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30 April 2005

And he blogs again... Part II

When I made my last posting, linking to Senator Feingold's Daily Kos diary "Can they hear us now?", I was excited. I was happy that Feingold was reaching out to the blogosphere again, and to the supporters that he will need in 2008, should he run. I liked that he was asking for the opinions of readers, and that it could be seen as an online listening session.

Then Kos himself responded with "Feingold and blogger freedom", as the original diary had been in response to the comment Kos made. This I liked even more. I liked that he would clarify his opinion in order to have a civil discussion with the senator. Like a few others, I was a touch surprised by what I saw as a harsher-than-normal tone, but any discussion is good discussion.

Senator Feingold replied with this comment. Later, after a few people commented on the qualms they had with regards to Kos's and Feingold's comments, Kos posted the diary, "Loving Feingold".

Of course most Feingold fans already know about this, and have probably read all those, but I thought I'd give a short summary and links in case anyone hadn't.

I think, as nearly everyone else seems to, that this can only be seen as a good thing. It shows a couple things to the netroots, and could help swing them to Feingold when they start searching for the next Dean-type candidate in 2008.

First, it shows that he takes this medium seriously. You don't want a candidate who is afraid to touch the internet, or to engage the bloggers, because this is the beginning of a new and unique medium. Blogging is probably here to stay, and whoever embraces it first will probably feel positive results. It returns us to the days when news and politics were discussed openly, allowing anyone who wanted to voice their opinions, except now it's on an international scale.

Then, there's the way in which Senator Feingold wrote. He avoided two mistakes perfectly, I thought, and did much to make the blogosphere appreciate him. Instead of making a speech and leaving, he asked questions and debated honestly. He also avoided pandering, which would have been very easy in this setting. Many other politicians would have gone on and said, "Kos is great, I love blogs, I agree with everything you say" and then turn around and vote the opposite. He didn't. He's not afraid to say what he believes.

Lastly, it gets his name mentioned. There are plenty of possible candidates, but active grassroots leaders will remember this.

Over at Feingold for Illinois, there's some good commentary too.

25 April 2005

And he blogs again...

Over at Daily Kos today, Senator Feingold made another blog post, this time titled "Can they hear us now?", which is in part a response to the incorrect remark Kos made on Feingold's view of blogging, and in part asking for the opinions of those in the blogosphere with regards to political blogs.

Go check it out. It's a short post, but I think it sends an important message, one which we've all recognized from Senator Feingold: he's willing to listen and to change his mind.

I hope he continues to post, and on a wide variety of issues.

16 April 2005

Feingold in the News

I've been busy lately, and unable to post, nor can I write a detailed post on anything right now... But I'll be back soon, I promise.

Until then, to keep you all interested:

The Divorce:
"Feingold, Wife Announce Plans to End Marriage"- JS Online. This article provides a bigger view of it, as well as reactions from political analysts, which wasn't present in the short announcement I linked to previously. Dan K. has some good comments on this at his Russ Feingold for President blog.

A Successful Senator:
Political Wire has a short post about how Russ Feingold was named the fifth most successful senator when it comes to passing amendments. MyDD also has some comments on this.

Bolton Nomination:
I've been following this really closely, and would dearly love to write a long, long post on it... Maybe tomorrow, probably not until next week. But read this article from The Capital Times.

The SAFE Act:
Senator Feingold, with bipartisan support, released a statement on the Security and Freedom Enhancement Act of 2005, which will hopefully fix that which is awful with the USAPATRIOT Act. If you're at this site this early in the race, it's pretty likely that you're a Feingold fan already, and love him dearly for voting against the PATRIOT Act, so I don't need to talk much about that.

And now, I'd like to thank Brian and Dave at the Russ Feingold Archive for most of these links. The site is a wonderful summary of the Feingold news out there, and in tandem with a Google News search for "Russ Feingold", it's been easy to find Feingold news.

That site also had a good piece on the Russ Feingold Blog Community. It's worth reading, and, if you're interested in joining the movement, try filling one of the gaps Brian points out. And I'm not recommending the piece just because of the glowing review of my work (though that did make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside...).

11 April 2005

"Feingold, Wife Divorcing" --

Well. It's too bad for the the Feingold family, and I'm certain that both Russ and Mary, as well as the children, are going through a rough time right now. But, as both are responsible adults they have every right to do this, and don't deserve to have the entire country prying into their lives. It's a private decision, end of discussion.

Politically, this shouldn't matter, as the American people shouldn't care about the personal lives of their leaders, they should care about the leadership and ideas of their leaders. It's three years out from any candidacy, so, while this could be mentioned in the future, I doubt it will have any real impact should Sen. Feingold run.

That last paragraph sickens me. This is a tough decision for any couple to make, and here I am, and a dozen other political sites too, commenting on it in a political sense. But, this is a political blog, and so I have to mention it.

I wish both Sen. Feingold and Mary and their children the best of luck, and hope that they can find greater happiness in their new lives.

09 April 2005

A night at the opera

The other day, I went and saw Faust performed by the Toledo Opera Company. Now, before I get written off as an "elitist liberal" or whatever, I'll say that this is the first time I've ever been to such a production, it's not a regular habit, but even if it was, I would be no more of an elitist than if I attended a Toledo Mud Hens game instead. Worldwide, more people go to operas than sporting events, and I don't know why this beautiful theatrical art is shunned in the United States. Anyway, moving on from that minor rant...

Faust was excellent, with realistic acting, incredible music (but then, in my opinion, orchestra pits can do no wrong), fantastic sets... It was a great production. I enjoyed it very much, and liked the major theme of the story, as I saw it: some things come with too high a price. (For those not familiar with the story, the old man Faust makes a deal with the devil, to have youth and a chance at love with the beautiful Marguerite in exchange for his soul and eternal damnation and such after death. Let's just say it's not a happy ending.) Then, I went home.

As we were heading for the onramp to the freeway, I looked around at the area of Toledo we were in. Empty buildings. Buildings here and there with broken windows and boards covering them. A billboard for an attorney (something of an ambulence chaser, I suspect) with graffiti all over it. It was a brief view of the side every city tries to cover up.

Some things come with too high a price.

Today I was in the Detroit area. As you move from Detroit to Ann Arbor, following the freeway, and then to Lenawee county, you see something different. My region of Michigan is affected by Ann Arbor, Detroit, and Toledo. All throughout this area, small towns a reasonable distance from cities are becoming "bedroom communities". Suburb/rural town hybrids, really, land that once was a farmer's field or just woodland has become a massive subdivision, of huge houses and beautiful and large green lawns. The closer you get to the cities, the harder it is to identify individual towns. They aren't cities with unique identities and histories-- they're big housing developments. Almost all residential, no real shops in the downtown area, only Walmart on the edge, perhaps a grocery store or two. But mostly just houses. One big happy neighborhood. A wonderful place to live.

Some things come with too high a price.

Sometimes people don't make the connection between the ugly parts of the cities and the sprawl outward of these "communities", if they can really be seen as that. I've never lived in a big city, but I've always been a city person. Don't like the traffic, don't like the pollution, but I like walking down busy sidewalks past stores of all different flavors, seeing every type of person there is to see, and then going to the subway, or boarding a bus, and being taken almost exactly where I wanted to go for a low cost. Cities, it feels like, are where things get done. A massive collection of resources and people, allowing ideas to flow. Something nice about that.

I know that's not how it always is. But it's how it should be. And it's how it could be. The things being built further and further from the cities almost always have low taxes, and are very attractive. So nice, and green, and seemingly proof that the Republican way of doing things works. Cities have higher taxes, yes, they can be crowded and can seem like a horrible place to live. But look at what you get in return. You get a sense of community. You don't get row after row of nameless houses in perfectly neat, nice little shapes. You get a micro-culture that lives and breathes and creates opera companies that perform classics like Faust. You don't get a small town which once had its own rich and unique history with a thriving downtown and get replaced by housing developments populated by people who came for the low property taxes, don't give a damn about where they are now, and shop at the Walmart that sprung up on the edge of town.

Me, I'd choose the city. If circumstances in my life were different now, I'd be in the city.

But more and more people are lured out by the chance at saving a little bit of money, while losing so much life and culture. And when they leave, they take their money with them, money that would be reinvested into the community in a city, filling those vacant buildings, fixing those windows, cleaning those billboards-- or, better yet, providing the teenage kids who make the graffiti something productive to do, through quality schools. City neighborhoods that have so much potential become ghettos where all about, the only sign you see is one of despair. All because in our society some people have started to value the dollar more than the people around them.

Some things come with too high a price.

This doesn't have a whole lot to do with Russ Feingold. I offer no solutions to what I saw, and I offered no observations that haven't been pointed out before. I just thought I had to say this, after spending a night at the opera.

"Feingold urged to pursue presidency" -- The Journal Times

Haven't posted for a while... been pretty busy. My apologies.

In The Journal Times, a newspaper in Racine, Wisconsin, there's an interesting article about one of Senator Feingold's famous listening sessions. A big chunk of the article, of course, talks about many of the people he spoke with (and, of course, listened to) urging him to run for president. I suspect that as more and more people catch on to the fact that this is the right guy for the office, Senator Feingold will have to be answering more and more of these sorts of questions at listening sessions and elsewhere. But then, he did say he "If at some point people say, 'Hey, we think you ought to run for president' (and) it's a serious thing, I'm going to listen" (Milwaukee Journal Sentinal). So keep telling him that, everyone!

The article is well worth the read, though I'm afraid I have no insightful thoughts on it today. One bit caught my eye, though, and I'd like to share it with you:

Phil Haney said what he really wants is a candidate he can be excited about supporting.

"I hope sometime in my lifetime to vote for a person for president like "Fighting Bob" LaFollette or Russ Feingold," he said. "I hope before I cash out of this realm I get to do that."
Says a lot right there, I think.

01 April 2005

"Southern strategy for Feingold" -- Milwaukee Journal Sentinal

I had known he was planning to go back to Alabama, but when I read this, I remembered again why I wanted Russ Feingold to be the president.

Highlights, of course:
Along with jobs and health care, he repeatedly brought up the deficit and trade, suggesting both issues could be used to win back conservative and blue collar voters upset by the nation's growing debt or the loss of jobs overseas. He argued that the environment could be a winning issue in red states, especially if Democrats linked it to hunting and fishing and conservation, something John Kerry sought with mixed success to do in 2004.

The notion that the national Democratic Party is culturally out of step with most Southern voters was an unsurprising but constant refrain among Feingold's hosts during the trip. One Democratic activist who met with Feingold summed up the problem as the "heart" issues, or "God, guns and gays."

Culture and values trump economics and issues, many Alabamians told Feingold.

"This is the Bible Belt part of the nation," said Greenville Mayor Dexter McLendon, Feingold's host for a day.

"They're not going to vote for you because they agree with you. They're going to vote for you because you understand them," said University of Alabama at Birmingham professor Larry Powell, who came to hear Feingold speak.

Some of this we've all heard before. How red states vote against their economic interests in favor of cultural and social views they agree with. But here's the thing: no matter how often I've heard that said, until Sen. Feingold went on this trip, I hadn't heard of any Democratic politicians who had made a real effort in understanding this divide. We can't just say, "Oh, well, that's how they make their decisions, so let's just write off Alabama etc." Instead, we need to do exactly what Feingold is doing, which is actually listening to the concerns of those who don't feel represented by the Democratic Party.

I'm certain that if "God, guns, and gays" hadn't been involved in 2004, Kerry would have won in a landslide. Unfortunately, we got bogged down by this stuff, and the issues that we, as progressives, view as important were ignored while cultural issues were argued. Feingold, by searching for common ground with others, may be able to neutralize these issues come 2008.

The article continued...
Throughout the trip, he criticized the tone of Bush's harshest critics, saying that "some of the language I heard Democrats use was very bad. . . . Don't say, 'I hate the president.' Don't say things like, 'We need regime change in the United States.' "
Here, I'll come out and admit, I too am at fault. Not here, but on other blogs or in other mediums, I've said some rather harsh things about the people of this administration. Unfortunately, the more of that we do, the harder it is to convince those who voted for President Bush last time that maybe they should vote for someone else next time. While I think the Republican leadership, from Newt Gingrich to Tom DeLay and Bill Frist, are primarily to blame, we also helped to create the division and tense political atmosphere we have today.

2008 is a unique opportunity, because there will be no one from the current administration running for president, with Cheney stating that he's not interested. It won't be a referendum on the incumbent or the challenger, because there won't be an incumbent or a challenger. So we've got to stop attacking Bush and start attacking bad ideas presented by his party.

Obviously, I like reading most articles about Sen. Feingold, since nearly all at this point have been positive (and I've been saving them to use in response when the slanderous attacks come). However, this article says a lot that I've been thinking and been unable to articulate. We think of Michigan as a blue-leaning battlegound state, which would never turn red for an extreme conservative like President Bush or Sen. Frist. But many forget, in the last election 48 percent of voters chose President Bush, which is a higher amount than most expect. Independents in Michigan were split 49-47, barely in favor of Sen. Kerry. We aren't as blue as we think.

Most people outside the state (and, sadly, some in the state) forget that there's a lot to it outside of metro Detroit. I live in Lenawee County, where Bush received 55 percent of the votes, a sizable majority. Lenawee County, in some ways, is more like the south than the north that we're in the middle of. My hometown-- the second largest in the county-- has about 8,000 people in it. Outside the city limits, you see a lot of farm fields, a lot of farm equipment, and housing developments creaping outward, as property prices in Ann Arbor and the Detroit area rise. Here, "liberal" is a bad word and Democrats get elected if they're conservative, "pro-life" Democrats. And, of course, "God, guns, and gays" sums up a lot of people's opinions too.

Sen. Feingold's trip might not swing Alabama into the blue state column. But the ideas and strategies it generates can help solidify Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania, and maybe flip Ohio, Missouri, Iowa, West Virginia, and others. It's not a "Southern strategy," it's a rural strategy. No, more than that: it's an American strategy.