Dave Weigel at the end of the Feingold era
Somehow Weigel didn’t want to miss it. Writing at Slate Magazine, Weigel comments on the last appeals of a desperate party:
“Citizens United is hurting us,” says Michael Turner, a Democratic activist running for sheriff in Eau Claire. “We’ve got loads and gobs of undisclosed money on issue ads. Because there’s no disclosure, there’s no reason to tell the truth. The incentive to be credible is completely gone. You can pay for a huge smear campaign and have nobody know where it came from.”
Of course, this isn’t why Feingold is stubbornly behind in the polls to Johnson, or why Democrats are in danger of losing three House seats, the governorship, and control of the state legislature. Democrats are in trouble in Wisconsin, first and foremost, because voters are not happy with the party’s efforts to combat the recession. And Democrats do get this.
And then there’s the entire injustice of losing to that man.
If voters are benefiting, then why don’t they know it? “The rhetoric of the Republicans here is to pretend that it did absolutely nothing,” said Feingold. “I don’t think the issue is decisive—I think that in the end, people know we had to do it. It didn’t solve the whole problem. They’re looking for the belief that things will get better more quickly. The question is who is more likely to get that done.”
Feingold has an advantage that some endangered Democrats are lacking: He’s genuinely adored by his base. The idea that he could lose is not just shocking but also cosmically unfair. Eighteen years working on campaign finance reform and the Supreme Court unspools his legislation? A lifetime of public service that’s kept him poor, and he’s being out-man-of-the-peopled by a wealthy industrialist? It doesn’t matter that Democrats are actually withstanding the “secret money” onslaught with money of their own—it just doesn’t seem fair. In Rhinelander, a local activist named Kay Hoff, who stressed that she’s the winner of the “Eleanor Roosevelt award” for political activism, hoisted a sign that read, “I Don’t Want My Government Run Like a Plastics Factory.”
“Call me foolish,” says Rep. Ron Kind, who is in a dogfight to keep representing Eau Claire. “But I think it’s important that we still have one poor person serving in the Senate. If Johnson buys this election, he’d be the 72nd multimillionaire in the Senate.”
The intellectual disconnect between what they’re saying and what Wisconsinites want is really just amazing. Most Wisconsinites would rather have the government run like a plastics factory than have the government run the plastics factory. As for millionaires in the senate, nobody has ever objected to Senator Herb Kohl’s wealth. He actually makes it a campaign asset with his slogan, “Nobody’s senator but yours.”
Don’t want millionaires serving anymore? Fine. I can’t wait to see Congressman Ron Kind challenge Kohl in the Democratic primary. That’s if Kind doesn’t lose Tuesday, and if his career doesn’t end after an ethics investigation.