that the Democratic Party, as currently constituted, is not prepared to govern well. He recognizes that what voters REALLY want is what he calls above "a genuinely different Democratic party." And there, of course, he's right as right can be. We need brave Progressives like Feingold -- who was the only one with the courage to introduce a resolution to censure President Bush -- to help the party in Congress govern the way it should, and to show that principled progressivism is not a political death knell, even in what until last week looked like a pre-fascist America.
So Feingold is right. He'll do more good as a key senator than as a failed Presidential nominee. Hell, he'll do more good there than Hillary would as a successful Presidential nominee!
So I say, sadly: sit, Russ, sit. Retain your seat in the Senate, and fight, like Mr. Smith, for the things that -- were you able to become President -- might save our nation from its current downward path. Fight so that the next Russ Feingold -- maybe even you yourself, four or eight years from now -- will actually have a chance to win.
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