A handful of notable losses notwithstanding — Tom Perriello, Alan Grayson, Phil Hare — a goodly number of the House Democrats who lost seats on Tuesday were of the Blue Dog or New Democrat variety, and the whirlwind they reaped was partly of their own making. Looks to me like Third Way-style corporate shilling just isn’t the answer.
Rather, the most painful loss of the night for progressives happened on the Senate side, when Russ Feingold fell to an idiotic Ayn Rand disciple, businessman Ron Johnson. (Wisconsin, the state of both Bob LaFollette and Joe McCarthy, is a strange place.) From fighting against the Patriot Act to calling for accountability on the illegal NSA wiretaps to, of course, battling for campaign finance reform, Feingold was often a lonely voice of conscience in the Senate, and his progressive leadership will be sorely missed there.
Of course, the fight goes on, so let’s hope Feingold will be back in public life someday soon. Big Russ has ruled out a 2012 primary shot, but if Wisconsin’s other Senator, Milwaukee Bucks owner Herb Kohl, should decide to retire in 2012 at the age of 77, Feingold would be a great candidate to go toe-to-toe against yet another “Galtian nincompoop” of the first order, current GOP golden boy Paul Ryan.
“Truth be told, I never even heard the name ‘Washington, D.C.’ until I decided to run for the Senate. When I am elected, I will have no idea how to get there or where I’m supposed to go. Will there be buildings there? Is it temperate, rainy, hot, or arid? Do people speak English in this place, this Washington, D.C.?“
Senator Russ Feingold’s Rand-loving opponent and possible successor, Ron Johnson, sums up his idiot philosophy in The Onion. “For the past 17 years Russ Feingold has done nothing but let down the people of this great state, or territory, or place, or whatever this is. He’s a D.C. insider who has well-thought-out positions on issues. I don’t know what issues are.“
I’ll reserve comment on the midterms as a whole until after we’re through the gauntlet or the ship is wrecked, one way or another. Still, as per the norm, The Onion has been deadly on-point throughout this cycle.
The Roberts confirmation hearings are now underway. So far, they’re not making for the most scintillating television — at this very moment, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) is mangling his way through an opening statement he’s clearly never read before — but hopefully the drama will pick up once the Senators start firing away questions. (In fact, Feingold’s up now with his opener, and Roberts’ brow looks increasingly furled.) Update: Well, he’s polished…I’ll give him that. After watching three days of hearings, I learned more about hapless toads and the various senators on the Judiciary committee than I have about Roberts.
At the behest of McCain-Feingold’s backers, a federal judge eliminates 15 of 19 FEC rules designed to gut the 2002 campaign finance law. “‘We began to wonder what law they were implementing,’ [Congressman Chris] Shays said. “They were simply trying to rewrite the law to weaken it and put in loopholes.’ Obviously, this decision is coming too late to affect this election cycle much, but perhaps we’ll be able to get a honest sense of McCain-Feingold’s impact in stemming corruption during the 2006 midterms. Update: As you might expect, the FEC will appeal the decision.
By a vote of 5-4 (Justice O’Connor the swing vote as expected), the Supreme Court upheld the McCain-Feingold soft-money ban today in McConnell v. FEC. Well, Scalia may call this a “sad day for the freedom of speech,” but I for one think this is great, great news. “Money, like water, will always find an outlet,” as the majority put it, but at least the highest Court in the land has now recognized the corrosive impact of unregulated loot on the political process. This decision will hopefully do much to disentangle the pernicious conflation of speech and money in Buckley v. Valeo, and set the stage for continued meaningful campaign finance reform in the years to come. While McConnell v. FEC doesn’t eliminate the bad taste of Bush v. Gore, it is a huge step in the right direction by this Court.
Campaign finance reformers, among them McCain, Feingold, Shays, and Meehan, set their sights on the FEC. If nothing else, a commission with an even-number of members seems designed to benefit the status quo.
On day one of a Gore-less race, Dems and pundits alike survey the now wide-open field. As I noted in the comments below, I’m pulling for John Kerry at the moment, but would like to hear more from Howard Dean. It’d be great to see Russ Feingold in the hunt too. To be honest, the only Dem contender I’m set against right now, if you can even call him a Dem, is Lieberman. To quote from a two-year-old post (8/9/00), “First, I am pretty much turned off by moral crusading and open religiosity in a politician of any religion (“We in government should look to religion as a partner, as I think the founders of our country did”.) Second, it turns out Lieberman has supported capital gains tax cuts and school vouchers and opposed affirmative action. (“You can’t defend policies that are based on group preferences as opposed to individual opportunity,”.) Third, look at the company he keeps. Rabid cultural conservatives from Bill Bennett to Sam Brownback can’t stop fawning over the guy. Lieberman’s not a centrist – he’s right of center.” Update: Senate Dems are now pressuring Daschle to stay out.
Well, that’s that, then. Despite some historic raging against the bureaucratic behemoth by Sen. Robert Byrd, the Senate passes the Homeland Security Act 90-9. Nice to see Feingold voted against it, at any rate. Well, here’s hoping my extra history degree will find me a place in Information Adjustments (and well away from the careerists in Information Retrieval.) Hmm…speaking of which, I wonder what history books out there might suggest “patterns indicative of terrorist activity.” Guess I better buy them earlier rather than later…and in cash.
TNR explores how Dubya’s using your money to re-elect his brother (and keep the Florida machine greased for 2004.) Amazing how little we’ve heard about this considering all the treatment the FALN clemency story got during Hillary’s run. (Speaking of Hillary, my respect for her diminished further — it was already pretty low after the “somebody should kill Nader” bit on election night — when she got in a shouting match with Russ Feingold over campaign finance reform last week. Apparently, she’s already trying to find ways around the ban.)