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Obama Comes to Wisconsin, Feingold Disappears

09/13/2010

Democracy and Power 107:  Counting votes

Successful … politicians are insecure and intimidated men. They advance politically only as they placate, appease, bribe, seduce, bamboozle or otherwise manage to manipulate the demanding and threatening elements in their constituencies. – Walter Lippmann (1889-1974), American Journalist and Author

Obama Comes to Wisconsin, Feingold Disappears

“This is a big deal,” Vice President Biden exclaims to President Obama applauding the health care legislation.  Yes, “expletive deleted”, but give credit to a momentous political accomplishment.   Expending extensive time and force, while ignoring pressing societal priorities, President Obama, Senator Reid and Speaker Pelosi achieved the ultimate aspiration of the progressive Democrats.  

The king of the progressive Democrats is Senator Russ Feingold (D) of Wisconsin.  An admirer of the progressive hero Robert La Follette, Feingold enthusiastically and boldly champions federal legislation controlling health care, environment, commerce, poverty, education, etc.  In the 2008 election cycle, he contemplated running for president as the “authentic” progressive.

On Labor Day, President Obama and Senator Feingold were in Milwaukee, Wisconsin addressing a large union-sponsored rally.  Obviously, this is a time to celebrate the great health care victory.  Yes, the two great progressive champions congratulating each other and extolling the virtues of the great new law.

Wrong.  The President made random mentions of a "health care that will be there when you get sick."   Incredibly, Senator Feingold made a brief appearance and was long gone before President Obama arrived.

 What is wrong? 

 First, Americans believe the new law will increase costs, diminish their care and increase the deficit.  Hey, the President and the earnest progressive Senator can surely persuade the people of Wisconsin.  No, no, no, that was attempted by progressive organizations – Health Care for America Now, MoveOn, AARP and many unions.  Oodles money has been expended on commending the benefits of the new law and Americans continue to know the costs will rise and health services will decrease.  Thus, political operatives have coached the progressives to say, “The health care legislation does some good, and improvement must be made.”

 Now for the overriding  reason the President and Senator Feingold did not share the stage at the Labor Day rally.  Feingold has a serious challenger, an unknown businessman with a strong libertarian bent for smaller government, less taxes and more personal freedom – the antithesis of the progressive agenda.

 So what is Feingold touting?   Today Feingold’s message is about spending less. As Patrick McIlheran, a writer for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, observes in Real Clear Politics:

Feingold lately has been calling himself a penny-pincher because he opposed earmarks.

To the contrary writes McIlheran.  Feingold has voted in unison with President Obama's agenda, enormously expanding federal spending and debt:

He (Feingold) also voted for Obama's stimulus, for Obama's swollen budget, for Obamacare and against the president's jihad on the financial sector only because he didn't think it punitive enough. As Obama yanked the nation to the left, Feingold kept pace.

The Democracy and Power Lesson107:  Counting votes

In a democracy, the politician must favorably influence the majority of their voting constituents.  In all political decisions, the politician calculates how many votes are gained by voting-money spent on an interest group versus how many votes are lost. 

America’s embrace of “change we can believe” Feingold and many Democrats eagerly supported Obama’s agenda.  Now, as election day approaches and most Americans prefer smaller government, Feingold is for a frugal government.  Alas, all politicians count votes.

The question for the Wisconsin voter is clear.  A day after the election, will Senator Feingold be king of the progressives or will he actively support a limited and frugal government?  Remember Walter Lippmann’s judgment.  They advance politically only as they placate, appease, bribe, seduce, bamboozle or otherwise manage to manipulate the demanding and threatening elements in their constituencies.