When the time came to vote on the PATRIOT act, a single senator stood up in opposition. Russ Feingold is perhaps the gutsiest senator in Congress, standing up to the Bush administration and even his fellow Democrats on numerous issues from Iraq to heath care to campaign finance reform. He's been on the right side of nearly every issue, and his positions have always been vindicated over time. The man is a true progressive hero, and in 2006, many of us in the netroots were calling for him to run for the presidency.
Look at Feingold's record. His "listening sessions" with constituents display his remarkable talent for reaching out to and connecting with voters. He has a list of actual legislative accomplishments under his belt. The McCain-Feingold Act alone gives Feingold bi-partisan street cred, and with the Republican nominee no less. Plus, Obama constantly touts his opposition to the Iraq War from the beginning, and no one was as fierce in joining that opposition as Feingold. Feingold is not a wealthy man, and so can hardly be pegged as an "elitist." And, what's more, he seems like a genuinely decent guy.
And yet, Feingold is completely ignored, even by the internet left, in Vice Presidential speculation. Instead, we hear names like Kaine, Clark, Nunn, Richardson, Biden, Clinton, Bradley, Schweitzer, Dodd, and even, of all people, Hagel. Hagel, for God's sake! Better a Republican than Feingold.
But what's so scary about a progressive Democratic VP? I've always wondered why exactly Obama needs a centrist or a Southerner or a military man (or that impossible ideal: all three in one man!)
The fact is that Feingold is exactly what Obama needs. He's from a working-class state, he's passionate, he's experienced (surely the Committee on Foreign Relations counts for something!), and he's not old or decrepit.
There are, of course, two major obstacles to Feingold being a VP:
1. He's Jewish. And Obama picking Feingold would be certain to set off a round of "Is America ready for a Jewish Vice President?" cable news panel discussions. But surely if America's ready for Obama, America can be equally ready for Feingold.
2. He's got marriage issues. I don't know the particular circumstances of Feingold's recent divorce (or his previous divorce). If it's messy, obviously he's disqualified. America certainly couldn't stand for a high elected official who had been unfaithful to his wife (unless that person happens to be named John McCain, in which case it's fine). But if Feingold can make sure no Edwards-like scandal will come rising out of the ashes of his marriages, he should be fine. And many of the potential VP candidates whose names are actually circulated have far more strikes against them than Feingold. Joe Biden has a years-long string of racially awkward remarks behind him, and Tim Kaine might not even be able to bring the electoral votes of his own state. Surely Feingold's downsides aren't major enough to completely remove him from consideration.
Other than that, I can't think of any reason why Feingold doesn't at least have his name being given the same consideration as the others. Russ Feingold is the best senator we have today, and no VP choice would better represent the message of change and the departure from Bush policies. Isn't Feingold at least worth discussing? We can't let Obama pick a warmonger, and we can't let him pick a wuss. Feingold is neither.
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