Sunday, October 23rd, 2016

Wisconsin has chance to fire Feingold


Publication: Waukesha Freeman (Conley); Date: Oct 21, 2010; Section: Opinion; Page: 10A

Wisconsin has chance to fire Feingold

Johnson can be senator Waukesha can be proud of

As I write this, a poll conducted by St. Norbert College is claiming Sen. Russ Feingold is now within two points of Oshkosh businessman Ron Johnson. The poll also claims Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker leads Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett by nine points.
Most of the media leapt for joy at the Johnson-Feingold results. Some out of bias for Feingold, some because they had a close race to cover rather than a yawning blowout.

I would strongly caution the partisans of all the campaigns not to put too much stock into the St. Norbert poll. Partisans of both parties have been critical of St. Norbert’s polls in the past for very good reasons. Until a nationally recognized poll weighs in, it’s hard to know where any of the races really stand.

Until the St. Norbert poll, support for Johnson has been consistently above 50 percent. That’s a tough spot for the incumbent Feingold. Most voters have already made up their minds about the incumbent. The question is only whether Johnson is an acceptable replacement.

Nate Silver at The New York Times rates the likelihood of Johnson beating Feingold at 94 percent.

Yes, there is a chance Feingold could still win. There is one more debate and Feingold could find gaffe gold. Johnson could reveal he’s read a book more controversial than “Atlas Shrugged,” perhaps “Tropic of Cancer.” Obama’s economic policies could start working.

However, there have not been any serious changes in the campaign narrative recently, which is why I’m reasonably skeptical of the St. Norbert poll.

What will decide the election is whether the electorate is willing to fire the incumbent. So far, even the St. Norbert poll is not promising for Feingold.

It’s about time.

In 1992, a very bad year for Republicans, Feingold became Wisconsin’s accidental senator when he won a three-way primary and then defeated Robert Kasten. Feingold won the Democratic primary when Congressman Jim Moody and businessman Joe Checota spent all of their money attacking each other and forgetting the third guy in the race.

Negative campaigning works, sometimes too well.

In 1998, Feingold drew Republican Congressman Mark Neumann as an opponent. Neumann agreed to spending limits (a dumb decision) and still almost beat Feingold. In 2004, an underfunded Tim Michels ran a credible campaign against Feingold. Conservatives still wonder what a fully supported Michels might have been able to accomplish.

During his time in office, Feingold has accomplished very little.

He co-authored McCain-Feingold, a terrible law that was designed to curb the free speech rights of Americans in order to protect incumbents from criticism. It was probably the most anti-democratic law passed by Congress since the war censorship under Woodrow Wilson. The law is being dismantled by the Supreme Court, but not swiftly enough.

Other than that, he has been a preening peacock on matters of defense and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He voted against the Patriot Act that has helped defend this country from another large-scale terrorist attack. He even attempted to censure President Bush to shore up left-wing support for a possible run for the White House.

For all of his talk of independence, Feingold was one of the first ones on board to support President Barack Obama’s health care federal takeover. His only criticism was that the new federal health care law did not go far enough to take over health care.

Feingold tried claiming in the last year he was a fiscal conservative, but he still defends his vote for the federal stimulus law that spent nearly a trillion dollars.

Now Feingold is claiming that the tea party movement should support him. His mouth may say tea party, but his record says radical left wing.

Feingold has more in common with the political tradition of Joe McCarthy than he does with decent democratic discourse, and it’s time he was introduced to life in the private sector.

Meanwhile his opponent, Ron Johnson, has shown his business experience and his belief in American capitalism will represent us well in Washington.

Johnson will wrap up his campaign the night before the election in Waukesha at La Estacion. Finally, Waukesha will have a senator we can be proud of.

(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)


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