Feingold Passes on Politics… For Now

By YeOldeScribe ~ September 16th, 2011 @ 1:25 pm

Following our trend of covering news so outdated even local NBC affiliate WGBA 26 isn’t covering it anymore, today Political Progressives examines Russ Feingold’s not so recent decision to refrain from re-entering politics in 2012. For those of you completely out of the loop, Feingold, a former Wisconsin Democratic Senator, was ousted from that job in 2010 when pandemonium swept the nation in 2010, prompting Republican victories across the board. Ron Johnson took over Feingold’s office, and the state hasn’t been the same since. It’s not that we have anything against Sen. Johnson personally, we just prefer our Senators to be smarter than the average bear, which eliminates Johnson and most of his Tea Bagging friends.

Leaving that bitter moment aside, Feingold was widely expected to enter one of the many political races in 2012, most notably running for Sen. Herb Kohl’s seat (which he is vacating so he can retire), or possibly the governorship (were a recall against current Gov. Scott Walker successful). But Feingold decided not to run for either office, instead focusing more on his personal agenda for the time being. Feingold’s statement was sent to supporters via email and his blog at Progressives United, which you can read here.

A couple things jump out at us. First and foremost, you can just tell how happy Russ is. That’s something which is terribly undervalued and too often forgotten. Our writer has gotten to see firsthand what happiness in one’s employment means to an individual – both with himself and though his father, who recently retired and saw a noticeable improvement in his lifestyle. Loving what you do is such a rare thing to have that we don’t blame Feingold in the slightest for passing up this opportunity. We’re not saying that Russ didn’t like his time as a Senator – he even says that those times were “among the best in [his] life”. But Feingold’s exuberance with his position at Marquette and writing his book – not to mention being able to spend much more time with family and friends – almost jumps off the page at you. We can’t be happier that Russ has found a new passion in life, and that his new positions provide fulfillment for him.

Second, it would be unwise to underestimate Feingold’s continuing importance in the political field. Perhaps we should have created a different title for this post, because Russ certainly hasn’t passed on Politics entirely. Most of the time we at Political Progressives decry Political Action Committees (PACs) because they have a seemingly infinite slush fund of corporate cash to unfairly tip elections one way or another with baseless attack ads and mud slinging so vile even the most shameful politician blushes when they view the campaigns. But Feingold’s PAC is nothing like that – in fact, it’s more of an anti-PAC; a PAC to fight PAC’s (if that makes any sense). Progressives United is all about stopping corporate interference in politics and fighting political corruption wherever it rears its ugly head.

And now, more than ever, such an anti-PAC is needed. As Feingold himself says, “When I said on election night last year that it ‘was on to 2012,’ I meant it. As I said those words I was especially thinking of the need to re-elect President Obama. I will be working to re-elect him and hope to play a significant role in that effort. But since the aggressive tactics of Governor Walker and the legislature ensued, those words now also mean retaking the state government from these corporate-backed operatives is a special priority. The entire political climate is more infected by the domination of very wealthy individual and corporate interests than perhaps at any time in our nation’s history.”

Feingold is definitely right, and although we’d like to see him fighting corporate greed and corruption from inside the government instead of as a third party, we also need to consider what Russ wants, too. And it’s more than just making him happy – we really believe that Feingold thinks he can do more good from outside the political machine than from within. We haven’t questioned Russ’ judgement in a long time, as he has a great track record of making critical successful decisions, even when they weren’t popular – like being the only Senator to vote against the PATRIOT ACT. We’re going to trust in Russ and let him be successful in politics with his PAC. It might even make more of a difference than any politician could hope to do.

Finally, for those of us still hoping to see Feingold get back into politics, all is not lost. Remember, Russ was announcing that he wasn’t running for political office in 2012, not that he would never run for political office again. He leaves this possibility open in the first paragraph of his address when he says “I may seek elective office again someday.” One of our readers suggested a long time ago that Feingold wouldn’t run in 2012, and that he had other plans instead. At the time, we dismissed this thought, arguing that Russ had a sure win if he chose to run, and that he’d be a fool to pass such an opportunity up. While we still believe that Feingold would have easily won either a Senate seat or the Governorship had he chosen to run in 2012, we should not have called passing on this opportunity a ‘foolish mistake’. We made the error of placing our desires ahead of Feingold’s, and for that, we have to apologize to Russ. But Feingold’s decision to pass on a 2012 re-entry to politics does leave one interesting scenario open – the one our reader suggested: Feingold could be eying up a run for the Presidency in 2016.

The timing would make sense – hopefully, Obama would be finishing his 2nd term, and we think it unlikely that Joe Biden, the current VP, would run for a promotion. And many current Republican nominees – including frontrunner Mitt Romney – are political insiders who did well serving their state but have taken some time off from the political game (meaning that Feingold’s absence from mainstream politics isn’t necessarily a bad thing). Russ has never had a problem raising funds, and would be a perfect moderate candidate for Democrats. His appeal would be broad, and while far-left leaning liberals may think he’s too centric, that same characteristic could win over many independents or liberal-leaning Republicans. Such a scenario is at least interesting to consider, and Feingold’s recent decision certainly doesn’t rule that option out.

Yet for that career path to be pragmatic, something would have to change. Feingold would have to get tired of his life in the private sector and want to return to the drudgery that is modern politics. And honestly, we just don’t see that happening. Feingold is loving where he’s at in life right now, and we don’t see why four more years of what he must consider as ‘the good life’ would sway him to get back into politics, much less a run for the Presidency.

In the end, we’re just happy for Russ. Even if it means progressives don’t get to see our choice candidate run for office in 2012, it means more to us that Feingold is doing good and loving what he’s doing.

There is no greater goal in life than that.

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