Tag Archives: progressive

Schakowsky Takes a Pass on Senate Seat, Impacts other Elections

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-9) announced today that she is forgoing a run for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Obama, now occupied by the blighted Roland Burris.  In a video announcement she told viewers she would stick with House seat and continue serving the various leadership positions she reeled off.  Showing great humility, Rep. Schakowsky even said that she would have no problem raising close to $30 million she thinks it would take to win the primary and the general election for the Senate seat.

Given that Schakowsky is now out of the race, Ramsin Canon at Gapers Block points out this leaves State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (and his Bright Start mess) as the only Democrat who has decided to run.  Chris Kennedy of the Merchandise Mart is the other big Dem still left undecided.

Schakowsky’s entrance in the Senate race would have caused a ripple effect impacting so many elections.  No doubt a host of names, possibly various state reps and state senators, would have stepped up for the 9th District seat.  Those elected officials who would have subsequently thrown their hat in the ring would see various candidates or other local elected officials bid for their state seats, and so on.  Clearly, Schakowsky’s decision not to run for Senate saved a lot of election activity.

But is that a good thing?  Schakowsky has served for 10 years in her seat and her predecessor served 48 years in that seat.  I question whether it is keeping with progressive values for one person to dominate a single elected congressional seat for so long.  Nobody will challenge, let alone defeat Schakowsky, as long as she stays continues to serve and run for that seat.

Maybe it would have been a good thing if Schakowsky tried her luck for the US Senate.  Here in state politics, the Illinois Reform Commission has put forth a proposal on term limits.  That was largely rejected by Illinois state leaders.  But many in Illinois support the commission’s position that term limits are a good thing for a health democracy.

Progressivism, which I’ve discussed before and which is a term I believe has been hijacked from its original meaning, is something that Schakowsky has self-annointed.  True progressivism is a belief in accelerated change and more direct democracy.  But with one person serving in a seat for so long, that reality seems at odds with progressive values.

Russ Feingold Defining Progressive

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.