I’ve admired Russ Feingold ever since I was an undergrad at UW-Madison (though I interned for Sen. Herb Kohl). He’s one of the few political figures that carries ethics to the highest standard and who is not afraid to say and do what he believes is right, many times crossing party lines. Sure, lots of political leaders say that but many don’t act on it.
Sen. Feingold is the leader of the U.S. progressive movement, particularly appropriate since he comes from the state that prodced the founder of the Progessive Party led by Bob La Follete.
Bill Moyers interviewed the Wisconsin senator this week.. Though I am not a huge Moyers fan, I think Russ Feingold was vintage Russ Feingold. After a period of remaining out of the spotlight due to the election, Feingold reminded me of the integrity and vision political leaders ought to have guiding them through service.
In particular, I admire Russ for “walking his talk.” He has been a consistent advocate on important issues, such as election reform, protecting the Constitution and foreign affairs. I don’t agree with all of the senator’s positions. But, in a political climate that often demands horse-trading and reshuffling positions, Sen. Feingold has been remarkably true to his brand.
He was the lone vote against the Patriot Act, opposed the Iraq War, sponsored the McCain-Feingold election reform legislation and sponsored a motion to censure President Bush for illegal wiretapping. His instincts to act swiftly and for what is right is almost unparalleled in Washington.
In the Moyers’ interview, Sen. Feingold is asked about the progressive movement. He states:
But we also have a commitment to clean government, to open government. That’s what “Fighting Bob” La Follette was all about. And some of the major reforms in the history of the country in terms of ethics, in terms of unemployment compensation, in terms of child safety laws, were all part of that great progressive movement that was started in the late 19th century and early 20th century in Wisconsin. And by the way, progressivism in Wisconsin also means fiscal responsibility. So it’s an interesting twist. But that is sort of some of the things that have gone into this belief, that we don’t like government to be involved unless it has to be. We believe in people’s liberties and their freedom. But sometimes, government has to step in, in order to make sure the community is working together.
This reminds me a lot of the modern libertarian movement and moderate Republican and moderate Democratic positions. It’s interesting that this platform is referred to as progressive. I think the attractiveness of progressivism, as Feingold defines it, is ironically the reasoned and moderate positions that govern its ideology. More so, because Feingold identifies with this “progressive camp,” he is less burdened with political games that so often influence political decisions at the highest levels of government.
As an aside, I’ve observed many political candidates espousing far left political positions that call themselves progressives. Knowing Russ Feingold’s positions, it is unfortunate that the word progressive has been hijacked so many times to mean something other than its original intent. But, more on this topic for a future post.
Now in terms of social media, I think Sen. Feingold is quite good but has some room for improvement.
He maintains a blog, which is great, but those posts are all recycled articles that he’s published elsewhere and is reposting on his blog. It’s ok to recycle material, but sometimes he simply must use his blog to comment on important political issues and speak directly to the public. He can’t just use media releases to do that.
Next, Sen. Feingold must get on Twitter. This social network is becoming such an important place for conversation and information exchange, that for him to be left out of this space, he is missing a huge opportunity.